There’s been a lot of debate about whether young children belong in certain restaurants. One place in the US even went as far as banning all kids under the age of six. To me, it’s all about how well-exposed a child is to such settings, ranging from behaviour to food.
The other day, I saw a family take their very young child to a nice, trendy restaurant for lunch. This isn’t a place where you’d normally find kids under, say, eight or 10. The girl, who was probably three, looked like she “belonged” there. She was dressed up (better dressed than her mom, I might add) and sat quietly at the table, colouring with her crayons (it’s good that they’re keeping the kid occupied) while the adults decided what to order. I’m sure she was told that she had to behave well, since it was a special, “grown-up” place, just like I was told when I was just a little bit older than her. Yes, I was taken to “nice” ish places when I was very young. My parents didn’t think that I had to be ten to go to such restaurants. Like that kid, I was dressed up and told that I had to behave well. I wasn’t a big kid (still tiny), but even at age four, I recall fooling a server or two into thinking I was close to six! Of course, with kids being kids, you can’t guarantee that proper behaviour can be attained – especially if there are other kids around the same age.
Menu is another issue. A lot of kids today just aren’t exposed to a wide palate, which I find sad. Practically every kids’ menu (when available) I see lists items like chicken fingers, burgers, pasta and tomato sauce (or mac and cheese) and pizza. Often, it comes with a side of fries. Really, these choices haven’t changed too much since *I* was young enough to order from the kids’ section. And that was in the late 80s! I realize kids like foods like that, and that going out is a treat (I surely hope they aren’t eating foods like that at home), but shouldn’t kids’ foods more or less be smaller portions of what’s on the adult menu? Why can’t more restaurants offer, say, grilled chicken and steamed veggies? I think Swiss Chalet and Pickle Barrel are probably one of few restaurants with items that aren’t as junky. Even then, so-called “kids’ favourites” are still listed. Do restaurants think parents and kids are dumb? There are kids out there who might prefer a smaller portion of baked salmon. That said, a kid who doesn’t just eat this kind of junk every time he or she goes out is more likely to know how to behave at a nicer restaurant. They would know that one doesn’t always use hands to eat, and that sometimes, cutlery is necessary.
I might not have kids yet, but I feel that it’s really up to the parent or main caregiver to teach kids not only proper non-fast food/casual restaurant behaviour, but also to finer foods and manners. If they aren’t exposed earlier in life, then it’ll be harder as they get older. I think the best-behaved kids tend to be ones who are more experienced with such settings and won’t bother other diners. Of course, kids can also be very unpredictable.
Tantrum girl: © Cat London/iStockphoto
Blonde girl eating salmon pic: © strathroy/iStockphoto