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Get Your Brat Out Of My Face!
Some coffee shops dare to educate parents on the difference between a coffee shop and a nursery school, writes Jody Wilgoren in The New York Times:

CHICAGO, Nov. 8 - Bridget Dehl shushed her 21-month-old son, Gavin, then clapped a hand over his mouth to squelch his tiny screams amid the Sunday brunch bustle. When Gavin kept yelping "yeah, yeah, yeah," Ms. Dehl whisked him from his highchair and out the door.

Right past the sign warning the cafe's customers that "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven," and right into a nasty spat roiling the stroller set in Chicago's changing Andersonville neighborhood.

The owner of A Taste of Heaven, Dan McCauley, said he posted the sign - at child level, with playful handprints - in the hope of quieting his tin-ceilinged cafe, where toddlers have been known to sprawl between tables and hurl themselves at display cases for sport.

But many neighborhood mothers took umbrage at the implied criticism of how they handle their children. Soon, whispers of a boycott passed among the playgroups in this North Side neighborhood, once an outpost of avant-garde artists and hip gay couples but now a hot real estate market for young professional families shunning the suburbs.

"I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day."

I'd like Alison to keep her children far away from me until they learn to shut up. Maybe if she can't handle three children...she shouldn't have pumped them out? Just a thought! Or, at the very least, she could keep them home until they learn to use their "inside" voices. Another quote from the story:

"I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"

Awww, poor dear. Not if it makes it a misery for everybody else in the place. Take your inconsiderate, self-involved ass home and keep it there until your brats are civilized.

Here are a few previous examples of underparented children in coffee shops. From Starbucks on Montana:

This little girl in the photo has just finished a screaming tantrum on the floor: "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy! Waaaaaaah! Waaaaah! Etcetera." (Mommy is busy talking to her friend, it seems.) The rest of us are busy having our ears blown out. Unfortunately, while it takes a license to cut hair, it takes only working ovaries to have a child.

From the Rose Cafe. And more from the Rose Cafe.

Why are children bratty? In Toward A Psychology Of Being, Abraham Maslowe writes:

Much disturbance in children and adolescents can be understood as a consequence of the uncertainty of adults about their values. As a consequence, many youngsters in the United States live not by adult values but by adolescent values, which of course are immature, ignorant and heavily determined by confused, adolescent needs.

Oh, I'm so sorry, does parenting get in the way of your yoga appointment, your hair appointment, your manicure, your date with your guru? As Pasadena's Michael Lifton wrote in a letter to the editor about my LA Weekly piece on the brats in the Rose Cafe:

I love Amy Alkon’s report of her encounter with a screaming toddler. “Mommy” could obviously benefit from the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Discipline your children, or the world will do it for you.”

Regarding cafe boycotts urged in The New York Times story: I'd actually like to urge parents with loud, underparented chlidren to please boycott cafes I like (email me and I'll provide you with a list). My hope is that these cafes will become a big draw for people like the guy next to me at Starbucks the other day, reading the paper silently before heading off to work. Next to him, a shouting child decimated a muffin, which went all over the table and floor. Not to worry, the customer who came in after the brat left with her "parents" went and got a bunch of napkins and cleaned up the table. The stuff on the floor, unfortunately, just got ground into the bottoms of her shoes.

Posted by aalkon at November 11, 2005 8:29 AM


That's absurd - the part about him having to put up a sign to tell parents to control their kids. "Are we supposed to control them every minute of the day?" Well, yes, as a parent, you are. As a dog owner, I'm required to control my pet every second we're in public – if he barks too much, knocks things over, runs rampant, or in general acts like an ass in public, I’m responsible and thus the rule against having pets in most public places (also the reason for leash laws, which would do a world of good for some parents and their children). Passive aggressive parenting doesn't work when you're subjecting an entire crowd of people to your crappy social skills. The only thing a kid is learning when he throws a fit like that in public is that it’s okay to behave like that because neither parent is going to do a thing about it. I don’t have anything against the signs that say “no pets allowed” because even though my dog is socialized, well groomed, and better potty-trained than even most adults, I realize that there are entrepreneurs who don’t want to risk their business on the chance that someone’s going to bring in some unruly, hyper, pee machine that barks at everything that moves and whose owner just thinks it’s his way of “expressing himself”. Ridiculous.

Posted by: Abby at November 11, 2005 1:02 PM

"I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"

Well, yes, that's exactly what you are supposed to do, unless and until your kids are old enough to behave, or unless you're willing to consider the alternatives, like leaving the kids at home.

And speaking as a parent, there ARE several things you can do about kids screaming. One is to reprimand and discipline (and mean it). Another is to remove your kids from the public place if the first method doesn't work.

Most responsible parents have had to remove a misbehaving toddler from a public place at one time or another. If you're doing your job right, you should only have to do it once or twice. After that, the kid will know you mean it when you say "pipe down, or you're going home." And then you either you have a kid who will listen and behave, or they're too young to control their behavior, so you can't take them out again for at least a few more months. Or maybe you have a kid who usually behaves, but on occasion is just too tired, hungry, etc. and has a meltdown - in which case, you once again remove them from the public situation.

Not only are there loads of inconsiderate parents, too many parents are completely ineffectual with their discipline. Their kids don't behave because they know there is nothing backing up the threats, pleas, etc. The root of "discipline" comes from a word meaning "to teach" - so these folks are actually neglecting the part of their kids' education.

Dollars to doughnuts, these kids turn into people who talk on cell phones in restaurants, park their humongous SUVs in spaces marked "compact," use the grocery store express line with double the item limit, and generally ignore rules whenever it suits them - then get highly offended if someone objects.

Posted by: Melissa at November 11, 2005 1:46 PM

psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two

Quelle horreur!

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 11, 2005 4:47 PM

Did you notice that the Times linked to info about Iraq but nothing about child-rearing tips? Weird.

My daughter (now 14) was an absolute monster in public. So, we went very rarely to big, loud Chinese places or stayed home, or took turns strolling her around outside. The self-regard of these moms just shocks me--I never expected anyone to stand my kids.

Posted by: KateCoe at November 11, 2005 7:08 PM

You're my kinda mom, Kate. As is my friend Hillary. Her solution was to take her son to a bowling alley coffee shop! We weren't allowed out in public, my parents told me, until we could be counted on not to disturb others. Wow, whatta concept, huh? Not that others will just have to deal.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 11, 2005 7:12 PM

Hey, you can always put the brats to work in a factory. Worked in my regime. And what parent couldn't use the extra $3.42 a day in income?

Posted by: Mao See Tung at November 12, 2005 4:23 AM

If you don't shudder at the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt, then maybe you should read it again, folks, because she's right. Run your mouth at the wrong moment; fail to learn how to behave -- there are millions of situations where your indiscretion can even be fatal.

I have a friend at work who said possibly the most marvelous thing: "If your boy has a hero and it's not you, you got something wrong at your house." Heroes, of course, are not attended by screaming brats. His kids are kids - that is, they play hard - but they know when Pop is serious.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 12, 2005 12:16 PM

Nothing as fluent or intellectual as some of the other posts -- just a FATHER of a one-year-old that takes the boy out in public...but then removes him if/when he gets out of hand. Being only one year old, I remember my "pre-parent" days and the disgust of dealing with downright detestable kids. Now that *I* am the parent, no matter how hard, I acknowledge (and even enjoy!) my RESPONSIBILITY as a parent not only to the child but also to society to teach even a toddler whose age is measured in months proper behavior. Unfortunately, some peoples manners just can't be measured at all....

Posted by: John at November 22, 2005 2:53 AM

I'm real late to this conversation, but wanted to agree heartily. As I mentioned elsewhere regarding this, I LOVE kids in a restaurant, as long as they are well behaved. I think we all realize that occasional issues will arise. But it's the parents like Alison Miller and her self absorbed righteousness who actually give all kids a bad rap. If your rug rat can't behave, take them to Chucky's or the McD playground. But keep them away from my dinner table.

Posted by: db at November 23, 2005 10:35 PM

I just stumbled upon this blog and I definitely agree with everyone. My own blog has a fairly recent post about my feelings concerning children in general. I don't like children. I choose not to have them so they wouldn't be around me. I know all of us were children at one time. I realize that many people adore children. However, my feeling is that if you want children you need to control them until they are old enough to undertand how to control themselves. Parents: if you wish to have children, this means you may actually have to give up eating in four-star restaurants for a while, or avoid lectures that bore toddlers to ribbons, or give your Philharmonic subscription to someone else for a few years until the baby understands what quiet, means. Sorry if it cramps your style, but if you bring your kids where they don't belong, you cramp MY style, and that's not fair. You had the kid, now deal with it and leave the rest of us in peace! So, take the kiddies to Barney movies and chuck e cheeses where they can do whatever...but keep them OUT of adult venues. Don't expect us to smile and pretend it doesn't bother us. It really does. And, expect those who didn't have children by choice and who don't like yours being shoved into faces, to start fighting back.

Oh, and to my selfish neighbors who make lots of money and are just too busy to ever come home. Did you not realize that a child actually needs to see you now and again? You had a kid only to leave it with a bunch of nannies on a rotating schedule day and night. Your kid has been screaming it's guts out for three long year, and you don't even realize it because YOU don't live next door and the kid is asleep by the time you return from your glam lifestyle. I lived in this building for 28 years before you ruined my peace and quiet. Now, the only time I can hear myself think is when your deranged and mal-adjusted brat is taken outside or I am on vacation. Come home occasionally and see what you've done. You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Posted by: Advice Sister Alison at December 23, 2005 2:46 PM

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