A child holding a veggie burger

After eating at a restaurant where toddlers were running around and throwing food, a San Francisco woman posted her frustrations on Facebook. “This may shock you, but choosing to have children means you can’t go out to eat for roughly 3 years. Please. Accept your fate,” she wrote. While the woman is facing backlash for her comments, her words spoke to the frustrations of a lot of diners. This hour we take up the issue: when and where do toddlers and babies belong in restaurants?

Should Parents Bring Babies and Toddlers to Restaurants? 9 November,2015forum

Amy Graff, writes "The Mommy Files," a parenting blog for SFGate.com


    Absolutely not ,it is not fair to other diners ,and it is not good for the children as well .I read about what you may call restaurant rage ,when diners and parents actually get into verbal or physical fights because of kids misbehaving in restaurants.

  • When there is a kid’s menu it’s ok to bring your kids. If there is no kids menu, then assume it’s not kid friendly.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    When in Paris its a joy to dine in nice restaurants where children are dining with their parents who do not see their children as special privileged humans who need to be accommodated but small humans who are expected to behave. And there is NO separate menu for children. Americans should learn from the French!

    • rmjacks

      One of the reasons for having a children’s menu is that children cannot eat adult portions of food. We were recently waiting for a flight and the only sit down restaurant where we could eat dinner did not have a children’s menu. I ended up having to pay $14 for an adult sized cheese quesadilla for one child and $15 for an adult sized portion of fish and chips for my other child. It was way too much food and the flight was too long to even be able to take the leftovers with us safely.

      • Ben Rawner

        Maybe you should have made them split one plate?

        • rmjacks

          Thanks, but they can’t because of food intolerances and they also like different foods–just like adults. 🙂

      • Another Mike

        Certain restaurants also have lighter, “Senior Menus,” for people who want only a half portion.

        • rmjacks

          Thanks. Yes, that would have been nice but it unfortunately wasn’t an option (I did ask about half portions). I am guessing airport restaurants don’t really worry about being too accommodating because if you are stuck there for a long time on a layover, you need to eat and your choices for restaurants are extremely limited (and they know it).

          • Another Mike

            Right, I was just thinking that the adult menu does not actually accommodate the needs of all adults.
            It just occurred to me (don’t take this as criticism) that you could have eaten a third of the quesadilla and a piece of fried fish, perhaps just ordering yourself a salad or cup of soup. Just a sudden thought.

          • rmjacks

            Thanks for the good suggestion! I truly wasn’t expecting the portions to be so enormous (I couldn’t finish my adult portion either!). However, if we ever get stuck in this terminal again, I will definitely just plan to eat what the kids can’t finish:-). I can only imagine how much food this restaurant wastes on a daily basis…

      • Gene Keenan

        If you bring a zip-loc bag you can put the leftovers in there and the purser will keep it cold for you if they have room (usually after food service). Also any kind of dry cheese will be ok if not refrigerated. Hard cheeses indefinitely.

      • chaichick

        Here’s a thought…make your kids share one entree. Kids need to learn that they can’t have EXACTLY what they want all of the time. Sometimes, compromises need to be made.

        • thucy

          I agree, however, as a non-parent who has assisted many parents, I gotta say: it ain’t easy traveling with kids. It’s often very stressful. And rmjacks is probably dealing with many more hectic situations, and raising children in a more hectic era, than Beth experienced.

          I don’t have children, but my friends do, and it is hard raising kids today!

          • rmjacks

            Thanks so much for your compassion. I always appreciate it from non-parents and I do my best to keep my kids in line. My older son was actually not feeling well on this particular day so it was pretty stressful and we were indeed just trying to get through it and get back home again:-).

          • Lorry frey

            Many are in your situations but when parents ignore their kids because the parents are texting or chatting with friends and the kids are crawling around on the floor or running behind chairs it’s the management responsibility to speak up. If the restaurant owners put a kind note on the walls it would help. Say…please keep your children in their seats and occupied with their meal. Disruptive families will be asked to leave..unless it’s Chucky cheese that should work.

          • rmjacks

            I think you posted this in the wrong place by mistake (as a reply to my specific thread instead of as a response to the topic in general). My kids are pre-teens and were definitely not out of their seats or disruptive in any manner. My thread was simply about wishing for smaller/less expensive portion sizes:-).

        • rmjacks

          Thanks, but they can’t because of actual food intolerances (and they also like different foods–just like adults–they are pre-teens, not toddlers). When you are stuck on a long lay-over and trying to pass the hours, it is also nice to actually enjoy your meal:-). So, in the end, I sucked it up and paid for 2 over-priced/sized entrees. It just would have been nice to have had the option to order a smaller portion at a more reasonable price, be it from a children’s menu or a seniors menu. There are several restaurants in our area that don’t have children’s menus but they do offer smaller portions of most dishes. I know lots of adults that take advantage of it too:-).

    • ldemelis

      There are children’s menus in France — often created on the fly by a waiter, who will offer a child’s portion of something on the menu or (if it’s an American child) a “steack hache” or hamburger.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        As a general rule adult serving sizes are a good 50% smaller in Paris and many European countries than here in the states.

        • ldemelis

          That’s a fair point. We found, however, that French restaurants were very willing to cater to children, whether or not it was on the menu, as long as they saw the parents were asking their child to adhere to reasonable behavior. Children who were allowed to run wild (and their parents) were not welcome.

        • Another Mike

          Meals in France and Italy tend to be multicourse affairs. With American portions you might never get to the main course.

    • thucy

      I’m with Maya Angelou on this – if you can’t handle the sound of a baby crying in church or in a restaurant for a brief while, you should reassess your compassion level.

      Every time a baby cries in a restaurant, I think: thank God someone else is doing the hard work of raising children. And then I smile and go back to my meal and my conversation.

      Then again, when parents are misbehaving, it’s a whole different thing.

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    It depends on the restaurant. Yelp often tells diners whether a restaurant is good for children or not. Fine dining, for instance, is definitely not intended for little children. Children who behave themselves at the table aren’t likely to be noticed, but most parents today are too indulgent with their children’s tantrums. I know how difficult it can be for children under six to sit still for an hour or more. Upscale restaurants simply aren’t for them. When parents allow their children to run around, disturb other diners, play games on the floor, shout, or squeal, they really are ruining the experience for the other patrons of the restaurant. If I so much as slouched at the table in a restaurant when I was a child, one of my parents would take me outside — not to discipline me but just to get an unruly child out of the way of other diners.

    • Elissa

      I completely agree with you. As kids, my sister and I were taken to restaurants very rarely, usually by my grandparents and it was considered a treat! And we were expected to behave… bad table manners were not tolerated. Same thing when we were taken into a store, the bank, any public place with our parents/grandparents. Any my parents were not strict by any stretch of the imagination, quite the opposite… but they simply taught us how to behave in public, it was a given.

  • And

    Other people’s babies crying doesn’t bug me, because I know I’m not the one that has to tend to them.

  • Jeremy Puhlman

    It totally depends on the restaurant. If the restaurant caters to children sure. However if the child is having an issue and throwing a fit, its still the parents responsibility to take the child outside to calm down. If the restaurant does not cater to children, then no.

  • Natasha

    This is like asking if smart phones should be allowed on buses because some people allow them to be real loud and distracting to everyone else on the bus.
    Some folks are thoughtful and aware of their affect on those around them while some folks just don’t care. Everyone has their own level of concern for others and so will act accordingly when in public with their phone, kids, or whatever else they decide to bring with them outside.

  • Children should be allowed- it’s up to the parents to take them outside if they get unsettled. I have very strict expectations for my son in restaurants- even when he was a toddler.. if he acts up, we leave. But I have been harrased by fellow diners who clearly didn’t have children, and didn’t understand the time it takes to calm a child down as you are trying to get them outside. I have also, as a parent been appalled by other parents letting their children out of their seats during dinner. There is restaurant behavior we all expect, and the kids have to learn somehow… so we must all be patient- but in the end the question should not be about the kids, but about the parents. kids are part of our society and should be allowed, restaurants need to make it clear that they need to sit at the table, and that a parent needs to take them outside for a bit if the child gets rambunctious. we should be educating parents on restaurant behavior in some cases too, it seems.

    • Noelle

      Yes, I agree. If the kids can’t behave, take them outside, or get the food to go.

    • MattCA12

      Well said. But these are the same American parents who allow their children to call their adult friends by their first name, who scream obscenities at the referee of their child’s soccer game (said referee being a teenaged child himself), and who would rather be friends with their child on Instagram than her parent and protector, and it’s not surprising an evening at the restaurant frequently turns into Parent’s Day at Kindergarten.

      • David

        oh my. children calling friends of parents by their friends’ first name. shudder.

  • sstanley

    When I go out to dinner with my nephew and his family (kids, 6 and 7) we always have to go to the horrible “kid friendly” restaurants. At some point shouldn’t children learn how to behave? I hate to sound like a “back in my day” kind of person, but we always had to sit and be quiet until the adults were ready to leave…wasn’t always easy, but we lived to tell about it!

  • JohanNilsenNagel

    Hire a baby-sitter for crying out loud! High-school kids need jobs too, so help out the economy by hiring a reliable and trustworthy teen to look after your kids for a few hours. Go out and enjoy yourselves, as a couple. When I was in high-school I baby-sat for a neighbor who then referred me to another young couple, who then referred me to yet another couple. Built my confidence, got some referrals for another part-time job, and finished my weekend homework while the baby slept. Best of all, I didn’t need to rely on my parents as often for pocket-change.

    • Noelle

      yes! I think our culture has changed in which going out to dinner is not a once in a while special occasion, though. Parents I guess are too tired to cook at home.

    • Lisa

      We go out on a date night once a month from 6-11pm and you know how much it costs to hire a sitter for 2 in SF? $110 and that’s on the cheaper end because we’ve used the same sitter for a long time. By the time you add on another dinner tab of over $100 and/or a movie/drinks out that night can total up to an easy $250-300. So sometimes it sounds easy to hire a sitter, but in actuality, it’s a money issue in the end. i would LOVE to be able to go out more, want to babysit? : )

      • Another Mike

        An older woman I once worked with told me how she coped when her kids were little and money was tight: She made friends with three other young women in the same boat, and they effectively became a baby-sitting coop. When one couple went out, one of the other ladies would babysit.

        • thucy

          So old school – so smart. I’ve often wondered why more single mothers didn’t band together. I once asked a single working mother why she didn’t seek out her peers for mutual support. She said she didn’t trust the other mothers. To be frank, her kid was out of control and, well, so was she. But I see a lot of Latina moms, single and otherwise, form unofficial babysitting co-ops. Smart ladies.

  • breakingjen

    I have a 14 month old son, when he was 6 months or younger we took advantage of the fact he would just be a sleeping little lump and we enjoyed getting out of the house for a few dinners. Now however meals out consist of me either trying to entertain him or get him to eat, how that is supposed to be enjoyable at a restaurant is beyond me. My child would not do well right now at a nice restaurant, I wouldn’t want to stress myself out or waste my money bringing him to a fancy place. If the parents know their child limits it should be ok. However people definitely seem to be on a trend of hating children lately. If you hate eating near children that much then you better avoid any restaurants that serve children just like I avoid a place my family wouldn’t do well in. If you are going to a neighborhood restaurant and whining about kids, you are the jerk in the situation.

  • Lisa Hummel

    I was a server in restaurants all throughout my 20s and always appreciated well behaved children and parents. But I have seen both servers and children get hurt when parents allow their children run around restaurants. Now I’m a parent in my 40s and NEVER let my children run around restaurants. They need to be respectful of fellow diners and those working in the restaurant. I also didn’t take my kids to fine dining establishments when they were very young. Fellow patrons who are paying top dollar for meal deserve to enjoy a lovely meal without my kids interfering. I’m totally fine with the fact that most people in this world do not adore my children as much as I do. I can’t stand to see parents allowing their children to behave badly in restaurants. To me it’s a sign of obnoxious, entitled parents raising obnoxious, entitled kids.
    San Francisco

    • La Chele

      I am in total agreement with your statement.

  • David Patchen

    Come on, this is a no brainer–a blanket ban is absurd. It just requires good judgement on the part of the parents. If your kids can generally behave, go to an appropriate restaurant and take the kids outside if they lose it. If your kids are really unruly, sorry, don’t go. I have two toddlers and we eat out all the time and haven’t had any feedback from other diners other than smiles.

  • Joy AH

    As a parent of two, I have been bringing my kids to restaurants for years. That said, we try to stick to family friendly locations (not quiet, romantic, candlelit locations that we save for just us) and we are considerate about other people enjoying their meals. We don’t allow our kids to run around or get up from the table. They have to use good manners, just like everyone else. When they were young we simply took them out if they started crying and couldn’t be calmed down or distracted. There were only a couple of times when my husband or I didn’t get to enjoy the meal, since we took the upset child out, but it paid off. Sometimes they behave better than other adults around us. Staying locked away in the house isn’t good for anyone, but experiencing different foods and learning how to behave in public is important for becoming functional adults.

    • Julia A

      Exactly. My husband and I are the same. We have a 4 and 7 year-old and from time to time they get the treat of going to a restaurant. We set expectations beforehand – but we also come prepared (they’re not starving when we arrive, we bring old school games to keep them entertained – tick tack toe, dots, napkin origami…all things we ONLY do when we go out to eat). If the food it taking a while and one of them is looking antsy, then one of us takes them outside to walk around, count cars, count how many jumping jacks they can do in 30 seconds….whatever.

      Our kids are learning how to order for themselves politely and in an audible voice. I think the exposure is important for them. It’s also sad how often the waitstaff has taken the time to mention to me how polite our kids are; and how rare that is for them to see.

      BUT when walking down the street we also make sure our kids move to the right when other people are walking the other direction; I tell them “the sidewalk isn’t just for you.” There are some adults that haven’t figured that out yet.

  • Ben Rawner

    My personal pet peeve is when parents let their children run around or play on the floor. It is not a park! It’s is a restaurant. working the obstacle course that is a restaurant is already hard enough with hot plates and full trays. If you child can’t sit still for more than 30 minutes maybe u should order to go.

  • Sean Dennehy

    She shouldn’t have had to apologize for her comments. Some parents get overly angry at any criticism of their children.

  • Another Mike

    There are “family” restaurants where kids can scream and run because every party has one or more — they are all on an even footing.
    However, there are also restaurants that cater to people in their early twenties, who get louder and more rowdy than a hundred tots could dream of being.

  • anna_s

    Being able to go out and eat is one of the few ways that new parents can feel normal and not as isolated. Anyone who categorically dismisses babies or toddlers in restaurants is not demonstrating much empathy. Granted, parents need to use common sense and be considerate, but please, let’s not ostracize an entire group of people – we all have space to be considerate of each other’s needs.

  • Sam Badger

    The problem isn’t with the kids, it’s with parents who seem oblivious to how irritating others might find their children. Of course parents should be allowed to bring kids, but they must do their best to help their kids not annoy everyone else in the business. If anything, American kids aren’t spoiled, their parents are.

  • campfiregirl

    Restaurants are public space and are therefore available to everyone including children. At the same time we all must learn public manners. If a kid is screaming in a restaurant they should be taken outside to be calmed. And People without children at the restaurant need to respect the rights of parents and children in PUBLIC space.

  • Another Mike

    Another factor: kids want to eat right away. So being able to preorder food is a help, so it is ready soon after you are seated. Also bring Cheerios with you.

  • Virginia

    At what point to parents use the restaurant experience as a teaching tool for their kids to sit a table, have table manners and say please and thank you? I believe that the assumption that kids will be kids and looking for a restaurant for a picnic-like atmosphere doesn’t help the kids begin to learn life lessons about good public behavior. If the kids have to run around, take them to a park and pack a picnic. I remember being in a booster seat at a restaurant with my grandparents in an Alameda coffee shop in the 1960’s. I was so excited to be there and I knew I had to behave well to get the privilege again. Call me old-fashion.

    • monica

      I use my kitchen table to teach my children manners, therefore making good manners at a restaurant normal. Call me old-fashioned too.

    • right! after taking my toddler home a couple of times in the middle of meals was enough to show that if he wanted to be out with us (and he LOVED going to restaurants), he had to behave and sit the entire meal. I’m not talking a 2 hour meal here… an hour. toddlers can do it- but for those that can’t, then an adult can go for a walk with the child while the other waits for the bill etc… but the kids need to learn the right behavior in a restaurant sometime-

  • trevor

    my baby who is 8 months old has been taken out to dinner, flown on an airplane, been in a wedding and has never caused a problem. Rickybobby on haight and webster has been a great place for us. cal arts discourages kids under six which is really lame – children should be exposed to cultural events and we should be more accommodating to families in the bay. people looked at us in horror on a plane, he was fine the adults were rude and inconsiderate in the way they responded to us and our child as if we violated their right to fly without irritation.

    • Mjhmjh

      Actually, in my experience, babies on planes often cry a lot. Initially, it seems to be some near-physical reaction: thereafter, I think it’s often because the mother is anxious about possible intolerance on the part of other travelers, and, of course, babies always sense such anxiety Often, parents I see on long-haul flights are taking the baby on a first visit to close relatives abroad and they have no alternate means of travel. I always feel so sorry for them because they are basically trapped. And I’m quite prepared to put up with the crying from the babies, who, after all, have no idea what is happening. I think it’s a very different situation from that of sitting in a restaurant, next to parents who make little effort to achieve appropriate behavior on the part of their offspring. or who don’t seem to have the parental skills to do so.

      • rmjacks

        Yes, it is actually a physical reaction. Babies cry during take-off/reaching cruising altitude and again during the descent/landing because they don’t know how to “pop” their ears from the building pressure. Our pediatrician always advised us to have our kids breastfeed or use a pacifier during these times when flying in order to relieve the pressure in their ears but I don’t know if every new parent knows that. Of course, babies also want to be held but we are taught that they are safest in a carseat in their own airplane seat up until a certain age (in case of turbulence). It is a tough experience all around but of course necessary in order to see those elderly relatives who can’t make the trip to see the new family members themselves. 🙁

  • Another Mike

    On the other hand, my little brother would wail like a siren, leaving my mortified mother to take him outside until the tantrum was over. Made eating in nice places problematic.

  • Gene Keenan

    It’s really a matter of socialization by the parents. Have your kids adopt to your life not you to theirs. If children are coddled they will be more challenging.

  • fakeanonymousguest

    If your kids are allowed to run around at dinner time at home, they will do so in public. In general, though, even the best behaved kids can’t sit still for more than one hour, so don’t dawdle or order coffee and dessert..

  • Debbie Neff McKee

    Do I get asked to behave if talking loud…screaming…throwing my food…stand on the seat…running around???????
    Yes….same for the children….

    Parents must teach their children to have respect for others….simple as that!

  • Jennifer Carraher

    I find this portion of the program pretty disappointing. The moral tone on the right kind of parenting and the right kind of children feels very heavy handed. I have been raising two children in San Francisco for more than 16 years and it is a very difficult place to feel welcome as a parent or a family no matter the behavior of parents or children. Sadly, it is likely the reason many people flee the city once they make this difficult life transition.

    • fakeanonymousguest

      It is heavy handed and yet is also correct. Tolerating children is everybody’s responsibility (it takes a village, etc) but eating out is getting increasingly expensive and for some people is not a regular experience. To have that special occasion diminished because a yuppie parent is unable or unwilling to curb their children’s behavior is not right.

      • Jennifer Carraher

        Case in point.

    • Another Mike

      SF is an adult city for adults. Only ten percent of SF’s population are in elementary schools. Per SF Unified, of children born in San Francisco, one-fourth will leave before they reach Kindergarten age. Half will enroll in public school. Of these, 13% will leave before eighth grade.

  • We eat out quite often and I just don’t see all the problems people are talking about. I do see lots of toddlers and they all seem well behaved. Our daughter was just fine as a toddler and going with her was a pleasure. We did go for walks after dinner while the rest of the grown-up chatted.

    • Another Mike

      You are a lucky parent. Trust me: there are plenty of children who cannot cope with eating in restaurants.

  • Aparna

    I am a parent of 2 small boys – 6 and 3. We used to live in the city. I completely agree with all the comments about it being the responsibility of the parents to parent. But, I have to say that over the last 7 years (since being pregnant with my first), I have noticed that this city has become more hostile to little children than it is to dogs. I can name 10 incidents where my son has behaved in a restaurant and we have still gotten the snickers, the comments and the ever so “friendly” suggestions from other people who clearly have no idea how to relate to children. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strict mom. But, this feels like a completely one-sided conversation.

    • Gene Keenan

      I agree with you. The city has gone to the dogs 😉 But seriously, it drives me crazy seeing dogs in grocery stores. And it seems like every person claims their dog is a “service dog.”

    • very much agree there too. and we are really losing many aspect of normal life in this city. the kids and old people are uncool…. we see less and less of them.

  • Gene Keenan

    I think the discussion perhaps should have been about the growing intolerance for children in our culture.

    • thucy


    • Anne Sausser

      Agree 100%

    • Another Mike

      You mean the notion that “children should be seen but not heard” does not date back to the 1400s?

  • La Chele

    the owner needs not to apologize for how frustrated she feels about kids throwing food and running around in her restaurant!!! even if it wasn’t her restaurant she can still state how frustrated she feels. now, we all know kids are kids, the bigger question is: where were the parents!!!?

  • Brendan Harris

    One of the most difficult parts of this conversation is being a parent, but imagining you are not. Every parent expects people to endure the crying babies, but non-parents would never expect parents to leave the child at home. The expensive night out ruined by a crying baby seems to be pretty common for me.

  • Tony Moir

    If you want to be in a restaurant that does not allow children, or if it bugs you that children are allowed, then that is your choice. It is up to you. Most parents are aware of “restaurant behavior,” but also may have different standards for it. But nearly all parents I have ever come across try to be at least somewhat considerate of the other patrons. There are exceptions, but the offenses are generally minor. All of these horror stories are really the exception. Families with kids are many times louder, but not always. These are totally first world problems, though, and it strikes me that if this is something you are worried enough about that it causes you to feel like you have the right to impugn the parenting skills of others based on seeing them for a few minutes, then it speaks more to your own paucity of spirit, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy than it does on the parents and their children.

  • Crabpaws

    What a strange controversy. Well-behaved children can eat in restaurants any time. There is no place in the world where misbehaving children are welcome in restaurants. Even in the US, when parents get a night out away from their small children, they don’t like their meal disturbed by other people’s children, either.

  • Liz Ditz

    I think that for almost all of the chain restaurants (think Olive Garden, Appleby’s, etc.) — adult patrons should expect to share their dining experiences with infants, toddlers, and older children. That said, parents should and must insist that the children stay in their assigned dining area — the booths or the tables.

    For what used to be called “white tablecloth restaurants” where patrons can reasonably expect a different experience, perhaps parents should avoid those venues until their children can meet the behavioral expectations.

    I’d also like to point out that the expectations should be different depending on the meal. In other words, what’s acceptable at Sunday brunch, or a weekday lunch, is different than a weekend dinner.

  • Gusted

    When I was a young child I went to many restaurants, and it certainly exposed me to many different menus. Not the “typical” American restaurants, but varying across the board in style, price, and cuisine. I learned to use chopsticks when I was 5.

    A great experience and never was there a Kid’s Menu.

    Children who are well behaved should be welcome and ill behaved kids should be no more welcome than your drunk uncle.

  • pereubu2000

    Not only should children be allowed in restaurants, they should be given activities to placate them – and their parents. They should also be given food to throw at intolerant customers. My idea of the ideal restaurant with children would be more like a Marx Brothers movie …

  • Pissed Consumer
  • Marjorie Nye

    You can’t expect a child to miraculously behave in a restaurant if the family meal at home is a free for all. I taught a head start class where I had to instruct some children that utensils had a purpose and mashed potatoes were not an art medium.
    With my own three children, we chose restaurant type based on their attention span. Babies and toddlers= fast food. On the rare occasion that we took them to a sit-down restaurant, I packed a busy bag and packed books, small toys ( on a high chair tether so they couldn’t be thrown) and babies favorite hors d’oeuvres, Cheerios. When my kids were older, I started a tradition: while mom and dad finished their meal, the kids would write a thank you note to the server and chef on a paper napkin. They drew pictures, sometimes wrote a poem or a critique of the food. They really enjoyed their task
    Today my grown son lives in San Francisco. If he misbehaves in a restaurant, please let me know

  • Bert Macklin

    I have no problem with kids eating in most restaurants, but have also been to restaurants where parents have treated wait staff like baby sitters. I see the vast majority of parents taking kids to appropriate restaurants and handling them well. There are unfortunately bad actors that ruin it for the good parents. A restaurant should have the right to deny serving groups with children.

  • greedierthanyou

    I can’t even believe this is a discussion.

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