SmackDown: Should a Kid Be Allowed to Scream at a Restaurant?

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Special Needs, Opinions

Screaming child

Do you want to sit near this baby at a restaurant? Credit: jupiterimages

Scream at Home, Kid.

by Jessica Samakow

There's nothing that can ruin a good dish of penne a la vodka more than a side of screaming child.

We've all been there. We ignore the wails for a few minutes until the ringing in our eardrums becomes impossible to ignore. We glance over our shoulders and give the screamer's parents an evil glare implying, "Shut your kid up before I throw my dinner in your general direction."

So, if a privately-owned restaurant chooses to ban screaming children so that customers can simply enjoy a good meal, is that so wrong?

As a person with a 30-second patience range, I would have to say no. In fact, if I were to stumble upon a restaurant like Olde Salty's in North Carolina, bearing a "Screaming children will not be tolerated" sign in the window, I would become a regular visitor.

And when the time comes for me to call a screaming child my own, I'd have to pick a new favorite spot, say Chuck E. Cheese, or call a babysitter for the night and have a nice, quiet meal at Olde Salty's.

One mother, Kelly Chambliss, has a bone to pick with the sign in the window. Since her autistic son is prone to screaming tantrums because of his disability, she says he's being singled out and that this ban is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Makes me want to scream.

Lady, this is not an issue of discrimination. This is not an issue of violating human rights. This is not even an issue of a person's right to dine in a public restaurant. The real issue here is that you were clearly not paying attention in your seventh-grade history class.

Bear with me as I refresh your memory. Discrimination, according to our good friends at Merriam-Webster is "the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently." The key word here being differently.

As the sign in the window of Olde Salty's reads: "Screaming children will not be tolerated." The sign does not allude to which types of screaming children will not be tolerated. The six-worded sign is clear. Any screaming child, autistic or bratty or moody or sleep-deprived or hungry, will not be tolerated. All children will be treated the same.

For her part, Olde Salty's manager Brenda Armes says she is not trying to silence children, nor is she trying to find a method to do so. All the woman wants to do is give her restaurant patrons a meal without the soundtrack of a wailing child in the background.

I like a person with clearly defined priorities. Especially ones that are in alignment with my own.

Now, if Olde Salty's were to spiff up its decor, quadruple its prices and rename itself, "Le Sel," no one would be complaining. A sign would not have to be posted for parents to realize that bringing a screaming child to such a fine establishment would be le miserable.

Unfortunately, my wallet does not allow for me to dine at Le Sel. But wouldn't it be great if there were middle-class restaurants where my middle-class friends and I could enjoy the same type of peaceful atmosphere without having to drop our whole paycheck on a steak?

But I digress. Olde Salty's is a small business, not the United States Government. If Brenda Armes marched to the Capitol, lobbying for a screaming-child ban in all restaurants nationwide, Kelly Chambliss may have a case in calling her actions "illegal."

But if she were really speaking for her son, chances are he would probably be saying, "Don't worry about it, Mom. I'd rather go to that place with the burgers and bouncy castle anyway."

Lots of People in Restaurants are Annoying.

by Tom Henderson

Screaming children in restaurants are %$#!@ annoying!

You know who else is annoying? Old people whose dentures fling out like cash registers whenever they talk.

And they usually talk loudly. You're trying to have a nice meal, and they're two tables away screeching over their hearing aids about Gertrude's phlebitis.

Then you've got the good ol' boys bloviating about the "gummint" and how Obama is nothing but a "comm-un-nist."

The only thing worse than these mouth breathers is giggling teenage girls.

My own kid is annoying because he has autism. But what's their excuse? More importantly, why should they get to ruin my French dip and fries while my kid is 86ed for just being himself?

That's the point behind a mother cheesed off at a restaurant in North Carolina that has a sign that reads: "Screaming children will not be tolerated." That includes autistic kids who scream because, hey, that's what a lot of autistic kids do. If they could control it, they wouldn't have a handicap recognized and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To be fair, parents should do what they can to quiet their children. Taking them outside would be a nice and considerate thing to do. However, restaurants have no more right to order them out than they do to tell deaf people to stop all those distracting hand gestures.

One of my two kids has autism and I kept him out of restaurants during his screaming years. Still, he caused more than his share of commotion at grocery stores and other public places. I knocked over a street lamp once when I was backing up a delivery truck while he kept screaming, "Sesame Street Elmo!" in my ear.

Believe me, I strongly considered selling him to the nearest circus. Yet, I realized there are certain things beyond his (and my) control. Other people need to realize that about autistic children, as well. No child screams without reason. The reason is usually something beyond his or her comprehension and command. Telling a child to simply stop isn't going to work. Yelling at him or her to stop is definitely not going to work. It's only going to make them scream more.

About the only thing that does work is a little understanding. Screaming fits rarely last long long, unless nearby adults insist on escalating them with their foolish reactions.

A guy named Paul Blankfield comes to mind. He allegedly physically assaulted another patron at an Olive Garden in Boynton Beach, Fla., in August because the guy's autistic son wouldn't stop being autistic.

Rather than a peaceful dining experience, he got assault charges.

As Dr. Phil would say at this point, "How's that working out for ya?"

Managers of Olde Salty's, the North Carolina eatery with the no-screaming sign, are taking the seemingly easy path by just casting the kid out. They don't see what's unfair about that.


They're singling out a particular class of annoying people while other annoying people -- the ones who can actually control their behavior -- get a free pass.

That's the very definition of discrimination. We can't start banning all the annoying people in the world. Pretty soon, it would be a very lonely planet. There would no one left but you.

And you annoy me.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.