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NC Restaurant Bans Screaming Kids

September 7, 2010

Raphael James    

For the second time in less than a month, screaming children and restaurants have struck a nerve.  In the 2nd week of August the father of an Autistic child was assaulted because his 4-year-old son was making too much noise.  Now a restaurant in Carolina Beach, NC has apparently put up signs warning, “Screaming children will not be tolerated.”    

According to the owner nothing ruins the atmosphere of a nice relaxing dinner faster than a misbehaving, screaming kid.     

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As a father of three, I can tell you when I go into a restaurant I can’t make you any guarantee that my kids are going to behave themselves.  As much as we preach good table manners, as much as we prepare, groom, and discipline them I can guarantee you that there are no guarantees.  Will my child knock over a drink? Maybe. Will he or she burst out laughing? Possibly. Will they cry because we insist that they eat their vegetables? Quite likely. And all of those are reasons we don’t go out nearly as much as we used to.    

But my mind goes back several months ago to a particular dinner outing.  Because one of my children has special needs, they are all eligible to participate in a respite program at a local church.  That means once a month my wife and I get a few hours to go out and date! We get to do the things that we used to do before kids came into the picture.    

Because this time is so precious and rare we try to maximize every second of it and plan it down to the millisecond. For example, my wife dropped the kids off at the church.  Since I had to work thirty minutes away we chose to meet on my break at a restaurant an equal distance from both locations.  She got there a little before I did and placed not only her order but mine as well. It was perfect. When I walked in I saw her beautiful smiling face and a sweet tea waiting on my side of the table.  This was going to be great.    

Moments later our food arrived.  As soon as we said grace, Grace began screaming bloody murder!  On the other end of the restaurant what appeared to be a one to two-year old little girl began screaming at the top of her lungs!  The parents tried everything they could to calm Grace, but she wasn’t having it.    

As eyes from other tables burned holes into the backs of that couple, My wife and I exchanged knowing looks at one another. We have been there many times before. I felt a strong urge to get up and say something  to them, but couldn’t find the words that would make sense.    

After a few moments, the family paid their check and left.  You could almost feel the others wanting to burst into a thunderous ovation at their departure.  Unable to contain myself any longer I rushed out the door behind them.    

As they were getting into their truck I called after the father.  He turned around with a look that said, “Hey Buddy don’t hassle me. Can’t you see we’re leaving?”    

I said, “She really must not have liked what was on the kids menu.”  We laughed. I told him not to sweat it. I told him that I was the father of a special needs child myself and that I have found myself in his shoes many times.  That’s when he told me Grace wasn’t his only child. He had two other little children who had been diagnosed with Autism. He told me how very hard it is for them to ever go out together as a family.    

I have to respect the actions that the North Carolina restaurant owner took to satisfy his customers.  But I can’t help but think he or she is REALLY missing out on a huge opportunity. Instead of castigating the parents of unruly children, perhaps he could cash in on a very underserved market.  On Aisle 9 Consulting is dedicated to showing businesses, churches, and other venues a different way of doing business.  For a consultation please contact us at    

What do you think? Did the owner of the restaurant make the smartest decision? Should parents of unruly kids just come to grips and leave their kids at home? We’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments below.    

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cynthia James permalink
    September 9, 2010 9:35 pm

    Raphael….I have to tell you that I truly understand your point. However, since I do not have kids and I do teach kids all day–including an autistic student (and I’ve taught three autistic kids in the past)–when I go out to a restaurant …for a nice, quiet meal, that is EXACTLY what I want. And for that reason, we either avoid those restaurants where we know kids are “allowed” by the parents to run rampant–i.e., run around the restaurant with spaghetti, french fries w/ketchup, etc. in their mouths, running up to your table (which is in a corner furthest away from screaming, loud kids–per your request), etc. We don’t mind the occasional kid crying or not being happy about being made to eat their veggies or the child has a disability. We DO mind having our meal interrupted by ill-behaved children who lack supervision, training, manners, and the list goes on….. If I pay for a quiet meal, then that’s exactly what I want. I hear and deal with enough noise and aggravation from children every day–I want peace and quiet!

  2. Ihsaan Ali permalink
    September 8, 2010 1:56 pm

    Wait a minute… Does this place serve million dollar plates or premium anything? I am not a restaurant owner but the public comes in all shades of color, age, parent and non parent. The bottom line is that parents have no magic crystal ball to see whether or not their child will have a meltdown. This is regardless of whether the child is special needs, toddler, or infant for that matter…

    When our son was having really bad experiences when we would go out I felt bad for everyone their. Yeah no one wants to hear a screaming child, no time is a pleasant time… That’s like saying you can no longer fly b/c your child may have a meltdown or charge per scream!

    If a restaurant has a sign like that on its window, I wouldn’t want to eat there in the first place. Our lives are already restricted enough as it is. It’s just sad that people cannot see or empathize with the family.

    Now taking you child to a late night movie…. That’s another story!

  3. Allisa Abraham Hall permalink
    September 7, 2010 6:45 pm

    As my husband and I set out for the airport and a long overdue anniversary weekend trip, I read your post about the family at the Olive Garden. As the mother of a mild/moderate autistic son, it made me so hurt and angry. Of course the angry customer was out of line, and so is this restaurant owner, but in reading the comments, I couldn’t help but think many people are glad to silence children and their parents in this way.
    As a young twenty-something, I confess, I did not understand what an undertaking it is to take a family out to dinner. I couldn’t even begin to fathom what it takes to add a special needs child into the mix. Now I know. I worry about how my son will be received every time I take him into a store or restaurant. Every time we break his routine, we risk a meltdown. If I lend anything to this discussion, it is the hope that people remember how hard it is for parents to decide to risk an outing. Autism is not something a child experiences. Every member of a family lives with autism or any disability for that matter.
    I do not expect everyone to accept my child, but I will not shrink away into the confines of my home because my son’s presence or behavior might disturb someone else’s dinner. My son has the right to experience a dinner out, sports activities, and any other thing that children do in the course of growing up and learning about the world. I agree that the restaurant owner is missing an opportunity.

    Allisa Abraham Hall

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