Hit the road, Jack. You too, Efrem.

According to a recent CBS Morning News segment there's a growing grassroots movement to ban 100909-screamingsign-hmed-6a.grid-4x2   or segregate screaming toddlers from such public domains as restaurants and airplanes. And I,  for one, heartily applaud the effort. 

Nothing can ruin a dining experience faster than a yelping baby at the next table. Likewise, I'd compare any flight to, or from, Orlando as aviation's version of Dante's Inferno. Just about every Air Disney plane is chock full of screaming kids hopped up on sugar. They'll barrel up and down the aisles, fall all over themselves and often fling their Mickey Mouse ears at some luckless adult passenger. While the kids run amok, mom and dad either snooze, shrug their shoulders and smile or crank up their iPods.

The call for a little kids crackdown is overdue and, I believe, a direct result of the hands-off parenting we're seeing in modern society. For whatever reason, more and more parents have abdicated responsibility for their child's education, diet and behavior. And, as regards at least the latter, the rest of us are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

It wasn't always this way. My dad wouldn't stand for bad behavior in public from his three sons. And, Ang and I reigned in Chris and Cat whenever they acted out. In fact, I'll never forget a brutal dining experience with a young Repman, Jr.. Chris couldn't have been more than two years old at the time, but he was on total overdrive that particular night. His banshee-like cries and Wrestlemania-like jumps, body slams and falls stunned fellow diners and forced us to beat a hasty retreat home. We were embarrassed and didn't want to subject others to the youngster's recklessness.

That sort of parental responsibility doesn't seem to happen very often these days. Instead, little Jack and Efrem are given license to run roughshod like some miniaturized, modern version of the Visigoths.

My personal bete noir is the kid sitting in the row behind me on a plane who continually pulls, punches and kicks my seat. I also adore the rotten tot who decides to run laps around his table and mine at a nice restaurant, completely destroying an enjoyable dinner.

I do hope the grass roots program I heard about on CBS takes hold. We should restrict misbehaving kids to the back of the plane or a separate section of the restaurant. Case in point, a restaurant in NC has banned unruly children and the owner says business has increased as a result. The world would be a slightly saner place if more restaurants followed suit.  Better yet, we should limit the number of flights and fine dining establishments that accept kids under the age of two.  But until then, look out for that kid with the applesauce! I think he's about to fling it your way!

20 thoughts on “Hit the road, Jack. You too, Efrem.

  1. Hey OP. What up? Agreed re: NJT, although any ride on that horror show of a transit system is usually a nightmare. Re: the young Chris, the incident in question occurred at a place called The New Gretna House. Their motto: ‘New Gretna. We’re glad we met ya.’ I kid you not. Enjoy Beantown.

  2. Totally agree. Another chart topper… Wednesday evening NJT commute home after Broadway matinees. P.S. was that cute story from last week at the Colts Neck Inn? That Rep, Jr.- can’t take him anywhere!

  3. I guess our respective experiences differ, Bubbles, because I’ve had numerous conversations along these lines over the past ten years with families in crisis due to the behavior of their children.
    “Interference?” Not quite. In many cases, the parents are desperate for suggestions and first-person testimonials, outside of the typical demeaning of their parenting skills and the culture’s seemingly over-reliance on medication as a panacea.
    As for whether there’s more control over what’s allowed in food today, you can believe what you like on that one.

  4. Ghost, first, I am not doubting the change with your child; of course there certainly can be a correlation between foods and behavior and I am glad diet adjustments helped your family.
    But as one who grew up with DuPont’s “Better living thru Chemicals” generation, there is vast more control of what is allowed in packaged food today. Never have there been more natural, organic and additive free foods available. To me, it’s just another excuse for many parents. And I would love to be a fly on the wall as you approach the parent of a screaming kid and “engage” them in a discussion about their child’s diet and how you can “help.” In my experience, the last thing said parents want is interference by anyone, let alone a stranger.

  5. I hadn’t thought about the diet aspect of the equation, Ghost. Your suggestion about engaging a parent on his/her child’s diet and its impact on behavior is a really interesting approach. I’ll give it a shot.

  6. Spoiled, ill-mannered kids kids grow up to be spoiled, ill-mannered adults. So my guess is those adults displaying bad behavior, say, on a delayed plane, were the ones kicking seats and screaming at will when they were tots.

  7. Any honest discussion regarding the behaviors of the modern child has to consider the ongoing chemistry experiment that is our food supply. Go to a grocery store and pick up any packaged product — and you’ll be amazed by the amount of chemicals and dyes (most of which have never withstood any type of scientific scrutiny before being approved for human consumption) that make up the foods we ingest. Even fast-food burgers have reportedly contained as many as 67 ingredients — and that’s not even touching upon the use of hormones and antibiotics.
    There’s an emerging, yet still underground, school of thought that so many behavioral issues (like ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder) are linked to these food additives; if accurate, this would surely explain (beyond fine parenting, of course) the discrepancies between the way we behaved when we wuz kids and what we see from these incorrigible children of today.
    Are there hands-off parents whose indifference to the commotion being caused by their unruly offspring? Absolutely. But when I encounter it, I usually engage the parent in a discussion of how cutting out certain foods completely changed my son’s behavior. If nothing more, this raises the issues in a non-threatening manner (can’t really be ignored, though, once acknowledged) while simultaneously providing them a potential course for resolving it.

  8. Boorish behavior has been the norm for some time now, Michael. Segregating youngsters such as Jack, Ed and Ed Dresner would at least begin to restore some semblance of sanity. As I said, there’s nothing worse than sitting behind a young Ed-type on a plane and having him kick, prod and bash your seat. I also abhor the kids who sit in front of you, begin with a simple game of peek-a-boo and quickly escalate it to hurling their assorted toys back at you like so many hand grenades. All this while the Mr. and Mrs. Dresner in question snooze contentedly.

  9. Great insight as always. I’ve had my share of run-ins with rude adults on planes as well. But, for me, nothing’s worse than screaming infants and rampaging tots running sprints up and down the aisles. They can turn a bad trip into a true nightmare.

  10. You’re right about running amok Repman. No excuse. But, I’ve been on airplanes that spend hours – hours – sitting on a runway with no reliable information, only to see adults behave more irresponsibly than my son (whose name is Jack, by the way) – and when he finally unraveled, people who found the misbehaving adult’s behavior justified were dissatisfied with my parenting capabilities or lack thereof. I see just as many examples in public places of adults that can’t control themselves as I do children. And adults should have that skill set after 20 or 30 years. A different blog perhaps. But I stopped feeling guilty about occasional outbursts from Jack when I see less appropriate behavior in the same context from people who understand the context of acting their age. I know two wrongs does not a right make. But you see my point.

  11. A really interesting discussion and debate here. As a parent of a toddler myself, and a family that does quite a bit of traveling together, I am sympathetic to Steve’s point. I consider it of the utmost importance when dining or flying to let Emma have a good time in a way that does as little as possible to detract from the experience of those around me. They paid money to be there as well, and I think it’s up to all of us to protect the experience of those around us.
    As others have said, I think it’s just courtesy to avoid restaurants when bringing a toddler in where you would compromise other people’s expereince, or at least to request a seating arrangement that sequesters you from others–or leaves you seated with other parents. And if some restaurants even said no kids, or no kids at certain times, I’d have no problem with that.
    Planes are a dicier proposition, and I would be irritated by an airline that had any kind of “no kids on this flight” rule for a good portion of their flights. On the other hand, as annoying as it may be for parents who actually do a decently good job of keeping their kids under control, I could imagine an airline making efforts to sit all passengers with children in a section together, to minimize the harm these kids might cause.
    Unfortunately, most of the problems I’ve had on flights have not been due to the more innocent among us–the children–but rather adults.

  12. Kids will be kids, Michael. I’ll agree with you on that. And, yes, poor customer service can aggravate the most patient person, parent or otherwise. But, there’s simply no excuse for kids running amok on planes, trains or restaurants. I expect you, your four-year-old as well as Ed and Ed, to behave yourselves.

  13. Two examples, both planes. Mom takes infant on plane to Spain and does not have any bottles prepared, hence screaming child. Second, kid on plane screams mom mom mom for 2.5 hours while mother ignores same with earphones. I wanted to kill both mothers. Insanity. And I never took my children to upscale restaurants until they knew how to sit still and behave. Never once did I ever have to leave b/c of bad behavior by either of them. Let them have their “chilis and outback”. I’ll stay away.

  14. Michael, I certainly agree that there are times/ situations when a child is going to be a mess no matter what. And parents don’t always have an escape hatch. My comment is about the bratty kids to whom any bit of discipline is foreign. You are a concerned engaged parent who sees teaching good manners as part of your job. Too many parents today do not.

  15. I agree with you Repman. But as a parent of a four year old and two 4 month old twins, sometimes a brief outburst, unprovoked, tamed, and addressed can still lead to looks from passersby that wonder if my children came with on/off switches (incidentally – they didn’t). Sometimes restaurant service can be lousy, which infants and toddlers don’t understand. Sometimes airplanes can sit on a tarmac for hours without explanation to such youngsters (or other travelers). Mayhem is imminent. I’m not saying misbehavior and kicking seats is acceptable. It’s not. And almost none of us are innocent – child, parent, or airline steward. But anyone who has been a parent knows that not every moment in a public place can be wholly controlled. And for those people in that moment who don’t have toddlers hanging by their ankles, some patience and remembrance can mean a whole lot.

  16. I was raised as you were, Rep, as were my kids and I know my grandchildren will be as well- because we all know the value, the absolute necessity, of good manners and proper behavior. It doesn’t happen overnight, and the learning process can be tough- on both the kids and the parents. But there simply is no excuse for bad behavior and it’s up to the parents to step up to the plate and do their jobs. There is an epidemic of hands-off parents who subject the public to their undisciplined children, and use the fact that they ARE children is an excuse. But it’s not. It takes time and discipline- things that too many parents find too taxing to give.

  17. I couldn’t agree more with this post, and I have 2 kids of prime age for this type of behavior (3.5yo and 8mo). I think families with young children should still be able to enjoy what others do, but with reasonable modifications–and with appropriate actions from the parents when things get out of hand. What that means is going to dinner at 5pm to avoid the dinner rush, or going to dinner at kid-friendly locations (i.e., places with other parents doing the same). And, if the kids act out, you either discipline them (which only works if done regularly), or one parent leaves with the kids while the other stays to settle the bill. For some reason, this simple respect for others and their time is lost on many parents of my generation.