Opinion

Well-Behaved Child discount? No thanks

A Calgary restaurant stirs up controversy after offering a five dollar "Well-Behaved Child" discount to families.

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Photo: iStockphoto

One family got a nice Mother’s Day surprise when an upscale restaurant gave them a five dollar “well-behaved discount.”

The couple and their one-year-old daughter were dining at the Carino Japanese Bistro in Calgary. Carino is a small restaurant whose Japanese-influenced dishes probably doesn’t draw too many kids. But the owners have been handing out the “well-behaved child” discount for about a year. This was the first time that someone posted the bill on Reddit and all hell broke loose.

The story has now garnered international attention, and the restaurant acknowledges that the media attention has been good but they may need to change their tactics in the future. No one wants a belligerent parent demanding a discount that they don’t deserve just because they read about it in the Calgary Sun.

Read more: Discount for good behaviour >

I eat out with my three kids fairly often. Generally, we keep it simple and ethnic, but we have been known to go to upscale places. Because I am raising humans, I can’t always predict their behavior, but I am mindful of their effect on others in public places. More often than not, it has gone well.

I have had more dinners ruined by obnoxious adults at other tables than I have had by other people’s kids. But no one is handing out well-behaved discounts to teams of drunken lawyers.

Most parents (all the ones that I know) want their kids to be well-behaved, and have left dinner mid-meal because of an unruly child. Most parents are trying to teach their kids how to negotiate in the public sphere, and part of that training includes eating in public places.

Children learn through positive reinforcement with the outside world. My kids have learned a tremendous amount by interacting with servers and cooks and other patrons. They behave well because they see that is the expectation, not just of me, but of everyone around us. Handing me five dollars at the end of the meal isn’t going to change that.

Read more: The best family restaurants in Canada >

I don’t really want a discount just because my kids sat quietly and were well-behaved (in other words, they sat in front of a screen the whole time.) It’s patronizing and judgmental. If a restaurant or server wants to spontaneously send over a bowl of ice cream, that’s lovely. My husband and I did get a surprise once at an upscale pub we were dining at with our then-two-year-old. The server came to us with two glasses of red wine that were sent over by an older couple who had enjoyed watching us interact with our son. They said he reminded them of their grandson.

Drinking our wine, we felt like the best parents in the world that night and we hoped that it would happen again.

It never did.

(Ironically, the same restaurant banned kids after 6 p.m. shortly afterwards.)

Read more: When restaurants ban kids >

But next time I go to Calgary, I want to go to Carino. I don’t care if my kids are with me or not. That Waygu burger and octopus carpaccio sounds delicious.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.  

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