Noisy kids in restaurants: Where do we draw the line?

The debate was reignited online after a Maine diner owner "yelled" at a toddler for crying in her restaurant.

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Darla Neugebauer. Photo: WCSH-TV.

You’ve probably already heard about the owner of a Portland, Maine diner who shushed a toddler to get her to stop crying. Her actions worked but also ignited a firestorm about one of the Internet’s favourite topics—kids in restaurants.

According to Darla Neugebauer, the owner of Marcy’s Diner, the toddler had been crying for almost an hour when she “slammed” her hands on the counter and said, “This needs to stop.” Neugebauer told a local TV station that the toddler looked at her after the outburst and immediately stopped crying; however, the parents accused Neugebauer of screaming at their child. Tara Carson, the little girl’s mother, claims her daughter had been crying for only 10 minutes, because she had to wait awhile for her food. Neugebauer disputes this, saying the pancakes they’d ordered were in front of them, yet the toddler was still crying. Carson eventually took to Facebook, posting a complaint on the diner’s page, although it has since been deleted. (You can read the full exchange here. Warning: post contains coarse language.)

The expletive-loving Neugebauer is hardly a role model for how to handle bad parenting. However, she certainly has become a lightning rod for complaints about kids in restaurants. The reaction to this story has made its way around the world and back again. Neugebauer has been both vilified and complimented, and the Marcy’s Diner Facebook page now has more than 39,000 likes.

Nobody, even other parents, want to eat around a screaming child, whether it’s for an hour or 10 minutes. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if the parents should have removed their daughter from the table or not. However, as a general rule of thumb, I believe parents should remove their screaming child from a restaurant. I get it—sometimes kids throw a tantrum while out in public, but parents don’t always react in an appropriate manner. And, really, no one wants a stranger yelling in their child’s face. I believe all parties involved in this situation behaved poorly, and neither side should be held up as an example about how to deal with children in restaurants. Neugebauer posted on Facebook just yesterday: “Wow! Who knew calling out shitty parenting made you a bully? Whatever…But the fact is it’s MY DINER… MY RULES.” More than 11,300 people have “liked” her post so far.

Since everyone has an opinion on kids in restaurants, I have no doubt that, as long as there are parents willing to risk taking their kids out to eat, there will be people complaining about it. Sometimes they will be right, sometimes they will be wrong. Occasionally, they will briefly become Internet famous—which is more of a curse than a blessing.

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

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