International Parenting: Kids in Restaurants


There are many hot button issues when it comes to parenting. It doesn’t matter what the issue is but you know you will have one opinion and someone else will have a differing. SEEK has interviewed moms from around the world because we are curious about their cultural and personal views on certain issues.


By Becky Horace


Picture it; you are sitting at a nice restaurant with your significant other gazing into each other’s eyes while the soft candle light gently illuminates their face and you think to yourself how did I get so lucky? As you soak in this moment and all the love you can handle, across the room a child decides to throw her dinner roll and in a matter of seconds that dinner roll has knocked over your glass of red wine and the loving moment is replaced with frustration. You get that accidents happen but at the same time you are a parent and this is the first date night you and your spouse have had in months, how could you not be annoyed?

Maybe you haven’t encountered this kind of scenario at a fancy restaurant but you have probably been to a normal family establishment and heard a kid cry from time to time or seen one throw crayons or food. Life happens and kids are going to act out but when is it acceptable to your fellow patrons and at what point is your child disturbing others?

This summer in Maine, a restaurant owner had enough of a child screaming in her establishment and decided to scream at the child and parents. You can read an article from the NY Times about this incident by clicking here. Who knows what actually happened and if the child was screaming for an hour and the parents simply ignored the child, regardless an adult should not scream at a three year old.

We have probably all been there, on both sides, annoyed the kid next to you is screaming nonstop while mom and dad ignore what’s going on or maybe you have been the parent whose child decided to have a meltdown as soon as the food arrived. Just for fun, we wanted to ask our international moms how they would handle the situation if their kid started to have a meltdown in a dinning establishment.


Hong Kong

  • Personal: “Perhaps I really have won the lottery. Thankfully, our now almost six-year-old daughter has always had very good etiquette when dining out. No tantrums since infancy, except occasional whines of “I am tired” once she could string a few words together from her developing house of vocabularies. Now, meals at home are a different story (well, still civilized somewhat).
    hong_kong_flagBut the more I think about it; perhaps it is not luck by chance. We have always “preempted” unacceptable behaviors with age appropriate words. Perhaps ignorant and even delusional about early childhood cognitive development, we just spoke to her like an adult (I know…roll your eyes now. I am too) since she was 6 months old with warnings such as “Now we are going out. No noisy screaming there. We don’t want to disturb other people. We know you are a good girl. Let’s try to cooperate with mommy and daddy.” Of course, then we preempted any meltdowns by making sure she was comfortable, well fed and well-rested prior to outings.”
  • Cultural: “Perhaps our pre-emptions are much influenced by our cultures and family values. Both factors influenced heavily our parenting style. In the cultures and families we grew up in, the parents are penalized for their misbehaved children. We are directly responsible for the children’s behavior, good AND bad. If our children misbehave, others will see us parents not fulfilling the ever important parental duty–discipline. In most cases, gossip and stares of disgust (well, both in secrecy) will surely follow. Hence if our child ever misbehaves in public, they will certainly be pulled out of the situation immediately and be lectured with very strong words. If tantrums continue, well, unfortunately for us parents, we might just need to leave immediately and go home hungry. In our cultures and upbringings, better to do that than be perceived as uncaring, ignorant parents who could not be bothered to teach their children the proper etiquette.”



  • Cultural: “In my culture the norm bangladeshwould be to try and pacify the child first, then discipline of some sort if pacifying fails or take the easy way out and give in to what the child is throwing the fit for. Last stage would be to leave the restaurant altogether if the tantrum is too bad.”
  • Personal: “I would probably go for a time out and the ignore option then try to calm the child down if that doesn’t work. Maybe take him out of the restaurant for a bit until he is calmer and return again.”



  • Cultural: “I do not know exactly what would happen in such cases in France. Pfranceeople do not go to restaurants easily, so you do not see many young kids in restaurants like you can see here.”
  • Personal: “I try to stay calm thought I get nervous! I will try to understand what’s wrong with him, and probably try to accommodate and get to a compromise. I will explain that it’s time to eat, and should try anyway. Usually it is not easy to have them at restaurant, after 10-15 minutes they need to move and get some entertainment, so I usually have some coloring or small toys to keep him busy.”


United Kingdom

  • Cultural: “I usually remove my child and go outside where we have a chat. I don’t know what the cultural norm would be, but I have never seen parents in a UK restaurant carry on whilst their child has a tantrum. It’s not British to entertain tantrums and/or ruin uksomeone else’s experience. Eating out in the UK is quite expensive and there are definitely more child friendly places that parents would opt for. Some places in London actually ban kids after a certain time altogether. There isn’t much tolerance for children in some places.”
  • Personal: “We lay down the rules- kind hands, kind words and kind voice. Take the kid outside- walk and talk. We have been known to bribe- cake and ice-cream first if they shush! If we have been out with friends with children his age, I have been known to pick him up and go home. That worked because he felt he missed out. We also take a stack of toys along and try to eat in places where we can use other children as models- this works in good/bad scenarios. We were brought up to be smacked in public and actually we didn’t eat out a lot because of financial constraints. Our ‘out’ meals were usually at family members’ houses and all of us, cousins etc got the same treatment; a wallop.”



  • Cultural: “Not so ok actually, to bring kids to restaurants. Certainly not nice ones you go to in the evenings. Kids are generally swedenfrowned upon by other adults, especially if they are noisy. So in that scenario others would frown, comment and complain. I guess quite a few parents would leave or take the child to the restroom until it calms down. In more easy restaurants at daytime it wouldn’t be a big deal. Most would smile understandingly.”
  • Personal: “Since I have a very over active 4-year old, I avoid bringing him to restaurants. The few times I have taken him I have tried to distract him, feed him a snack (most tantrums are down to low blood sugar for my son). I know I have left shops and gone back to the car with him until he calms down. In restaurants, I think I frequently use mobile phones to keep him calm. So short answer; remove him from the place or feed him sugar and then food.”



  • Cultural: “I amUS not sure what my culture’s view on this is. Unfortunately, I think the solution is a lot of iPad & iPhone time at dinner.”
  • Personal: “We have taken my daughter out to dinner since she was young and tried to teach her how to behave. I will take coloring books to keep her entertained, but we do not bring the iPad or give her our phones. If she misbehaves, we will take her aside, calm her/discipline her, and then come back to dinner.”



  • Cultural: “I am not sure how it is in Venezuela.”
  • Personal: “As I have said before, cool down corner is what we usually do, but knowing in advance if the child is tired or hungry before going to the restaurant , and be prepared for that does help to avoid those situations a lot. Also the always reliable iPad should always go to the restaurant with you.”



  • Cultural: “I still see people taking nannies to the restaurant in India so I assume if the kid throws a tantrum, the nanny takes the kid indiaout for a walk or keeps the kid occupied.”
  • Personal: “My kids have never really thrown a tantrum in a restaurant. When they were babies, I used to feed them and put them to sleep in their strollers. They are bigger now and occupy themselves by coloring, reading or talking with each other.”


A big thank you to the moms who were able to help us with this interview.

Check back soon as we will discuss the issue of gender roles and identity!

Photo by Desirae CC BY NC-ND 2.0

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