Let’s Talk About Mutual Respect (and Kids in Public Places)

There are so many stories in the media today about families with young children causing a disturbance that ruins an experience for someone else.

The debate often boils down to fault – who was at fault? Should parents not take their young children to restaurants (etc.) if there is a chance their child will make loud noises? Should patrons not do business with any establishment that may cater to noisy families? Should business owners ban loud young children from their establishment? Who has the right of way?

If, for a change, we can ask ourselves “What about them?” instead of “What about me?” Then we might find ourselves with a far lighter burden. After all, there is no ‘me’ without ‘you’. There is no ‘us’ completed isolated from ‘them’. We are in this together, parents.

It is not easy to think of others. It is not easy to take into account your needs in light of the people by whom you will be surrounded. But perhaps it is a lighter burden to bear – to prepare ahead of time and foster a pleasant experience for everyone rather than securing your own enjoyment at the expense of people around you. It is hard work either way, to manage yourselves and to work alongside everyone sharing this life. It is not easy to think of others, but it is helpful.

When planning an outing and considering the time of day, ages of children, nap schedule, etc., parents can consider who they might encounter on their excursion. When a rambunctious family finds themselves surrounded by a quiet(er) crowd, consider what would be most helpful to the people around you. It will not be easy to excuse yourself and your exuberant child from the quiet room, but you can be sure that you leave behind whispers of gratitude and probably a few BTDT (been there, done that) sympathies.

As you search for a nice place to eat dinner out, or sip a cup of tea, or watch a movie, what options near you tend to draw a family crowd? When you do encounter the unexpected squeals or tantrum, despite your best plans, think for a moment about an action or word that might help that family. And by help, I don’t mean “teach.” I mean, truly help – share the load, encourage, build up, offer a hand. Consider what would be most helpful to the people around you? Parents who have their young children out in public are doing their best – a kind smile or reassuring word will serve to strengthen their efforts. When looking for a place to keep quiet company or have minimal interruption, choosing a venue not populated by young families can save yourself a headache and give busy families the freedom to be conversational.

Life is life. There are no guarantees that you will get what you ask for when you plan a dinner out or some time away from home. There will always be interruptions, last-minute changes, and unexpected encounters. One sure thing, though, is that you can be a calm refuge in the storm. You can make a difference to loads of people. Either you focus on your needs and make a difference to one person, or you can redirect your focus to the needs of fellow partakers of life and make a difference to a multitude. The choice is always yours. Blessings to you all, Parents.



  1. If your child is making a scene at a restaurant, what are some things you might try to do to help everyone involved?


  1. If someone else’s child is making a scene at a restaurant, what might your sympathetic reaction be?




About the Author:

Mandi Fuller is a wife, mother, sister, adoring friend, mischievous cohort, devotee of the Oxford comma, and avid chronicler of life. She earned her Master's Degree in biblical counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary, and currently spends her days nourishing the bellies and souls of her children. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of community, the wisdom of experience, and the clarity of hindsight. You can follow Mandi at Dirty Soap.