Should children and babies be banned from restaurants?

A hot topic on BBC’s Breakfast today, and one sure to get emotions running high!

Today, BBC Breakfast debated whether children and babies should be allowed in restaurants. As you can imagine, there were plenty of comments both for and against.

So, should children be banned from restaurants?

I admit, I used to be one of those people who didn’t like screaming babies and children running round whilst I was eating, and used to quietly seeth as I sipped my glass of wine and ate my (usually) expensive food, so I can appreciate this side of the argument.

Since J arrived however, my views have unsurprisingly softened somewhat. I can appreciate that parents want to be able to go out for a meal as a family, and why should we prevent them from doing so? Well, as long as their children are well behaved and not disturbing anyone then why not. If a baby is crying, as babies are wont to do occasionally, then a parent can always take them outside to calm them down (weather permitting!) or for a change of scenery.

A mother interviewed on Breakfast told of a time when she was asked to leave a restaurant at lunch time, as her crying baby was disturbing others. There were only 2 other couples in at the time and they were sitting on the other side of the establishment. She was doing her best to calm her baby, and her other 2 children (aged 2 and 4) were being very well behaved. Personally, I think it’s quite disgraceful that they were asked to leave. I’ve been out for meals where other patrons have been very drunk, loud and aggressive, making me feel uncomfortable, yet they weren’t asked to leave.

The UK does seem very intolerant of children in comparison to our European neighbours. I can’t imagine many Italian or Greek restaurants turning away families; in fact, they seem to be positively welcomed. Also, I’m a firm believer that we should be teaching children about eating in a social environment, and how to behave there. After all, eating a meal is generally a social activity.

On the other hand, I do believe that there is a time and place for families to eat out, and if you are paying a lot for dinner at a classy restaurant, then you would expect a certain ambience. I wouldn’t expect people to bring children to these kinds of places and I certainly wouldn’t take J to such a restaurant unless it was lunch time and they had child friendly menus.

Overall, I think a common sense approach should be taken. We shouldn’t ban children from all restaurants, but understand that some establishments will be family friendly whilst others aren’t, and as parents, we should take a conscious choice to take our little ones to places where they’re likely to be welcomed, have relevant facilities and will be the right kind of atmosphere to have an enjoyable time.

What do you think? Should children and babies be banned from restaurants? Have you had any experiences of eating out with children and having others make you feel uncomfortable about doing so? Would love to hear from you and get a debate going!