Screaming toddler ignites debate among diners

Most parents have experienced the “total meltdown” moment when their toddler turns into what could be described as screeching owl or howler monkey. Back in the day, my own toddlers kicked over a display rack at Barnes & Noble, spilled a plate fried rice and then stepped in it, and lay prostrate on the floor of a home improvement center, screaming and immovable, despite being under 35 pounds.

The question is how much do other people need to put up with our kids' tantrums?

The issue is front and center after a diner owner in Portland, Maine, told a screaming toddler in the restaurant to “shut up.”

Here’s what the diner owner said “I was working on the grill. I had my back to the child. I listen to the child scream for probably close to 40 minutes,” Darla Neugebauer told WCSH-TV. “Went over with boxes and asked them to either package up the goods for everyone to leave or if they would just take the child out. And they acted like I had three heads.”

The incident has incited a firestorm on social media. Parents are taking to Facebook for and against the diner owner. There’s even a Facebook page called Moms for Marcy’s supporting the diner owner’s actions. And of course there are also parents on the other side of the debate, expressing outrage that a diner owner would chastise a patron’s child. Some say the diner owner “screamed” at the child.

First of all no one better scream at my child, right? But as a mom how do you handle the public tantrum?

Here’s the way we used to handle the potential for tantrums in restaurants when our kids were little, your results may vary:

Don’t Push It – We never let them get too hungry or too tired for a restaurant. If we knew we were “pushing it” with naps or food we didn’t try to sit down at t restaurant.

Tag Team – One parent at the table, the other on roving duty. We spent countless meals with one of us at the table and the other circling the lobby. Taking the kids to a restaurant if they outnumbered me, was, for a few years, something I didn’t do. If my mom, hubby, sister, or friend couldn’t play man-to-man defense we went through a drive-thru.

Chuck It – Sometimes, no matter what a mother does the kids completely lose it, I’m talking full tilt, banshee level, legs flailing, frustration. It’s a part of parenting. Usually we’d just give up and decide, well, we’re not going to be able to eat in public today. Which was fine because by that point I’d probably be coated in something red that had gone down and come back up.

Age Appropriate Practice – We did, as they got more reasonable, and I’m talking around three-years-old or so, begin to go to restaurants and practice. We practiced manners, conversation, and worked on how it was okay to belch out loud at home but in the restaurant, not so much. If kids don’t have a chance to be in social situations they’re never going to learn how to be nice in social situations. This also meant no iPads or hand held games at the table. If you see a parent trying to teach these things give them a break! This a trial and error deal.

That said, slowly, they get better, more mature, and better able to handle the situations of life. Restaurants get a lot easier. These days I’m more apt to have a tantrum at a restaurant than my sons. (What do you mean you’re out of pie?)

So what do you think? How do you handle it? Did the diner owner step out of line?

And that said, none of this applies to children with special needs. We ALL need to pack some patience and help a momma out if you can see she’s struggling.

About the Author...
Rebecca Regnier
Rebecca Regnier is an award winning journalist. She hosts a television show called Rebecca Regnier’s Full Plate and writes a weekly newspaper humor column.