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Two flat whites and a bawling child, please

Date

Jodie Noyce

When a couple's Sunday brunch is disturbed by a screaming child, they step in - but would it have been more peaceful not to?

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Should you confront the parents of noisy children?

Warren Cann from the Parenting Research Centre offers advice on how to deal with noisy children being disruptive in a public place.

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A few Sunday mornings ago, when the Sydney summer had started to kick in, my partner and I headed to our local café for breakfast. It was hot and we were hungry - we’d just spent the morning at the Christening of a good friend’s first born.

The café was full and we snared one of the last free tables. As we began reading the menu, the atmosphere suddenly changed.

Every single person in the café, including the staff, seemed to notice the screeching sound. 

“Is that a child crying?” my partner asked me with a concerned look on his face. I replied yes but thought to myself, this wasn’t normal crying. This was a piercing, shrill cry and sounded like the child was in pain. I glanced around and everyone in the café looked disturbed.

Should restaurants and cafes step in when a child is screaming - or is it better to allow parents to take care of the situation?

Should restaurants and cafes step in when a child is screaming - or is it better to allow parents to take care of the situation?

A couple sat down at the empty table beside us but after hearing the crying, left and went to the café across the road. I asked my partner if we should do the same - and just as I did, the crying let up.

We agreed to stay. A few minutes later, as our coffees arrived, the crying started again. This time it was louder and with a higher pitch. Every single person in the café, including the staff, seemed to notice the screeching sound.

After around 10 minutes of continuous crying, my partner had clearly had enough. “It’s one thing for a baby to cry but this is ridiculous.” Thinking that he wanted to leave without eating, I began to gather my things. But he had other ideas. “No one has said anything to them, so I am.”

He was too upset to listen to my suggestion to leave - and instead walked over to the parents of the toddler.

“I’m sorry, but your child has not stopped crying since we got here,” he said. “Everyone in the café is upset by it. Can you either take your child for a walk or find another solution? This is my Sunday too.”

“Chill out mate”, came the father’s reply.

My partner walked back to our table. A few minutes later, the mother and her child began walking towards the door.

As they walked past us, she turned to my partner. “We are leaving and you are a despicable human being.”

Once outside the door she mouthed the words “f*** you.”

A few minutes later, the father walked past our table and stuck his finger up at us. By then, the entire café was watching on. I said to my partner that we should leave, now.

A waitress, who regularly serves us, came over and asked if we were ok - it wasn’t the first time this family had been told to do something about their child.

“That child is a problem child,” she said. “She is always crying. Customers have told the family this before.” After apologising, she said that the café is often caught in the middle of these situations but can’t really say anything.  

The experience really rattled us and got me thinking. What would I have done if that was my child, did my partner make the right call? Should we treat children in the same way as you would anything else that compromises others' peace - and should the café have stepped in at some point?

Do we even have a right to comment on others' parenting?

1207 comments

  • As a parent i have to say you did the right thing.
    A screeching child is not normal.
    Though i don't understand why the cafe does not bar the family since they have been trouble before?
    Kudos to your partner!

    Commenter
    Sam
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 22, 2013, 8:58AM
    • Kids are hard work with some moments of sheer clarity and joy thrown in between the 'bad stuff'. To quote the guy in the story chill out and enjoy a good joke:

      Son:"Dad, I have to do a special report for school. Can I ask you a question?"

      Father: "Sure son. What's the question?"

      Son: "What is politics?"

      Father: "Well, let's take our home for example. I am the wage earner, so let's call me "Capitalism". Your mother is the administrator of money, so we'll call her "Government". We take care of your needs, so we'll call you "The People". We'll call the maid "The Working Class", and your baby brother we can call "The Future".

      "Do you understand, Son?"

      Son: "I'm not really sure, Dad. I'll have to think about it".

      That night, awakened by his baby brother's crying, the boy went to see what was wrong. Discovering that the baby had seriously soiled his diaper, the boy went to his parent's room and found his mother sound asleep. He went to the maid's room, where, peeking through the keyhole, he saw his father in bed with the maid. The boy's knocking went totally unheeded by his father and the maid, so the boy returned to his room and went back to sleep.

      The next morning he reported to his father. "Dad, now I think I understand what politics is".

      Father: "Good son! Can you explain it to me in your own words?"

      Son: "Well Dad, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, Government is sound asleep, the People are being completely ignored and the Future is full of s#it".

      Commenter
      yossarian
      Location
      sydney cafe
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 9:33AM
    • Yossarian, that is priceless.

      Commenter
      Paddorunner
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Nothing wrong with telling a brat to shut up but if you want a joke instead tell them there is no such thing as santa.
      Laughs all round.

      Commenter
      Cynic
      Location
      on line
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:03AM
    • What has bewildered me for ages is that there seems to be a generation of parents who are unable to differentiate between a cafe and a PARK! That's what take-away coffee was invented for surely.

      Commenter
      Sick of it
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:05AM
    • Sam yours has to be the most sensible comment on this page. There is a massive grey area to use your discretion whether it be the cafe or the parents.

      If the cafe keeps allowing them to come back then they are choosing to accept that behaviour and therefore deserve customers walking away from their cafe to the one across the street.

      The parents though should know better, yes you can't force a child to settle down immediately if upset but they have to use common sense and if the child is not going to settle in moments then to take them outside. If they don't calm down well then it doesn't matter whether it is "your Sunday" you should leave it's called manners. If you were having an arguement with your partner or date at a function would you stay there and battle it out in front of everyone? Same common sense should apply

      Commenter
      El Seano
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:11AM
    • Well, as a mother of two young boys aged 4 and 17 month old, my opinion is to avoid cafes with young children especially on a packed sunday morning in summer...my kids are (usually) well behaved and I do a lot of stuff with them including lots of travelling overseas BUT sitting on a chair in a cafe for hours is not fun for a small child. So, at the moment, we grab a coffee and then we head to the beach or park and meet with our friends and their kids and everyone's happy!
      Bottom line is I think it is the parents' responsibility to stay or leave if the child is not behaving.

      Commenter
      Frenchgirl
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:13AM
    • @ ryossarian

      Thanks for the pointless drivel

      Commenter
      Fred
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:15AM
    • Darn tootin', a screaching child is not normal.

      I remember at my daughter's dance class, a young brother of a student was running amok. He was completely out of control, racing through the students, hitting the drums, wailing. His parents were ineffective. The teacher did her best to continue with the class. I condemned his bad parents with my silent, scathing judgement - until I learned that the child was autistic. And then I realised that I was the inconsiderate one. Imagine a life like that? Where any attempts to enjoy normal things, be it a cafe breakfast or a dance class for your daughter are a struggle and invite harsh judgement from everyone around you.

      The only thing worse than a screaming child in public is being the parent of a screaming child in public. Don't ever think they don't care - they're probably strung between several very taught tethers, hence the overreaction!

      (BTW - I am a mum of two under 4s, and taking them to cafes is my idea of hell - my kids don't do still or quiet very well. I can't understand why mothers' groups choose to meet at cafes!)

      Commenter
      RF
      Location
      Blue Mountains.
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:17AM
    • Two take away coffees and a playground. Solved. How parents think that children enjoy cafes as much as adults them is beyond me.

      Commenter
      De-wayne
      Location
      Ballarat
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 10:23AM

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