Parents of Well-Behaved Children Rewarded – Good or Bad Practice?

Annah Elizabeth2 Comments

I recently stumbled across Circle of Mom’s blog entry about a restaurant discount one family received because their children were well-behaved.

The comment boards were lit up with parents and non-parents, alike, arguing both sides of whether or not this bill reduction is fair and/or moral.

As of this writing, the HuffingtonPost piece that originated the discussion had 732 responses.

One of the first remarks drawing my attention was in the writer’s approach to the subject:

“In this instance, we wonder how much coloring was done before the meal? Were there iPhones at the table? Did they get all-you-can-eat buttered pasta from the first moment of the meal? Was there any food on the floor at the end at all?”

Children can be seen (and heard) in public in pleasing ways.

It’s as if the author(s) feels that children cannot be in public—without some form of bribery—without creating spectacles of themselves and their parents.

Honestly, I find this theory objectionable and demeaning to responsible adults everywhere.

On two separate occasions when our three were young (roughly aging between two and ten), people near us acknowledged our well-behaved children’s actions with gifts.

An elderly Applebee’s patron had the waitress ask us if she could purchase the little ones at our table dessert. And then, as she left, she paused at our table to inform Warren, me, and especially our children how much she enjoyed sitting near us—a rarity—she said, to see such delightful young children in public.

There might have been crayons and a themed coloring page at the restaurant.

But there were also these two things: Conversation with, and Interest in our children.

I must admit that Hubby and I were pleased and perplexed.

Isn’t this what our children are supposed to be doing?

The second time we were at the baseball park when someone a row or two behind us asked if they could give each of our cherubs a dollar to buy a treat, telling us all how much joy she felt watching the little ones enjoy the game in such mature and respectful ways.

I can assure you there were no phones or copious quantities of pasta (or popcorn) in either instance.

Were they perfect every time we went out to eat?

Absolutely not.

But did we remind them of our expectations?

You betcha.

Did they know we wouldn’t tolerate rowdy, rude, or disrespectful behavior?

Yes sirree.

Respect and responsibility begin at home.

Numerous comments addressed the fact that good behavior begins at home.

It’s modeled.

From the time my children could begin asking for things, we taught, encouraged—and, yes, expected—them to use their words, versus pointing and grunting.

I experienced a brief uncertainty about requiring them to say please and thank you when they needed a drink or a snack or help removing a toy from the shelf. After all, they can’t reach the beverages and bowls and we didn’t allow our toddlers to climb cabinets.

This is what went through my head: I’m the mom and it’s my duty to take care of them, right?

I quickly dismissed that doubt.

Even adults ask nicely (at least we should) for help and are gracious to those who provide assistance or act in positive ways.

It is role-played.

A friend of mine once commented that she liked the way I always seemed to provide examples for my children by offering relevant phrases, stories, or scenarios for encounters they were facing.

Quick illustrations help our children prepare for events, they teach them that alternative solutions exist, but most importantly, they stimulate discussion and help the child feel important, empowered and a little better prepared for what might come.

There’s a difference between disruptive and disorderly behavior.

Countless parents of children with disabilities commented on the post.

Of the comments I read, several argued that the discount was unfair because of the challenges they faced with their children.

All parents face trying times of varying degrees.

I don’t feel that discouraging people from going out helps them. You know that old adage, “Practice makes perfect?”

Perfection doesn’t exist, but practice is what builds patterns of behavior.

And there is a clear distinction between disruptive and disorderly behavior.

Disruptive children are those who announce a little too loudly that they have to go pee a dozen times during the meal.

Warren and I once had an embarrassing situation where one of our little cherubs decided he couldn’t wipe himself after going Number Two at a restaurant.

He’d said he had to go Number One and wanted to do it all by himself. We had been seated right outside the restroom, so Warren returned to the table, thinking he was helping build independence and self-esteem.

No one was more embarrassed than we were to hear our little guy shout at the top of his lungs, “Mommy! Daddy! I went POOPIE. I went pooooopeeee!! Daddy, will you come wipe my butt?”

Definitely a teaching moment in the making…

Disruptive is the infant who has suddenly learned that flying spoons make adults laugh and say, “Oh, look, he learned something new!”

And then we play fetch.

Over and over.

Until about the twenty-fifth time, when our stomachs are growling, our food is cold, we’ve decided bending over is tedious, and apologizing to the table behind us is no longer funny.

Disruptive behavior can be a little loud on the ears of those who just want to chill after a hard day’s work or simply enjoy a quiet night out.

Disorderly behavior, on the other hand, can be described as riotous/uncontrollable/rebellious or undisciplined.

Disorderly kids are those who jump up and down on the bench seats, those who are old enough to know throwing spoons (with or without food in them) isn’t acceptable, but they do it anyway.

They are the children who scream and yell at their parents “No!” or “You shut up!” or “I don’t have to!”

I once took a picture (just for this type of article. But it appears I deleted it) of two teenage boys who were lounging in a booth, feet outstretched into the aisle. They were playing music and games on their phones, using profanity, and not paying a bit of attention to anyone around them.

A waitress had to ask them to sit up so that a couple could walk past them. I exaggerate not.

As it turns out, the parents were sitting at another table paying absolutely no attention to the adolescents.

The behavior—of the parents and the kids—was nothing short of rude and inconsiderate.

Disadvantage does not excuse discourteous behavior

I know nothing of those two boys. They could very well have had ADHD diagnoses, and the music and games were the distractions they needed to act in a somewhat orderly manner.

However, if that were so, the parents should have been there role modeling and role playing even better behavior.

I wasn’t the only patron scowling at these young people, who came across as nothing less than punks.

Neither the adults nor the adolescents were being considerate of the others of us who were also trying to enjoy a meal out.

My experiences reflect a community who are understanding of disruptive behaviors when the parents are making a conscious effort to teach appropriate behavior and are mindful of those around them.

Taking young children to a restaurant known for romance or fine dining also puts parents at a different sort of disadvantage. In such cases, the expectation would be that the children would not create disruption for the guests around them.

I’ve seen families ask for the check and quietly, but firmly, tell an ill-behaving child they are leaving. Those examples/reinforcements become the tools by which our children learn.

Warren’s keen observation about the Well-Behaved-Children Discount is that it is subjective.

Parents who think about the overall atmosphere of an establishment before taking their children out are appreciated.

It is likely that owners or managers would recognize and reward the success of parents who are making valiant attempts at teaching, while respecting the needs of others, as well.

Positive reinforcement is one of life’s greatest teachers.

What do you think about this Well-Behaved-Children discount? Do you approve or disapprove? Why? Do you have stories you can relate?

2 Comments on “Parents of Well-Behaved Children Rewarded – Good or Bad Practice?”

  1. Frankly, I’m not sure what to think of this. I find it a bit baffling – to give a discount to “well behaved” children.

    Um, how about the “I just lost my job” discount? Or the “I got shafted in my child support” discount?

    These seem a lot more valid to me than theoretically rewarding a child who may be quiet by nature (over one who is vociferous and who gets to decide what is and isn’t well-behaved?) – um… bizarre.

    I’m with you on responsibility begins at home, and then again, kids have off days just like adults do. (Recall the incident of kicking parents off a plane because their baby was crying???? What sort of world have we become?)

    I also agree with this: But there were also these two things: Conversation with, and Interest in our children.

    We took our children out from the time they were infants. They were given rules. There were clear expectations. They were also engaged – both in conversation and activities – meaning, I brought something with which to keep them occupied – a small book, a Game Boy (remember those?), paper and pencil to draw. And there are SO many variables!?!

    OK. I’m thinking this is just odd. Do we expect the loud talking and laughing DRUNK couples to pay more? Yeah… I’m liking that idea…

  2. BLW, the sad truth is that it used to be the exception that children were disorderly in public and parents didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t be considerate of others around them, whereas these days it seems to be the rule…the norm…

    I don’t see the discount as being given to the child but to the parents who are clearly doing their part at being courteous and thoughtful of their surroundings. It is often obvious by how a situation plays out (ie child just having a bad day) if a parent is engaged in thoughtful consideration and expectation of the child…

    I, too, am torn as I believe in positive reinforcement, but I disagree with overdoing the rewards…children need to learn the value of self-satisfaction vs always being influenced by the external…

    And I like the idea of the boisterous, drunk adults paying more… a kind of Egregious Gratuity to be split by the waitress and the guests in the closest quadrant to the offensive guests… 😉 (Aye, aye, aye, what has this world come to?)

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