What to Do Around Other People's Bad-Mannered Children

child jumping on sofa
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One of the most common things people ask about relates to other people's behavior, and often it involves children. One such person wanted to know if there was anything she could do to discipline other people's children who misbehaved in public.

Here's what she wrote: "I taught my children manners when they were very young, and I never brought them to nice restaurants until I was sure they knew how to behave. I'm appalled by how so many parents just sit back and let their little ones disrupt other people's dinners that they paid hard-earned money for. It's getting so bad that my husband and I don't enjoy going out to our favorite restaurant anymore."

In reality, there isn't much you can do to change the manners of other people's children. If you speak directly to the child, the parents will probably be furious. If you say something to the parent, you're likely to wind up in a facedown that could quickly escalate.

Most adults can sympathize because a screaming child isn't good for conversation or digestion. It's especially difficult for people who took the time to teach their children proper manners to have to face those who didn't. You have two choices for the future: You can talk to the restaurant manager and ask to be seated in a more private area, or you can find another restaurant with a more intimate ambiance.

What Most Parents Want

Most parents want their children to have good manners, but they don't always know what to do. It's difficult for parents to go through the day with a toddler, only to be faced with a tantrum from an over-tired child who chooses to act out in public. Although the moment will pass and the child will probably grow up to be a decent person, the frustration can leave any mom or dad feeling frazzled.

If you approach the parent, you may get any number of responses. If they appear open and receptive to a little bit of gentle advice, use this experience as a teaching opportunity to help change future behavior. If they appear to resent your intrusion, back away and give them as much personal space as possible.

There are certain times when children tend to act out more than others. During the holidays, they may be exhausted from all the activities or wired from too much sugar from Halloween. There isn't much you can do then, except deal with the situation as it comes up and let the parents know this is normal.


There are quite a few different types of restaurants available to diners. With so many family-friendly dining establishments, there is no reason for parents to bring their children to fine-dining places until they are ready and able to behave in an appropriate manner and have mastered proper table manners. Many restaurants have policies about children, and if you encounter a misbehaving child, the restaurant management will take care of it very quickly.

Casual-dining places are more open to families, so you may want to request a quiet booth or table if the sounds and behaviors of small children bother you. If they aren't crowded, the host or hostess will probably accommodate you. Don't forget to leave a generous tip any time you have a special request.

If you encounter disruptive children after you have been seated, discreetly ask to be moved. Since the manager doesn't want to lose your business, if there is another table on the other side of the restaurant, you'll probably get what you ask for.

Shopping Malls and Grocery Stores

If you shop at malls or grocery stores, you'll probably have to deal with other people's unruly children from time to time. First of all, remember that the parents are probably more annoyed than you, so try to be empathetic.

Unless one of the little ones physically harms you, don't say anything to the parent, or you might find yourself in a battle with moms and dads who are already at their wit's end. If a child knocks you over or physically hurts you in any way, take your complaint to the store manager and let him or her deal with it.

Your Home

Your children will want to have their friends over, and of course, you'll graciously welcome them. This is when you'll see what kind of etiquette training other parents do. Unfortunately, many moms and dads don't realize how their offspring reflect on their families when they're away from home, so you'll probably see some bad behavior from time to time.

While correcting other people's children when you're out and about isn't typically a good move, there's nothing wrong with a kind and gentle reprimand when they are in your home. As long as you don't nitpick, you can tell them to use their "inside voices" when they get loud and not to jump on the furniture.

If you hear them using foul language, you can tell them that those words aren't allowed in your home. Most children will at least try to comply, but if they don't, there's nothing wrong with taking them home or calling their parents and letting them know that it's time to pick up their child.