How to Deal With Other People's Bad-Mannered Children

child jumping on sofa
  Gary Burchell / Getty Images

Many people have etiquette questions about other people's poor behavior, and often this involves children. Misbehaving children can be disruptive in restaurants and other public places, and it's hard to know when and how to deal with them when the parents are failing to manage the problem. In public places, it's usually best not to confront the parents or the child directly, but in your home, a direct approach can be most effective.

Empathizing With the Parents

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 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.

It also helps to remember that there are times when children commonly act out, such as during the holidays when they may be exhausted from all the activities or wired from too much sugar. 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.

Dealing With Children in Restaurants

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 should 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 the restaurant isn'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.

Problems in 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.

Addressing Bad Behavior at 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.