- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

“I feel a column coming on,” my wife said, doing her usual read-my-mind thing.

It was another superb morning in Charleston, S.C., where we had come for a brief respite before the start of my travel season. We were seated in one of the finest of the many fine breakfast bistros in town, in one of the finest of the many fine hotels in town, and I was about to jump out of my skin. Seated directly across from us was a family that included grandparents, a father and two preschool children, both of whom were shrieking and bellowing as if they were riding a roller coaster at Dizzy World. The grandparents, our generation, were doing their best to ignore the little yahoos, while the father kept up a litany of empty threats.

“Now, if you don’t calm down, we’re going to have to go back to the room.”

“Bellow! Shriek!”

“If we can’t use our inside voices, then we’re going to have to leave and not have breakfast. You want breakfast, don’t you? Yes? Then let’s calm down, OK?”

“Shriek! Bellow!”

“OK, now that’s enough! One more and we’re going back to the room.”

“Shriek! Bellow! Bellow! Shriek!”

Dad was about as effective as someone trying to blow soap bubbles into a hurricane, and it was about then that Willie made her prediction.

“It’s my job,” I said, then I got up and asked the hostess if she would reseat us, which she did, at the other side of the room, smack dab between two tables of parents and preschool children.

These children, however, were invisible, which is what children should be trained from an early age to be in restaurants and other civilized places. Both sets of parents obviously understand that parenting carries responsibilities to one’s fellow citizens, primary of which is the responsibility to not inflict underdisciplined children on innocent bystanders, and especially in fine restaurants where said bystanders have paid good money to enjoy not just good food, but a pleasant atmosphere.

As proven by the latter two sets of parents, training children at a young age to behave themselves in restaurants is not an impossible dream. Doing so is nothing short of a demonstration of respect for others. Yes? Yes. Therefore, not doing so is disrespectful. Other descriptors come to mind, including common, vulgar and boorish.

I hope the reader is clear that the problem at the first table was not the children. It was not the grandparents, either. I could feel their pain from 10 feet away. The problem was the father and the mother, who was guilty by proxy. They represent parents who don’t understand raising a child involves obligations beyond the child. Parents who understand those obligations raise well-disciplined children, and the most disciplined children also are the happiest children. Therefore, parents who understand those obligations do their children the best of services.

My mother used to say good citizenship began in the home. True, but one of the first tests of good citizenship occurs in a nice restaurant, which is to say, if your children can’t pass it, then don’t bring them. If you bring them only to discover you have been prematurely optimistic, remove them. Thank you.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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