Brat Ban: Why are kids less welcome than they used to be?

It’s being called a “Brat Ban,” and it’s a movement to ban children from public places such as stores, restaurants and movie theaters.

Here’s some history of the movement from

“It started with an AdWeek story about so-called ‘brat bans’ — policies at stores, restaurants, and movie theatres that forbid or restrict children.”

“Within a day, the blogosphere was burning up with points and counterpoints. According to ‘Firecracker Mandy’ of the Childfreedom blog: ‘I hope the brat ban truly is an idea that is catching fire because it is long overdue, especially in the current climate of overly-permissive child-rearing that seems to have taken ahold of our culture with a death grip.’ ”

“Meanwhile, over at Yahoo! Shine, Piper Weiss mused about whether such restrictions are fair to parents and suggested that no-kids policies could threaten to turn parents into second-class citizens. ‘As businesses respond to their new breed of ‘first-class’ clientele, are parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?’ ”

“Here on Babble, Strollerderby’s Monica Bielanko had this to say: ‘I am not at all cool with banning kids from anywhere. This is America for crying out loud!  When did we go from ‘It takes a village’ and ‘Children are our future’ to ‘Get the hell out of here you loud, whining brat’?”

So we can discuss whether it’s legitimate or not for business to ban families with kids, but I am more interested as to why sociologically this is happening now. Why are kids less welcome out places than they used to be?

I, of course, have several theories!

  1. Are the expectations of diners off kilter: If you’re showing up for 2 for $20 at Applebee’s can you really expect a quiet fine dining experience?
  2. The economy is tight and if you’re going to spend money to go out, it better be a fantastic experience – ie no kids around!
  3. Critics say parents today are more permissive that past generations and their kids are less behaved and therefore less welcome.

While all of these have possible merit, I am more inclined to my fourth theory:

4. There are simply less families with kids under 18 as the Baby Boomer generation ages and as women wait to have kids, and the childless simply don’t want to be around people with kids.

So I went looking through Census tables to find the numbers that would tell us IF the percentage of families without kids under 18 has increased over the years making families with kids less welcome.

I couldn’t find the number I was looking for in the 2010 Census Report. They had it parsed 100 billion different ways but not the way I wanted it. I even called the Census Bureau PR folks but they couldn’t find what I needed either. (All of the stats majors out there look at these tables and see if you can find the numbers we need.)

However I did find a government report published in 1996 on expected growth of families that supports this theory.

A government report from 1996 projected that:

In 2006, “Currently, slightly more than half of American families have no children under age 18 living at home; by 2010 3 of 5 families may have no children under 18 present. Although the number of families with children is projected to remain near 1995 levels, the number of families with no children under 18 is projected to increase by 28 percent (from 36 million to 46 million) by 2010.”

I then found a USA Today story from 2009 Census numbers that supports what was projected.

“The percentage of American households with children under 18 living at home last year hit the lowest point — 46% — in half a century, government data reported Wednesday.”

“The trend reflects the aging of the Baby Boom generation and younger women having fewer children, demographers say.”

” ‘Baby Boomers have been a big force in driving a lot of different population dynamics,’ says Rose Kreider, a family demographer at the Census Bureau, which released the data.”

“In 2008, about 35.7 million families (46%) had children under 18 at home, the Census figures show, down from 52% in 1950. The percentage peaked in 1963, when about 57% of families had children under 18 at home.”

So I think the Baby Boomers are getting older, are childfree and are crotchety in their new freedom. They only want to see kids when and if they choose and how dare you interrupt their dinner.

So what do you think of the theories? Why do YOU think children are less welcome out places such as restaurants? Do you think the Boomer generation has a right to expect and demand a childfree environment? What can parents do about this trend?

136 comments Add your comment


September 21st, 2011
12:59 pm

“I have to take my son with me when I go shopping.”

Why, does he pay the grocery bill? Leave him home with his father – both you and the child will be much happier, trust me.


September 21st, 2011
1:04 pm

@CobbParent ~ sometimes I leave the kids with dad, but sometimes, like right after the kids have been picked up from school he is not yet home. Plus, I pass the grocery store on the way home.. what’s the point of going all the way home to turn around and come back? I will say though… it’s just for quick stops to grab a few things. For those long trips, with coupons and such, I may take my older one (she is 10) but the 4 yr old boy will be at home. That has more to do with MY happiness, not me worrying if the person next to me in the isle is offended by my little kiddos.


September 21st, 2011
1:06 pm

“It proved to be a miserable meal as neither the wait staff nor the manager of the establishment would address the issue.”

See, I would have spoken to the unruly teens and made them behave. Unless you are in an area where you risk having a gun pulled on you, it is my experience that even the “toughest” teens will back down when confronted by a stern adult. I am all for having some fun, and I was a teen myself at one time, but if the behavior is too much for me to take (and I can take a lot more than most people) I shut it down. If your parents will not teach you about basic manners in public, I will.

My child behaves in public and always has….parents and other adults need to “grow a pair” when it comes to children and teach them how to behave or they will simply grow up to be boorish simple-minded adults.


September 21st, 2011
1:08 pm

@oneofeach4me Good for you. Nothing wrong with a quick jog into the store. However, when it comes to an hour+ shopping trip I think a parent is asking too much of a child. Leave them home…let them play in their own environment. Heck, nobody likes spending all that time at the grocery store, especially not a child who isn’t allowed to touch anything. :)


September 21st, 2011
1:11 pm

Parent of four year old twins here… I can honestly see both sides.

The problem I’m seeing lately seems to be that parents are wanting to take their kids to places that they frequented before they had children, but may not be kid-friendly. Like… if your two year old can’t sit still for long periods of time, it’s probably best to not take them to, say, dinner at Prime. Also, I’m sorry, but I really can’t understand why some people insist on bringing their kids with them to a bar. That’s when you call the sitter or drop the kids with grandma.

HOWEVER, if, like TWG said, you’re going for the 2 for $20 special at Applebee’s, come on. That’s not exactly fine dining, and you have to realize that families with kids eat at places like that all the time. Same with the grocery store. Or the mall. Or the park.

I also see a lot more parents who seem unwilling to step in and correct bad behavior on their kids’ part, especially in public places. My girls are well-aware of what “the look” is, and that usually is enough to snap them in line. If not, then we usually go have a stern discussion somewhere out of the way as their second warning, and if the behavior keeps up, we leave, and they know that there will be consequences when we get home. (I’ve even been known to leave a half-full grocery cart parked in the middle of an aisle during a particularly tense situation. Ha!) Thankfully, the “third strike” is a very rare occurence, but it has happened every now and then.

not me....

September 21st, 2011
1:24 pm

@ Lee…. Lower class vs. middle class… that is just hogwash. I live in an upscale area and the kids are off the chain and not at TGI Fridays for 2 for $20. Get that our of your head.


September 21st, 2011
2:24 pm

REM thing really has me feeling old and sad.


September 21st, 2011
2:55 pm

@Lady Strange – How old is your son? I ask because we just took our 3 year-old to her first movie: Winne the Pooh. It was just about an hour, the perfect amount of time. It was also the best experience I’ve had in a theater in a long time (see below for off-topic rant). Everyone was well-behaved, and the only noise was cute comments from the kids while they watched. The movie was great for nostalgic adults, too.

I actually prefer On Demand since theaters are super pricy, and I can live without listening to people talk, watching people text, and don’t get me started about how the fattest person in the theater sits right next to me (or the tallest person in front of me). Even I get nuts during a 3-hour movie with no intermission.

@JJ – You must shop at my Publix! That’s 2nd only to ‘zombie day’, when people park in the middle of the aisles to stare slack-jawed at the shelves. Arrrrgh.


September 21st, 2011
3:28 pm

I so totally agree with everything motherjanegoose had to say. Theory #3, I believe, is correct. I’m in my mid thirties and childless so far. I love kids and look forward to having some one day but I’ve noticed that standards of behavior for kids have dropped even since I was a youngn’, which doesn’t seem too long ago. I’ve seen my fair share of kids treat any adult, including parents, as peers; I’m assuming because they are treated that way in kind at home. I didn’t grow up in a terribly strict or harsh household but mom and dad had rules for how you act in public and how you speak to adults. As a single, childless lady I must respectfully disagree with Theory #4. I enjoy going out and seeing well-behaved, respectful children having a good time with their families. I don’t enjoy seeing brats yelling, running around, and speaking to adults as if they were the sixth-grader next to them on the bus.

And, that Jarvis

September 21st, 2011
3:35 pm

…is why 4 years old is WAY TOO YOUNG to be trying to teach kids baseball “Then try explaing to a 4-year-old the concept of a force out.”You can touch 2nd base to get the runner out, but only if there is also a runner going to first. If their isn’t anyone going to 1st, you have to tag the runner to be out…..but you can always throw to first to get the force out there.”

Have them play soccer until age 6-7 – more exercise for them and less “splaining” to do to them – jet tell them “kick it in the net” and you are good to go…

And, forget about trying to tell me that they have to play in order to “keep up” with their peers in order to make the “travel” team – research has shown that if they can play, at any age, they can play with the better players at any age…


September 21st, 2011
3:35 pm

Thank you katy…it is nice to have someone on my team…haha! Being redundant here but those who cannot control their preschool and elementary children are in for a WILD RIDE from 12 to 20.
I am done with that and made it through as mine knew what was expected. Have fun!

Air travel, yes it is stressful but those who show up with bed hair and pajama pants were NEVER seen in the 1960’s through the 1990’s. You actually wore and outfit on the plane and some even wore a suit in coach class. Now, the relaxed attitude and ticket prices have made it seem like a trip to Wal Mart.


September 21st, 2011
3:43 pm

@person not fully understanding the comments box, Maybe your kid is too stupid to know what he liked at 4 and what he didn’t, but mine isn’t.

He likes baseball and has no interest in soccer.


September 21st, 2011
4:00 pm

Here’s the drill at the 5 year olds’ tee ball game.

A couple coaches and a few parents are on the field to pick up the little kids and stand them up in their proper positions.

After 5 swings, the batter makes contact, and runs straight over the pitcher’s mound to second base.

The entire field converges on the ball. Fighting ensues over who gets it. The winner of that contest brings the ball to the nearest coach, beaming. A couple of the kids start crying because they didn’t get the ball.

The coaches and parents lift up the kids and carry them back to their positions. Batter up!

It’s really not teaching them how to play ball.


September 21st, 2011
4:03 pm

Again @person not fully understanding the comments box, where did you come up with that peers crap?

You think I’m concerned about my 4-year-old falling behind his baseball peers? Again you are making incorrect assumptions about the stupidity of my gene pool.


September 21st, 2011
4:13 pm

@Katy ~ of course you whole heartedly agree with number 3 and so totally disagree with number 4 because that is YOUR reality. I don’t like screaming disrespectful kids either, I don’t think many parents do nor do they intend for theirs to be that way. I think what most of us parents are saying is that s**t happens sometimes, as many parents already noted. Kids have their good days and bad ones. I mean, as an adult, are you bubbly and nice and sweet every single day? If so, please tell me what you have been prescribed, other than the privilege to not have to worry about kids or a babysitter when going out to eat! ;-)


September 21st, 2011
4:14 pm

@abc, you clearly aren’t from East Cobb. Straight T-Ball ends at 3. My son takes pitches from a pitching machine at 35 mph. After 4 pitches they bring out a tee if needed.

He’s in his second season, and while he doesn’t understand all of the rules quite yet, he knows to stay in position, field the ball if he is closest to it, and then to throw it to a base….usually first.

4th game is this week. Some of the newer boys are still struggling with staying in position, but we are already seeing improvment there. So far only one crier and that was due to the afore-mentioned clustering of players. He undercut a larger boy who subsequently fell on the undercuttee’s head.

Why judge kids having fun?


September 21st, 2011
4:21 pm

@ one…MY reality is lots of kids from coast to coast. All kids have melt downs, as do adults. Not everyone is sunny and pleasant all the time! It is the way children are handled that makes it bearable or ridiculous. I have seen all sorts of kids and parents. I commend those who realize that coddling and bribing only gets harder to do when they are in high school and college. I have been a mom for 24 years and an educator for 29. I have seen a lot more than many who are only involved with their own children, neighbor’s kids, neighbor’s kids, and perhaps sports or church. Maybe know 100 children by name and personality. At this stage in my life, I am pretty quick at picking out the parents who have a clue about what they are doing. Again, the little toots will turn into bigger toots as long as the parents continue on the same train track!


September 21st, 2011
4:21 pm

comment gone…


September 21st, 2011
4:24 pm

@MJG, You sound as if you are sad that air travel isn’t “special” anymore.

It couldn’t stay elite forever. Nothing can. It had to eventually just become the fastest way to get somewhere. After deregulation, the JetBlues and SouthWests of the world were bound to tap into a different customer base.

Look at the Concords…they couldn’t make them profitable.


September 21st, 2011
4:51 pm

TWG…this is NOT the comments that is gone….

@ jarvis…I am not sad at all. I have been in and out of airplanes for years. Last week, a pilot told me this:
“Air Travel is one of the few venues where you do not have to pay more to get there quicker. Fed Ex, UPS and the Post Office charge more to get things delivered in a speedy manner. You can often fly coast to coast cheaper than you can drive. The start up airlines get special wavers to go into markets and compete. Small areas want airlines and the big guys cannot afford to do business in the small areas. They are not afforded the same fees as the big guys. They advertise $49 one way fares. Eventually they may into bankruptcy and the cycle continues. ” I am not a pilot nor an economist but I was interested in his take. When you can get airfare for the same price as it cost to take the bus….guess what…ALL sorts of people fly. I am not a snob and I like all sorts of people but those who shop for clothes at Wal Mart are typically not behaving the same way as those who shop at Lord and Taylor’s. I have never purchased one thing at Lord and Taylor’s but I have worn clothes from Wal Mart. Not much lately. I shop at Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls …also Christopher and Banks! I do see a BIG difference in the manners of the guests at the Hilton and the Comfort Inn. I have stayed often at both hotels!


September 21st, 2011
4:53 pm

@MJG, I wasn’t picking.
Thank you for explaining your point of view.

Actually, Jarvis...

September 21st, 2011
5:09 pm

…as a parent it appears that YOU are too stupid to understand that you, and the other East Cobb parents who start their kids at T-ball at age 3, and then continue to keep their kids involved at such a young age, are only living vicariously through their kids in order compensate for their inability to excel past the high school age –

And my original comments about “falling behind his peers” was directly aimed at the East Cobb baseball parents since they are so consumed with making their kids the next Mark Piscotta…

Finally, how does your kid know whether he likes any sport other than baseball since baseball seems to be the only sport to which he has been exposedby his “parents”…


September 21st, 2011
5:39 pm

@jarvis…it is all good. There are LOTS of things I know zip about…this list is just a taste:

sports, electronics, riding horses, gambling, building houses, fraternities and sororities, foreign countries, insurance and the like.

My experience does tend to go towards children ages 2-7, dogs, teaching and also most things about travel; hotels. airfare, rental cars and the like.

I also have a bit of experience with college aged kids, not a lot. I have my own two and many in our family and neighborhood plus friends. When mine are both finished with college, I presume I will know a lot more than I do now! I learn something new every day! Some things I wish I did not know.


September 21st, 2011
6:09 pm


My head is finally clear enough to actually read and write. Keep up the good work with your kid and baseball. He obviously likes the sport, and already knows that socccer is as fun as watching paint dry. Smart kid.

Uh, Shaggy...

September 21st, 2011
6:22 pm

…I hardly think the point of the original post was “baseball vs soccer” and which was more fun – but since you invoked this piece to the question, how is baseball more fun to watch than soccer – neither has much action, unlike football and basketball…


September 21st, 2011
8:30 pm

I had two kids 11 years apart. The oldest one, I could take into any restaurant, any time and she would behave like an adult. The younger one just didn’t have the patience to sit still in a restaurant, so we made sure he stayed with grandparents, or friends if we went out. It was a phase he went through, but it made my life so much simpler to go without him. He was generally well-behaved, but got really antsy when the food took a long time or when he got through eating first.

I see the problem as parents who feel guilty about working 60 hour weeks and think that spending “quality time” with their kids is taking them to inappropriate locations. The kids don’t enjoy it, the parents seem totally unaware of the misbehaviour and everyone in the place .

I think restaurants have a total right to ban kids. It’s just too bad that it has become necessary.


September 22nd, 2011
9:12 am

Guilty as charged. I’m living vicariously through my pre-K son.

And you are so right about no other sport exposure. Three years of watching older sister play soccer, his playing tennis last fall at age 3, and him going to several football and baseball games every season since he was about 1 have given him no basis for which sport he finds most interesting.

I think I must have inadvertently pushed him into liking Star Wars and Go Diego Go as well because he also seems to like those toys and shows better than most others.

Thank you for your insight. I realize now that I have failed my son. At least I still have my daughter (or did I ruin her by pushing her into gymnsatics? perplexing).

mom to four

September 22nd, 2011
1:09 pm

It is #3, without doubt. I have 4 children between the ages of 25 and 11. We have always taken our children to fine dining, theater, on airplanes,etc., even when they were very young. Our children almost always receive compliments on their behaviour. When they were little and got a little loud or misbehaved all we had to do was ask “do you want to go outside or to the ladies room?” Outside meant that Dad would give the talk, and on one occassion sat with the unruly and crying child while the rest of us finished dinner. The ladies room meant that Mom would give the talk and, if necessary, a swat on the bottom. It only took one time with each child to get the message across. That is why I can take my children anywhere and know they will behave beautifully.


September 22nd, 2011
2:39 pm

we always took our kids to restaurants, granted we went to family restaurants when they were little. they have to learn how to act in public. if they acted up, it was dealt with, promptly. i certainly would not take a toddler to seasons 52, or what have you. my kids knew better than to act up in public. people need to stop trying to be their kid’s friends and be their parents.


September 23rd, 2011
12:47 am

I am generation x, not a baby boomer, and see the problem of children in public as stemming from overly permissive childrearing practices. Parents start out by tearing into our feet or forcing us out of their way with unnecessarily huge strollers, then as their children outgrow the strollers, they behave obnoxiously and destructively, smearing their feet on furniture, making noise, running around public places. It has grown steadily worse over the past quarter century.


September 23rd, 2011
3:11 am

This is nothing new. People have always disliked having loud and obnoxious kids around them be it at a theater or restaurant.

There are simply more bratty kids running around. The parents are eyes deep in their phones and ignoring their kids and letting them make a scene.

There are some exceptional parents out there, however. But they are being outnumbered by the barbarians. And the barbarians are taking over.


September 23rd, 2011
10:10 pm

Personally, if this is the case, then they need to make some restaurants that are more kid friendly or a seating area separate from the rest of the restaurant. Because it’s becoming increasing more annoying to put up with both generations,Boomer and Y. Because,sorry kids are going to be kids and need to be taught the right behavior and not turn away because someone is feeling tad crotchety. However, I feel older people need some time and place to themselves.


September 24th, 2011
1:47 am

I have two little boys 3 & 4 years old. My husband is deployed and my boys go everywhere I go. My kids are polite. Please, thank you, and excuse me are used on a daily bases. We occasionally go out to eat and I think this is good for them. I’ve actually made a point of doing this because they are little and I want them to get accustom to it. I’ve had my children make scenes in public and wish I could say that I’ve always handled it right, but I haven’t. I do learn from every experience though and reflect on how to handle it better the next time (at some point or another there will be a next time). Nick Jr has this quote, “We’re not perfect, we’re parents”. Its true. My kids are fantastic and for the most part are great in public. That being said, they’ve had there moments. I’m sure your mom could easily come up with a story of you giving her a run for her money at some point. We were all kids once. Kids, believe it or not, are little people. We were all kids and we were not always well behaved, though apparently some of you remember it differently. I have seen kids act up and it doesn’t bother me. That could be me and it has been me. I do not think children should be banned, its discrimination. I can understand people requesting to sit away from children and this is an option. I like to go out to eat with my kids. Its a treat for us and we don’t eat out as often with my husband deployed. Everyone needs to relax, they’re kids, and we were kids. Like I said, though you remember being little angels, I’m postive your mother could easily throw out examples of times that you weren’t. I’m sure the list goes on and on and on. lol


September 25th, 2011
8:38 pm

Haha…I was NOT an angel nor were my own kids. The difference ( to me) is that the impish behavior was not ignored or laughed at when I was a child and when my children were young. It was dealt with quite swiftly and there were no idle threats. I sit on the floor with thousands of children each year and DO NOT FOR ONE MINUTE think children have the attention span and innate behavior ability of mature adults. It is learned by interacting with adults who model the appropriate behavior and give guidelines and cues. Not all adults even understand this concept.


September 25th, 2011
9:15 pm

I don’t mind a toddler having a meltdown in a family friendly restaurant, so long as the parent tries to do SOMETHING to bring it under control. But that’s the problem… Very few parents even TRY to bring it under control. And it is even worse with older kids. When I have asked parents to bring their kids under control, I have been told, “He’s/she’s a child. What am I supposed to do?” Try what I did, take the kid for a short walk to explain appropriate behavior, explain the consequences for the lack of appropriate behavior, then FOLLOW THROUGH. I have left more than one business establishment because my kids weren’t behaving appropriately. And boy, did they regret it in the parking lot…