Rampant discussion swirls through our society as to whether or not there has been a degradation of cultural values. The question of whether civility has been sacrificed to the altars of personal convenience and “non-judgmentalism” concerns many Americans who are entrusted to pass this value to future generations. If you want to see the struggle in its full majesty, enter one of our modern theatres of community interaction – the family restaurant.
Since the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, the family restaurant has become a center of shared communality. There may be other places, but nothing allows multiple generations to interact across cultural and economic levels quite like a moderately-priced local restaurant. Unfortunately, the rules of civil behavior seem to be disintegrating before our very eyes. This devolution has manifested itself through our children.
It has become apparent that while today’s parents want to take their children to restaurants, they are often unwilling to instruct their kids how to properly behave in this public forum. It used to be that children would go to a restaurant and stay in their seats. If a child started to misbehave, one parent would take the youngster out of the restaurant until he (or she) settled down. Regrettably, that no longer appears to be standard behavior.
After observing frequent occurrences of children aimlessly walking, climbing over the back of seats and generally disrupting other diners’ peaceful enjoyment of their meals, it was time to consult the professionals and see if standards had really changed.
I started with the servers, and the large majority stated that they had observed a significant change in how parents control their children. Their general impression was that standards have slipped substantially, and they often feel frustrated and helpless as they watch parents allowing their kids to run rampant. Servers must often move through small spaces while carrying large food platters. They prefer – if only for everyone’s safety – that patrons stay out of their pathways. They are reluctant to confront parents because they’re concerned both about what management might say as well as the impact on their tips (which are often a significant portion of their compensation). So they leave the matter to management.