Going out with kids is hard; there's no way around it. Even the most angelic children have rough days, and sometimes they have those rough days out in public. It can be embarrassing. It can be frustrating. It can be hard to know what to do about it.
But one thing we all have to stop doing is freaking out when people point that out. It isn't frustrating just for parents when kids throw a tantrum; it's frustrating for the people who own the establishment where the tantrum is being thrown. And as long as someone isn't being a jerk about it, they should be able to say so. But when one café owner did exactly that, the abuse that was hurled at her in response was immediate and ruthless.
The online harassment got so bad that Kim Christofi, who owns South Kiosk at Martello Park in Felixstowe, had to take down her entire Facebook page when outraged parents flocked to it to put her back in her place. Want to take a guess at the horrific, unreasonable request she had for parents in the contentious post? It wasn't "control your little monsters before I start throwing shoes at them" or even "the next kid to have a tantrum at my kiosk gets a swift kick to the tushie." It was this:
"Can we make ourselves perfectly clear to all parents who are too scared to discipline their children about tantrum screaming? We will give you five lenient minutes to ask the child to stop screaming and then we will ask the child ourselves."
Oh, the unimaginable horror.
People flocked to her page to comment on the post, which Christofi told a local news outlet was prompted by an incident where a child was throwing a no-holds-barred scream-fest at the kid-friendly kiosk, which has toy boxes onsite and routinely hands out free ice cream and sunscreen. Christofi said she waited for the child's family to step in and discipline or comfort them. And waited.
Finally she decided to "have a quiet word with the child, gently and sensitively," and later made her post. Wow, sounds like the work of a true monster.
Maybe she could have worded it better, but the sentiment is one that parents should be taking to heart. Anyone who has ever worked at any kind of establishment that serves food knows what a problem a kid throwing a tantrum is — when their parents are ignoring them.
A tantrum is not a problem. Children throw tantrums. Screaming is usually not a problem, although it will cost you some business and tips from the folks who aren't thrilled about eating their dinner to a banshee-shriek soundtrack. But again, they're free to fly to a magical land where no children ever are in pursuit of that goal, because children throw tantrums.
You know what is a problem? Parents who pretend it isn't happening. There's no redirection, there's no acknowledgment, there's just a kid freaking out in the middle of a well-populated area, throwing stuff and just begging to be on the worst end of a trip-and-fall, hot-carafe-of-coffee-on-the-head accident.
Christofi wrote a post in a moment that expressed a frustration that those of us who have had to try to do our jobs safely and effectively with an out-of-control child to contend with know very well. There is this knee-jerk reaction to paint people who say, "Holy crap, you guys, could you at least go look at what your kid is doing here?" as child-hating monsters who don't understand anything. That's reductive and rarely true.
When you do like kids, it really sucks to watch them lose control without anyone to guide them back. Christofi, so far as we can tell, didn't ask parents to never come by if they have a child who sometimes screams, which, we've established, kids often do. She just asked them to acknowledge it and deal with it so that she doesn't have to. That people found fault with that just highlights why the post was even necessary. Talk about a meltdown!
Christofi covered that in her post as well, saying, "If that means you too having a tantrum about our having to speak to your child and hurling threats about not returning — that’s really okay with us. We have a duty of care to the rest of our customers."
If you really can't even be bothered to talk to your kid when they're having a meltdown, maybe it's better to stay at home. Everyone from the staff to the parents who don't see an issue with the request will thank you for it.
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