Last Mother's Day, Sarah Baldry and her family went out to dinner at the local T.G.I. Friday's. Shortly after she and her husband settled 4-year-old Megan and 11-month-old Kaitlyn into booster seats, a large group sat down in the next booth, with a handful of kids ranging from infancy to about age 5.
Even in the normal din of the family restaurant, their noise was overpowering. "These children were screaming, yelling, running up and down the restaurant, and throwing food," said Baldry, of Middleville, Michigan. "It was amazing how rude and out of control they were. At one point, I looked over, and there was actually a toddler walking on the table. And the parents weren't even trying to get them to behave."
The commotion was so awful that the waiter apologized profusely and offered the Baldrys dinner on the house. "I don't get it," Sarah said later. "I know it isn't easy, but I can manage to get my kids to sit still and to talk quietly in a restaurant. Why can't other people?"
Baldry isn't the only person asking that question. In a poll by Associated Press-Ipsos, 69 percent of respondents said that people were ruder today than they were a generation ago -- and children are among the worst offenders. Ninety-three percent said that today's parents are not doing a good job when it comes to teaching kids to behave politely.
No one is complaining, of course, about the age-appropriate tantrums that most kids have once in a while. And no one is labeling children as rude just because they occasionally hit, scream, or pout. What people are up in arms about is bona fide brattiness -- obnoxious public behavior that is totally ignored by the adult in charge. Scandalized, they share stories about the 4-year-old who kicked the back of their airplane seat all the way from Maine to Miami, the sassy 3-year-old who terrorized every checkout clerk at Target, or the 5-year-old Tony Soprano who knocked four kids down on his way to the monkey bars.