NJ Restaurant Bans Kids Under 10—But Is It a Question of Responsible Parenting?

Many support the new policy, and there are things parents can do to make the dining experience better for everyone.

Child misbehaving at rrestaurant

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A New Jersey restaurant took a controversial step when it banned children under 10. Nettie's House of Spaghetti, an Italian restaurant in Tinton Falls, posted the new policy on its Facebook page with a graphic that reads: "Children under 10 will no longer be permitted at Nettie's."

Nettie's went into further detail in the caption. "We love kids," someone from Nettie's writes. "We really, truly, do. But lately, it's been extremely challenging to accommodate children at Nettie's. Between noise levels, lack of space for high chairs, cleaning up crazy messes, and the liability of kids running around the restaurant, we have decided that it's time to take control of the situation."

The new policy goes into effect in early March 2023. "We know that this is going to make some of you very upset, especially those of you with very well-behaved kids, but we believe this is the right decision for our business moving forward," the post continues.

It may irk some parents, but looking at the comments, generally, customers are happy. Nettie's restricted comments, but even the public shares are good. A quick glance at Google reviews shows a whole bunch of five-star reviews in the last week—and only one complainer.

"This needs to be at more places, in my opinion," writes one Facebook user.

"Good," shares another.

Sorry, parents and spaghetti-loving kiddos. But it appears we cannot always have nice things.

Family dinners out can be a fun way to bond, even with small kids in tow. But I can empathize with other patrons and restaurant owners. During my child-free days, I couldn't stand being on a date, unable to hear a word of what my now-husband was saying because a child was screaming. Or we'd go to the wineries with our dog and wind up de-facto babysitting people's wandering toddlers. It was annoying—I was still taking birth control for a reason.

Now, as a parent myself, I get the delicate balance between wanting to enjoy a night off from cooking while bonding with your child. You're also still human. You want to be out and about. Early parenthood can feel so isolating, but babysitters are hard to come by. Still, other patrons are also there to have a good time. Some may also be in-the-trenches parents who needed a quick escape from little hands, loud screams, and requests for peanut butter and jelly when you made pasta. So—and I mean this kindly—maybe not everyone appreciates your small child's antics while dining out, even if the kid is cute (and they are!).

Who knows if this child ban is going to become a new trend for restaurants? But there are some things we can do as parents to make the restaurant experience better for everyone—ourselves, our children, and yes, other people and the staff.

  • Know your child's limits. If your kid is having a tough day or hasn't napped, it may be best to take a rain check on your brood's reservations.
  • Schedule wisely. I don't stick to a schedule with my kids, but they fell into their own somewhat. My almost 1-year-old naps around the same time every day, and I definitely wouldn't plan a meal out during that window.
  • Lower expectations—and have an exit plan. Even if your child napped and appears to be in the best mood ever, kids are unpredictable. Be prepared to leave and get your food to go if your tiny tyke is throwing meatballs at the next booth or melting down. Sometimes, a lap around the restaurant is enough to calm them down. Other times, it's not. But let's avoid making that someone else's problem.
  • Find alternative kid-centric things to do. You don't have to sit at home until your child turns 10. Indoor play gyms, libraries with children's rooms, and petting zoos are designed with small children in mind. Take your kid there—you may even meet other parents whose kids also like to throw sliders on the floor.

Kids and restaurants can mix. But when they don't, they don't. Your child's behavior at a restaurant isn't your fault or a reflection on your parenting, but a little consideration may go a long way in preventing these bans from becoming a trend.

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