Kids are people too


Cafes. Aeroplanes. Galleries. Restaurants. Shopping centres. Pubs.

What these places all have in common is they are part of a growing mass of public spaces where people are becoming increasingly intolerant towards children.

I’m concerned about a society that expects children to know how to behave in public (with the exact prescription of discipline) when their very presence is almost frowned upon.

It’s very rare that I encounter a parent who is not ‘disciplining their children properly’ (whatever that means in relation to culture, upbringing and factors such as sleep deprivation). And maybe it was because my eldest son was blessed with a spirited nature but when I see a child screaming, I’m more inclined to feel empathy rather than superiority or anger that my cup of coffee is being ruined.

I’d wager it’s a small element of society that is hell bent on making everyone accommodate their darling progeny or worse, their “lifestyle choice” (um it’s a baby, not a Portsea holiday house). I don’t expect people to endure my children’s screams much like I don’t want to endure too many photos of people’s cats but sometimes they’re unavoidable. And sometimes extricating yourself from the public sphere isn’t as simple as slipping out a side door.

What gets to me most about a shopping centre seeking to stamp out “screaming children” is that quite often shopping centres are a last resort for parents of challenging children. It can be a welcome relief to the trials of cutlery, cramped spaces and too-hot scrambled egg. Then there is the fact that shopping centres with their well placed marketing materials, ample junk food and flood-lit spaces are a breeding ground for screaming. Heck, I feel like screaming sometimes.

There’s no perfect way to discipline a child. There’s no perfect child. Much like adults, they are flawed. And much like humans in general, parents can be flawed too. It bothers me that these types of rules appear to give license to judge other parents and sadly it is far too often that the judgement seems to come from other parents.

Who wants to place bets where screaming kids will be banned next? Central business districts? Swimming pools?



  1. Lila Wolff says

    If it’s supermarkets next I can see my family going VERY hungry! I have a little one that is extremely vocal when we go out. I’m sure it’s annoying to other people but it’s not like I enjoy it either but sometimes we have things to do, or like you say just need to be out of the house.
    I think it’s also overlooking some children with special needs that have trouble coping or are just vocal and can’t be reasoned with, do they deserve to be discriminated against? It’s a really selfish policy.

    • says

      It’s so selfish, and what I’m seeing more of is people complaining that ADHD or ASD isn’t an excuse or a real disorder – where does that lack of compassion come from?

  2. Lily Mae Martin says

    I like what you said about ‘life style choice’ which is a term I dislike very much as well.
    I found in the UK and in Oz there are mare bans on places where children can go, in Berlin there was not and I enjoyed that a lot, it felt more balanced.

    It’s a total and utter shame that people are adopting this ‘children can be seen but not heard’ BS. Children ARE people too! Excluding them is just plain cruel and the fact that people seem OK to jump on this exclusion bandwagon is concerning. We’re so separatist in this society and that is not a good thing at all. It’s nothing to aspire to.

    I respect peoples choices, I respect the choice not to have children, but this sort of exclusion is not acceptable. Regardless of wether you want children or not we all need support at one point or another in our lives from our community – we are all going to age – so singling out people who are easy targets and vulnerable – parents and children – shouldn’t be tolerated at all.

    • says

      It certainly feels like a western affliction doesn’t it? The contrast to places in South East Asia and parts of Europe is huge – people practically beg to play with your kids so you can eat a meal in peace!

  3. says

    While I think it’s completely inappropriate to blanket ban kids from public spaces, I don’t think its ok to say “let children be children” and be done with it. I really do think that the majority of children are less well-behaved in public than previous generations, mainly because our own generation of parents cause a fuss whenever someone complains about their ill-mannered kids, rather than try to teach them manners. x

    • says

      I get where you’re coming from, I think it’s a bit of that but also there’s more public spaces than when we were kids – we never had shopping malls and child-friendly cafes near us so maybe it’s a learning curve for everyone!

    • Kirrily says

      It’s *almost* like a defiance, isn’t it? A rally against the older generations who dare to speak out about behaviour and manners (or lack of). You can sort of hear it in the rebuttals of some parents against those “olds”. I know there has to be more tolerance on all sides, and I am all for kids ‘being kids’, but when it encroaches on the enjoyment of the public space by everyone – within reason – then I kinda do think it’s fair to take a stand.

      Banning from a shopping centre is going a tad too far, though. Banning children from anywhere is not the answer. It just baffles me how that has been decided as the solution.

      • says

        Sometimes I think it’s kind of weird that we even have these conversations, K. One thing I do know is that kids are included in ‘adult worlds’ (trying to find an expression that doesn’t sound porno!) than previous generations. Our own parents were the ‘seen and not heard’ generation and we were the ‘off you go’ generation… both of which meant we weren’t in grown-ups faces so much of the time. I mean, chances are we were better behaved around adults as kids because we got to do stuff WE wanted to do – we were occupied doing our thing. Our parents just let us get on with it. Today’s poor kids have to hang out with adults and practically BE adults because their mums and dads don’t trust them to go and do something that interests them so they’re stuck there with their pencil and paper drawing shit when they’d rather be off exploring and avoiding adults… etc, etc. I could go on all day (and frequently do). I gotta write my own post about this, fer shiz. x

  4. Carly says

    I feel like in recent years we are going backwards in our tolerance of children in public places. One minute child friendly cafe’s are opening up everywhere, every mall has an indoor playground and little push along buggies for kids at the front door…… then suddenly bitchy columns and articles, signs in malls etc start appearing.
    I know this is very generalistic but Australian’s really are starting to give me the shits, the level of whingeing kills me and in my travels I have rarely experienced it as much as when I go home.

    • says

      We had a reality check in Indonesia – from everyone wanting to help us with our one year old and stopping to say hello to an Australian guy on the plane asking us why we couldn’t leave him with grandparents before we’d even sat down. I sometimes think we could learn a thing or two from other cultures!

  5. says

    I feel like there is a disliking of children in general in today’s society. You’re going to be way less judged if you choose not to have children then if you do.

    We were organising our Christmas do at work and people were discussing food requirements – some people couldn’t eat dairy, some people couldn’t eat gluten … a pregnant colleague raised the fact that the pregnant women of the group couldn’t eat certain foods and we were quiet rudely told that it was our choice to be pregnant!

    Yes, it is my choice and I am quiet happy with that choice – if I respect your choice to be childless then you should respect my choice to have children! Especially when my children’s taxes will be paying for your pension!

    • Kirrily says

      That is a disgusting attitude they displayed, Shari. Makes it quite difficult to continue working in a place after you discover the underlying prejudices like that.

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