When I first read the headline in yesterday’s Straits Times, “Casual eateries join ban on kids to avoid ‘rowdiness'”, I must admit I got a tad upset with such establishments. So much for the nation’s call for couples to have more babies, I thought to myself. After reading the article, and thinking about it for a while more, I realised that I had gotten upset with the wrong group of people! One person interviewed rightly remarked that these were businesses and they could set whatever rules they desired – children or no children. And I agree.
If you don’t remove your consumeristic hat to consider this, you too will miss the point and begin judging the management of such restaurants as insensitive and child-unfriendly. Why should they put up with the nonsense and antics of ill-mannered rascals? One might retort with the statement, “But I’m the one paying!” Precisely, the point! The management is clearly saying to such egoistic consumers who think they can pay off anyone, “Then we don’t want to earn your dollars.”
Let’s get one thing clear: the ones who are responsible for the behaviour of the children are parents, not restauranteurs. If parents are able (and willing) to discipline their children and have them submit to their authority, both at home and outside, do you think we’d be facing this situation today? Not at all. In fact, families would be welcomed with open arms. But to have little monsters running around and upsetting everyone, and to still smile about it just because a service charge is levied? That, I believe, contributes to raising even bigger brats and feeding the consumeristic monster in each of us.
I hear you say, “Oh pastor, aren’t your views a little unchristian?” Well, let’s consider the church …
I know of many churches who discourage (since “ban” may not be the right “christian” word to use) children from attending their main worship services. They strongly encourage parents to bring them to the children’s ministry so that these would not disrupt or distract other parishioners from receiving the fullness of God’s Word. No one challenges this policy because they all agree with it. I mean, who wants to be interrupted while feeding upon their spiritual cuisine? And often, it’s not even the members who mind having the children around, but the parents themselves who are all too willing to pass the children off to “spiritual” caretakers! Why, I wonder? To focus on God? Or that they have absolutely no idea how to control their children?
To illustrate, allow me to share this conversation I had with someone from a rather prominent church, well-known for its professional child-minding … I mean, children’s ministry.
To clarify an impression I had received, I asked, “Is it true that if I visited your church, my children would not be allowed into the main hall?” Quickly, she responded, “Oh no, no, but we’d encourage you to leave them with our children’s ministry. Our people are all very well-trained to look after your children.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, “but what if I’d like all my seven children to worship the Lord together with me and my wife?” She smiled, trying to remain gracious and polite, and said, “But it’s better at the children’s ministry. They can enjoy the stories and games. It’s also better, as sometimes, they can get fidgety and noisy through the message and end up distracting others.”
To that, I asked, “Well, what if I assure you that my children are generally obedient? Also, as parents, we will ensure that they will not be a distraction. If so, we will promptly deal with that so that no one is inconvenienced.” Clearly, this lady had nothing else to say other than what she had been briefed by her church leaders. So, with a broad smile, a little more put on by now, she said again, “Of course, but we’d still strongly encourage you to leave your children with us.”
So you see, some churches are not unlike these restaurants who “ban” children. But unlike these establishments, they cannot turn families away.
Lest you miss the point of this article, let me state it once more … the responsibility of raising children to be well-mannered and obedient lies with us, parents. However, instead of addressing the issue, we’d rather have others cater to their shortcomings and laziness. Instead of addressing rebelliousness and wilfulness in the hearts of our children, we’d rather make excuses for them and for ourselves. And when these don’t go our way, we promptly display our own selfish nature through the voicing and exercise of consumer rights. Simply, we pass the buck.
Stop blaming everyone else. Start training and raising your children at home that they will bring joy and laughter wherever they go. Then, the next time you bring your family out for a meal, be a blessing to both the service staff and other patrons, especially when they notice you saying grace before eating. For sure, it will bring God much honour and glory!