To allow or not allow, that is the question

… of this week’s writing challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/weekly-writing-challenge-children/  “This week, we’re particularly interested in what you think about kids in adult-oriented places. I think most of us can agree that it’s not a good idea to drag little Sally to a bar at 1AM, but what about a museum? A fancy restaurant?”

While ultimately I think it should be left to the owner of the establishment who they would like to provide service to (as long as no civil rights are being violated – and that is a completely different matter altogether) for the purposes of this week’s writing challenge I would like to argue that children should be allowed everywhere their parents are willing to take them.

I’d even go so far as to encourage parents to specifically seek out these sorts of “questionable” environments and take their children early and often.

Children are sponges: they learn from all aspects of their lives – reading, studying, playing, and interacting with everyone and everything around them which includes observing.  They observe how their parents behave in every situation and they learn to model their own behavior accordingly.  If there were no other benefits from taking children into museums, fancy restaurants, live action theatres (musicals, plays, etc…), libraries or any other setting where their potential for noise could be disturbing, the life lessons they learn by simply being there and observing is enough of a reason to warrant their inclusion.  Period.  End of story.

(Returning to the hypocrisy that is me, however, that won’t keep me from being annoyed if I’m in one of those situations and a child erupts into a noisy fit.)

Okay, for arguments sake, beyond the benefits of having children observe their parents and every other person at these locations and events each of these situations also holds additional opportunities for children to learn and grow that they would not otherwise get.

There is no way to recreate the acoustics and interactions of a live performance in a grand theatre.  By not taking children to see plays and musicals at early ages we could be denying our children the spark that would help mold them into the next great composer or actor or playwrite.  Would you want to take away that opportunity from anyone?

There is no way to recreate the ambiance of a fancy restaurant without actually going to one: the etiquette, the atmosphere, the interplay between the different parties, and all of the remaining norms that come into play only when in a fine dining experience.  There are many lessons to be learned here, but it provides a great opportunity to teach the value of money.  Don’t you think children should learn the difference between what money can purchase at a McDonalds and what money can purchase at a Ruth’s Chris?  Maybe a child exposed to that lesson early on will grow up to be a great accountant or a Wall Street Broker.

The internet has come a long way, no argument there, but would you really deny children access to Libraries just because they might be a little rambunctious from time to time?  Really?  There are lessons to be learned in every book and on every shelf and in every reading group and in just interacting with the librarians…  I spent a vast amount of time in my library growing up and I hope that the internet hasn’t killed them off when I have children old enough to go.  Maybe they will grow up to be authors, or editors, or publishers, or any of the proffesions they could read about while sitting at a table in the library lost in a good book.

Museums… really?  How is this even a question?  In my mind this would fall into the same category as libraries – there is too much of value, too many great lessons waiting to be learned, too many discoveries waiting to be found, too many mysteries waiting to be solved.  I would never deny children access to those experiences no matter what slight discomfort I may encounter as a result.  What spark might we be denying them if we do so?

From learning through observation how to act to the various specific additional benefits children get in each of these settings, they should be there.  They should be in the museums and fancy restaurants.  I may grumble about it under my breath, but deep down I know it is good for them to be learning in those environments even as they are screaming at the top of their lungs.

16 thoughts on “To allow or not allow, that is the question

  1. I agree whole-heartedly. My sister recently had a child, and she spends time reading him Neil Gaiman and Sherlock Holmes. He’s already learning language faster than most children his age. Simply because they treat him as a human being, and not some little toy to be cooed at.

    That in mind, most of my best childhood memories are of my town library. My mother worked there when I was young, so my sister and I spent quite a bit of time there and were very close to most of the librarians. Even after she left, we loved the library. Museums likewise.

  2. I agree, expose your children to all sorts of situations, but be clear about expected behaviour. I always took my three children to fancy restaurants and museums but they knew that they were to respect the other patrons. It’s all about responsible parenting.

    • Yep, first one is on the way. Adventure awaits. Yes, agree completely, pre-training is key! Plus the parents need to be willing (and carry through with if needed) to take the child out of any situation to show them there are consequences to misbehaving.

  3. I completely agree with you, and I think your rationalisations of why are very well presented.
    I find the child unfriendliess of Americans terribly sad. Is there any hope for a culture that wants to segregate people from mainstream society in their formative years?
    I have to say, in Italy this would not even be a point for discussion. It is taken for granted that, where parents go, kids are taken too…. And welcomed by all around them.
    My one criticism of the Italian way would be the time of day, though. Here in the Mediterranean is the only place kids are taken out in the evening and you hear them in restaurants at about eleven or midnight crying and begging their parents to take them home and let them go to bed. I feel so sorry for them and in this case, they have nothing to gain.

    • Thanks for the comment and the international perspective! And I agree, once the children start getting fussy because it’s passed their bedtimes the parents should take them home.

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