Was Diner Owner Wrong to Scream at Crying Toddler?

Debates on parental etiquette and restaurant management are raging after a diner owner in Maine yelled at a toddler for crying.

Apparently the 21-month-old tot was crying for 40 minutes at Marcy’s Diner in Portland when the owner, Darla Neugebauer, slammed her hands on the table and yelled, “This needs to stop,” USA Today reports.

The little girl’s mother, Tara Carson, told the newspaper that they had stopped at the diner on their way to a family vacation and were shocked at what happened.

“I think I was just in pure shock, because I’ve never seen behavior like this before,” she said. Carson also told the Washington Post that the crying had only been going on for a few minutes before the owner traumatized her baby.

On the diner’s Facebook page, the owner reportedly posted a (since-deleted) explanation of the situation that says the parents were ignoring the crying child and not feeding her the pancakes they ordered for her. But Neugebauer’s credibility is immediately discounted because her post is riddled with profanity, refers to the child as a “beast” and says the family is lucky she didn’t get physical with them.

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Neugebauer begins her rant by saying the problem started when the family needed three full-size pancakes for the toddler, an order that inexplicably seems to infuriate the owner.

“I believe right there should have told me you were ignorant!” she wrote. She also says she intervened after the parents’ fourth attempt to quiet the child, which contradicts the idea that the parents completely ignored the baby’s crying.

But despite all this, hundreds of people are taking to the diner’s Facebook page to applaud the owner for what she did.

“When I go out to eat I am paying … not only for the food but also for the atmosphere. It is RIDICULOUS to let your child sit there and scream,” one commenter wrote.

Hundreds of similar comments are pouring in, though some people defend the parents or say the situation could have at least been handled more professionally.

It’s a sad state of affairs when such an overwhelming number of people are gleefully defending such aggressive, unstable behavior directed towards a baby. Children are part of society and as a result they will be heard and seen. They do not act like adults.

But the story still raises the question: Should a restaurant owner step in – more tactfully – when a child is crying relentlessly? Do they owe their other customers a more peaceful dining experience?

The way we see it, a diner is usually a family-friendly environment where you can expect a louder and less refined experience than a more upscale restaurant. Of course a child’s non-stop crying should preferably be addressed by either meeting the baby’s needs or taking baby out for a walk to cheer him up, but the occasional squeal or moments of crying must be tolerated – we were all young once, after all.

But if the situation becomes overly disruptive and the parents aren’t intervening? Sure, the owner could step in, but why not to try to help? Offer the parents some juice or crackers for the baby, bring out some crayons or try engaging the tot in a game of peek-a-boo, perhaps.

It might not work and the owner might still feel compelled to (gently, appropriately) ask the parents to do something, but at least she would have tried. Then maybe the attention from the difficult situation would look less like this and more like this.

Or if she’s too busy to step in herself and the other customers are upset? Maybe pick up their bills, bring out some free muffins, or invite them back tomorrow morning for a free meal. It’s called customer service, and it doesn’t involve yelling at babies.

What do you think of this situation? Was the owner right to intervene? What would you do if you were the parents in this scenario?

Photo courtesy USA Today

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