Out of Control Kids: Your Reaction?

What do you do when faced with certain sticky situations?

What would you do if you witnessed someone committing adultery? Or heard someone making homophobic remarks?

Would you approach an obnoxious person talking loudly on a cell phone?

It's a quiet Saturday afternoon at a diner in Brooklyn, N.Y., but the tranquility is about to be shattered.

Suddenly from across the room, a paper airplane zooms through the air and lands on an unsuspecting diner's plate. At a nearby table, a pair of kids -- a boy and a girl -- are out of control, their oblivious father paying little attention, his ear glued to a cell phone.

As the minutes tick by, the kids get noisier. First, it's just clattering and whining, then the piercing sound of a toy flute.

Soon they are running around the tables, throwing shredded paper in the air, banging utensils on glasses, bickering and blowing kazoos.

The father continues to ignore them, and diners exchange glances, getting more and more annoyed and astonished by the minute.

Will anyone step up and say something? Does anyone object to the chaos?

Looking the Other Way

Nearly everyone has a story about kids who misbehave in a restaurant, but these cherubic-looking youngsters seem especially out of control. That's because they're actors, hired by "Primetime."

We've supplied the kids with noise-making instruments, asked the father to appear distracted, and instructed the children to behave badly.

Our goal is to see what these diners will do, and look at what might motivate them to either speak up, or stay seated even when they're annoyed.

What do you do when confronted with a situation such as this in a restaurant? Do you say something to the children or the parents? We were surprised by how many diners looked the other way as the children wreaked havoc around them.

Over three days, 65 people were subjected to our kids from hell, and of those, only 15 spoke up.

A handful of them complained to the kids themselves -- telling them to sit down and be quiet -- and a few patrons complained to the manager, who was in on our experiment as well. But to our surprise, only two people confronted the parent.

Colgate University psychology professor Carrie Keating said there's an inherent dilemma when it comes to deciding whether or not to interfere with misbehaving children in a public setting.

"On the one hand, you want to stop the behavior," Keating said. "On the other hand, we have a social norm to not interfere with families and family business."

Range of Reactions

We observed a range of reactions, from anger to amusement.

One man got fed up after witnessing a water-spitting match between the children, yelling, "Hey, why don't you kids straighten out?!"

To the father, he said, "Can you control them a little bit?"

Another group of diners got so angry they considered resorting to force.

One woman said to her companions, "They're running around the table, they're whistling. I'm not eating here anymore! … Can I have that plate of pickles so I can throw it in their face?"

These diners ended up complaining to the parent and the kids, but far more people suffered in silence.

A couple from Belgium watched, mouths agape, as the kids shoveled food into one another's laps. One family sat for almost half an hour amid the din but didn't complain until the end of the meal.

When asked why he didn't speak up sooner, one man explained, "You don't want to have a spectacle in public -- so sometimes you just watch."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...