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Child 'bans' spark plenty of debate

I'm fairly certain that in the top 10 media topics in 2011 so far - right behind the Royal Wedding, and possibly ahead of the U.S. debt issue - is the "banning unruly children from public places" story.

I'm fairly certain that in the top 10 media topics in 2011 so far - right behind the Royal Wedding, and possibly ahead of the U.S. debt issue - is the "banning unruly children from public places" story.

Oddly, neither the debt nor the Royals seems to garner as much animosity and virulent debate among readers. These stories inevitably spread like wildfire, passed along through social media like the latest celebrity sex scandal.

For example, a recent column on came out of the gate swinging with a headline that trumpeted "Permissive parents: Curb your brats."

I saw the article being posted and argued over by friends on Facebook for several days, and it caused a wave of discussion in online forums.

There were two distinct reactions. The first: Glee, tinged with an air of "finally, someone has the gumption to say what we've all been thinking," and a call to ban the spoiled little wretches from restaurants, planes and an assortment of public locations.

The second reaction: Horror, by incensed parents who couldn't believe the gall of someone suggesting that their little darlings shouldn't be welcome in every single public environment. (The horror was all the worse for the fact that the author was himself a parent. "How dare he when he should know better!" came the cry.)

This was followed by a neverending round of "today's kids are all brats!" and "my kids aren't brats!"

As in all things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Are some kids rude, illbehaved and out of control? Yes. (Though let's remember that even Socrates, way back when, lamented how terrible the next generation was in their behaviour: "The children now . have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders. . They contradict their parents . and are tyrants over their teachers.")

Are some parents permissive and lazy? Yes. (There is, as of yet, no licensing requirements on parenthood.)

But all of them? Even most of them? Not even close.

The brain has a funny way of dealing with stereotypes. We tend to remember an example that fulfills a belief and ignore examples that don't. In short, we notice what stands out and what is unusual. Everyone has a story about a kid throwing a temper tantrum while fellow diners tried in vain to enjoy their meal, but in truth, we all encounter countless children who aren't in the midst of a meltdown and countless parents who are quietly trying their best to instill responsible behaviours and good manners. They just don't stand out.

As a parent of two young children, I'm the first to say that there are indeed places my children shouldn't go, like a five-star restaurant or a holiday resort that is known to cater to adults or honeymooners. I'm sure most parents will disagree slightly on where the line should be drawn, but the point is that most parents make such decisions with more than a grain of common sense - and frankly, how else do we teach children how to behave in particular settings if we don't ever expose them to those places?

No matter where a child goes or how watchful the parent is, the truth is sometimes meltdowns occur. Kids get upset, or overtired or hungry despite our best intentions to keep them full, and well-rested and entertained. (And, sometimes, there is more to a situation than meets the eye - there's a big difference between a spoiled kid having a temper tantrum and a child with extreme autism reacting to a particular situation, though they may look the very same to an outside observer.)

Frankly, if you want to guarantee that you will never be bothered by someone else's crying child, don't go anywhere. Sometimes I get bothered by the cranky guy who is giving the waitress hell at top volume because his food is cold. Sometimes I get bothered by people who have on too much cologne or perfume. Sometimes I get bothered by people who don't let me merge into traffic when it's my turn.

My choice is to avoid all these things by staying home and never dealing with them, or recognize that in a world full of very different people, sometimes I'm going to get irritated or inconvenienced. Such is life. On the grand scale of things that are worth complaining about on this planet, a crying child in a restaurant just doesn't hit my top 10 - even if it does make for top 10 news.

Christina Myers is a reporter with the Burnaby NOW. She has two children. Follow her at www.twitter. com/ChristinaMyersA or send her e-mail to cmyers@bur