Shop Owner Yells At 2 Year Old For Crying: Who Do You Think Is Right?

So this has turned into a big news story and one that I think both parties may be wrong in. We don’t know all the details but for the sake of conversation, let’s assume that what we do know (or have been told in the media) is true. Here’s what the shop owner said:

Darla Neugebauer, owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, is defending her actions after a backlash on social media among people who say they’ll never eat at the restaurant again. She she’s not sorry for yelling at a 2-year-old child for crying in her restaurant because it got the girl to be quiet.

Neugebauer said after listening to the child cry for 40 minutes, she couldn’t take it any longer.

“I turned around, slammed both hands on the counter, and then pointed at the child and said, ‘This has got to stop.’ Oh, and then the mother screamed at me because I was yelling at her child. You know what lady, you should have taken the kid outside,” Neugebauer told ABC affiliate WMTW

The parents answered with a Facebook post that said:

“I had the worst experience at this establishment. The owner is an absolute lunatic and screamed in the face of my almost 2 year child because she was crying. Who in their right mind would behave like this unless you are deranged,” the post read.

Here’s my thoughts:

  • I don’t think a business owner should be yelling at someone else’s kid
  • After 40 minutes of screaming, I think the parents should have decided to go. Sometimes when you have a 2 year old, things don’t work out the way they’re planned
  • Yes, a kid crying and screaming is annoying
  • There’s no need to yell at the child or to slam your hands on the counter
  • If you’re going to yell at anyone, yell at the parents – not the toddler
  • If you’re a business owner, you might want to practice a little professionalism
  • Unless they’re being abusive (and you might argue that letting a child scream for 40 minutes constitutes abuse) parents should be doing the parenting. Not strangers, especially when those strangers think yelling and making threatening motions towards a child is a good thing

That’s my basic thoughts on this story. If I had to fall on one side or the other, I would say the parents were more right than the restaurant owner.

However, I do think the parents should have  taken the child outside until she’d calmed down or gone home. Everyone expects toddlers to cry, but 40 minutes is a bit excessive. I’m not sure what to make of the pancake situation. The store owner said that they ordered pancakes but put them out of reach of the child, which was the cause of her crying.

Again, that raises the question of why you’d be yelling at the child and not the parents? If that’s true, of course the child is going to cry if she’s hungry and not allowed to touch the food.

There’s my thoughts on this news story. What’s yours?

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32 Comments

  1. Score one for the proletariat…

    My wife and I have chosen not to have children, partly because we have no interest in constant loud noise that cannot be shut off. (There are other, less ass-ish reasons, but that’s one of the biggies.) Inevitably (some might call it karma), we are seated beside whichever family in a restaurant decided to vie with the Duggars for most offspring, and with the Indy 500 for greatest amount of noise pollution in the smallest amount of space. And people look at us like we’re monsters when we ask to be seated elsewhere.

    So, by all means, Darla, my dear–scream the heck away. Oh, and also–scream at the parents, too. Just because…

  2. Not to pull the old “uphill both ways in a snowstorm” routine, but when I was a kid, had I behaved that way in public, I would have left before it reached that point…probably through a window. I would then have been spanked within an inch of my life, grounded, deprived of my Sesame Street privileges, and–at least insofar as the Dept. of Family Services is concerned–“scarred for life”… :0)

  3. I’ve seen this kind of behavior, and it’s appalling. I have also seen parents who do this at outdoor events, let the kids run free throwing balls, sticks, annoying everyone–once you criticize the kid they glare at you–but the kid is finally reprimanded. It’s called Parenting by Proxy, I guess.

    The child sounds like it was being utterly ignored, and they had no idea she was hungry, or crying. Some parents do tend after awhile to tune out a crying baby.

    Anyone who wasnt there doesnt realize how frustrating that must have been. I was just amazed that the owner took it for so long–and I think I would have asked the parents to either shut the baby up or leave. And they should have done it voluntarily 37 minutes previously.

    Lets just say as to bad behavior, since the parents never tried to stop the kid from crying, they get a seven and the owner, a five, first for not asking them to leave, and second for reacting. Although I must admit taking that noise for forty minutes, that poor soul must have nerves of steel

    • Huh. So you think the parents were more to blame than the restaurant owner?

      It is frustrating. Man, is it frustrating.

      I think the store owner did try to get them to leave. I believe I read somewhere that she brought over take out containers. A bit passive aggressive there. I’m not sure why she just wouldn’t politely ask them to leave.

  4. As you pointed out, I think the solution is pretty simple. The restaurant owner should have kindly asked the parents to contain their child’s crying. The preferable action though would have been for the parents to recognise the restaurant owner’s need for order, and taken the weeping child outside at an earlier time.

    I get where the shop owner is coming from because my biggest peeve is parents who leave their children to cry in public (I don’t know if that child is okay). As terrible as it sounds, I believe that if the parents weren’t willing to quiet their child after 40 minutes, they should have left the child at home with a babysitter. It doesn’t make the shop owner’s actions more right though

    • I have a co-worker who has a boy (now a teenager) who has autism. When he was younger, she went to multiple professionals who counselled her to let him cry if he had a fit in public and to ignore him.

      She was more than a little pissed when she read this news story.

      I think sometimes we forget that there may be personal reasons for doing something that on the surface, we may not agree with.

      But yeah, I think we’re in perfect agreement on this one, CB. Thanks for the comment and point of view!

  5. I don’t think there’s a right side here–the whole thing strikes me as a symptom of all sides having gone horribly wrong. The parents were wrong, the owner was wrong, the other patrons were wrong, the boycotters are wrong, the media is wrong for picking it up, you’re wrong for continuing it, and I’m wrong for giving the whole mess more reality by commenting. The closest thing there is to “right” in any of this is the kid who was just doing what kids tend to do until they learn they aren’t the center of the universe… which would be something we’d reasonably expect its parents to teach it but, apparently, they’d abdicated and the owner snapped and we’re back to the circle of wrong.
    Or maybe I’m just cranky and need some pancakes and a nap…

  6. I do indeed, GC. The kid is their responsiblity, and you dont just turn that off in a public place, if anything the antennae should be at full extension. First time I was allowed in a restaurant I was told to whisper, and behave. I was about two or three, probably. And with my daddy, if I hadnt behaved Id have been hauled out of there over his shoulder, lol.

    The owner may have been trying to get them to leave diplomatically, and frankly anyone that ignorant about their child’s behavior shouldn’t be allowed in public. I suspect they may have been the kind of people who, if she did ask them to leave they would have caused an even bigger stink about bad treatment and she’d have been forced to let them eat for free just to soothe those hurt hurt feelings.

    perfect example time: I was in a local sit down restaurant when two older well dressed people came in, with two little boys, one about four and the other maybe five. Grammy and Grampy. The kids were subdued but fidgety. the waitress came, and Grammy ordered for them. “do you want a hot dog or a hamburger?” one for each. “Coke or Gingerale?” ditto. they had no idea what else might be hiding on the menu, and we were all happy about that.
    Dessert: “ice cream. Chocolate or Vanilla?” one flavor for each.

    And then they were gone. I wanted to applaud.

  7. Yes, I agree the only person not at fault here is the toddler, who was just doing what toddlers do. If parents are going to bring a toddler into a restaurant, they need to come equipped to make sure that the toddler is happy and entertained. And they need to be ready to have at least one parent get up and take the child out at the first sign of misbehavior. When I had toddlers, I always travelled with a bag of snacks and diversions, just in case.

    The restaurant owner should also have started with trying to divert the child. Bringing a kid-friendly snack to the table might be a good start, or some crayons if the child is old enough. The next move is to quietly ask the parents to take the child out until the tantrum has run its course. Yelling is never the right place to start, especially yelling at a child who is too small to know any better.

    Shame on all the “grown-ups” in this scenario!

  8. Situations involving parenting are always volatile. Everyone (even people without kids) has an opinion on how screaming children should be handled. Both sides overreacted, it seems. Neither really cancels out the other.

    Personally, after five minutes of crying I would have asked the parents to leave if they hadn’t been served yet. Otherwise, I would have offered to put their food in to-go containers and given them the check. I wouldn’t have let them eat for free because some people actually do bring screaming children around so they can get free food.

    • Sirius has been watching ‘Get Hard’.

      Haha. Just joking, mate.

      I think politely asking them to leave should have been the first option.

      You bring up a good point in that they’d already received their food. Do you ask them to leave but give them the free meal? I mean, pancakes don’t cost a whole heck of a lot. Personally, I’d probably have gone that route, since I wouldn’t want a publicized altercation like this happening in my establishment.

  9. Long before 40 minutes had passed, the owner should have kindly asked the parents if there was anything she could do to help. This may have motivated the parents, or it may have alerted the owner to information she was not aware of. Either way, it would have been more effective and no one would be angry.

    I have a seven year old daughter with nonverbal autism. We are fortunate in the fact that people can usually grasp our situation quickly, but for other children it may not be as obvious. In these cases it is more stressful for the parents than anyone else in the room. We rarely take our daughter to restaurants, but she likes going and needs the practice. Our most recent restaurant visit went well outside of a few random, ear-piercing screams that silenced the room. Strangers actually came up to us and commented on how well she did. Most people are understanding, but it’s nice to have confirmation. We have learned a few tricks, but sometimes things go south quickly. It is always safest to approach parents with an attitude of being helpful.

    • I think that would be a far better way to approach the situation, LaD. Good point about how circumstances may change the situation.

      “Our most recent restaurant visit went well outside of a few random, ear-piercing screams that silenced the room.”

      Reminds me of a client of mine who is deaf and blind. She sometimes screams and stomps in public, but that’s because it stimulates her. She likes the feeling of her vocal chords vibrating and the feel of the ground and the resistance it offers. When she’s yelling, it’s actually a cue that she’s happy. When she’s unhappy, she just sits still and makes no noise.

      • Yes, it is a vocal stim for our daughter. For a while it was like every 5 minutes but she doesn’t do it as often now. She’s perfectly happy while doing it.

        I can’t tell you how helpful it is when strangers offer support. It’s hard not to feel as if everyone is annoyed with you when your child is being loud, and knowing others understand is always an overwhelming relief.

        The best experience we ever had was at the Motown Museum in Detroit. We had planned on doing the tour separately but they assured us it would be alright. A fantastic tour, but a lot of standing around in confined spaces. A nightmare for our daughter. She was impatient and screaming during one of the presentations and my husband took her up to Berry Gordy’s apartment to calm her down (weird). It was very embarrassing for us because it was a small group and no one could possibly ignore the disruption.

        As the tour moved on to Studio A, the tour guide asked to speak with us. She wanted to thank us for being so considerate and to assure us that our daughter had been no trouble. Then she broke the rules and let my husband into the roped off control room (he has his own recording studio and loves that stuff). That small effort of reassurance made the experience a thousand times better. We felt welcome and were no longer worried about what people were thinking.

        I have shared this story a million times since. Best staff ever. And truly, one of the best museum tours you will find. Other businesses could learn something from the way they approach the public. See? Here I am promoting them again 🙂

  10. I’m on the side of the owner and here’s why…..

    Most people are patient with children with disabilities, we understand the occasional scream or pound or other distracting behavior, it can’t be helped. And if you see the parents are engaged with the child we applaud that kind of parenting.

    The shop owner did give hints for them to leave. She owns a business and the unruly child is causing her other paying patrons to suffer. I’m assuming a lot of people might have left or complained. The shop owner slammed her hands down and said, that’s enough! She didn’t call the child names she didn’t touch the child… She just had it, just like every other person in the place. The parents were rude and needed that lesson and needed to be humiliated. The parents can not defend their actions at all …they let a toddler scream for 40 minutes!!! What kind of people are they??!!!

    I’m a mom to 6 children. 4 are really close in age. Mine knew, even as a toddler, that behavior was not acceptable. Also, I did walk out with a child on several occasions to get them to compose themselves. My youngest is a girl, her cry was so much more ear piercing than my boys… We didn’t go out to eat for a year just because one scream made u want to shoot yourself lol.

    Being a parent requires self sacrifice, and these parents obviously have not learned that. Maybe this was the lesson they need and they may become more attentive and caring parents .

    • Thanks for your opinion, Sally.

      I still think the owner should have handled it a bit more gracefully and not yelled at the kid. If anything, I think the kid is doing what kids do. It’s the parents who should have stepped in. Yelling at the child doesn’t accomplish much in my opinion.

      Thanks again for offering your perspective!

      • lol idk, the kid did get quiet and the parents left ha ha!! And, I’m not a yeller, and I do agree most of the time it doesn’t work… But I feel for the shop owner and feel she’s being judge for snapping… we all do that from time to time. And you’re right, the parents should have stepped in, sadly they didn’t.

        • Sally, the other side of that (although I do agree with you) is that parents who have rude children (or unmanaged ones) are usually the biggest offenders when someone asks them to control their child, no matter how nicely it’s being done.

          I have a hunch they were so used to ignoring that kid they had no idea she was even crying. thats the sad part.

  11. What really scares me is the amount of judging that is going on, particularly given no one really knows what actually transpired. The stories in the news over here reported that the parent had considered going outside in the rain, but the background noise in the restaurant and lack of concern on other customers faces implied there didn’t seem to have an issue… then there was the fact that a customer had to wait 40 minutes for a meal. We’ll never know the truth, but it should be obvious that screaming at a strangers 2 year old is always the best option when you don’t have a big stick handy to give them a decent disciplinary whipping.

  12. I agree with all you said; I would have lost my temper with the parents before the kid. I glare at parents now who let their kids run around movie theaters (in movies they are way too young to go to, too). I’m just passive aggressive that way though, I don’t like confrontation.

  13. My kids are 9 and 7 so obviously we are out of the toddler stage, but I am still close enough to it to remember what it was like.

    When my kids were toddlers we didn’t go out to restaurants much. Being at a restaurant (or any enclosed public space) with most 2 year olds is hell. For the parents and for everyone around them. I don’t think we went out very much, other than kid-friendly places, until my youngest was at least 4 or 5 and could be counted on to be quiet and entertained with a color book or toys.

    The question I want to know is was the child crying continuously for 40 minutes or was the child just cranky and a little whiney? Letting the child flat-out CRY for 40 minutes in my opinion is really neglectful on the part of the parents. I would have stepped outside with my kid after 5 minutes and if we were still having problems for another 5 or 10 minutes I would have left the restaurant and decided it just wasn’t going to happen today. Maybe the kid was just tired and needed a nap?

    I think the parents were very inconsiderate of the other people in the restaurant. Every time I go out with my kids I get compliments on how well behaved my kids are. I’m not even that strict of a parent. The reason they are well behaved is because I have emphasized over and over again the need to be considerate of others. As a result they are very friendly and have great manners.

    So, yes, the parents did wrong. But the restaurant owner was totally out of line. Why in the world would she yell at the 2 year old? 2 year olds are not even old enough developmentally to be able to regulate their own emotions to “calm down.” That’s just mean. And from a business perspective it was a bad move. I don’t see anything wrong with politely and calmly asking the parents if there is any way that they could help and asking them to leave if the other customers are having a problem.

  14. I’m with you — both sides were wrong. Anyone screaming at the top of their lungs, child or otherwise, is inappropriate in a restaurant. Still, a part of me thinks of individuals with special needs. Our society is never tailored to their needs and sometimes loudness is the result of that. In general, though, excessive noise is not acceptable. The parents should have addressed the issue. If they continued to have an issue, leave. It’s part of having kids.

    As for the restaurant owner: grow up. I will never understand people that spank or slap kids to teach them that hitting is wrong. Yelling at a kid that is yelling is just as asinine. Go talk to the parents. Request that they leave if need be. Heck, she could have called the police. There were a dozen professional ways to handle the situation. Yelling at the child was among the worst things she could do.

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