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Help a Mom: How to respond when adults use foul language around kids

Posted October 1, 2013

I received this email from a local mom this week after a nice evening went downhill thanks to some women who couldn't keep their language family-friendly at a local family restaurant.

Here's what this mom wrote: 

My husband, eight-year-old son and I went out to dinner at a local family restaurant Friday night. The group of females behind us were being extremely loud and were using very foul language. After enduring this for a few minutes, my husband politely went over to their table and asked them to please tone down the conversation and reminded them that our child was with us. He was by no means rude in his request to them. However, as we continued to eat they continued their loud conversation and then turned it into "why" we were bothered by such language and the fact that my child wouldn't care about it some day.

As we explained to our son in the car as we left, it was not about the fact that they were using foul language, it was about the fact that they were showing disrespect for the people around them in doing so. So, with this said, I'd like to hear from other moms about how they would have handled the situation. Would they have also asked the group to tone down the conversation (it was after all a FAMILY restaurant)? We teach our son that this language is not acceptable and explain that there will be others who say these things in public. We also teach him that using this type of language shows disrespect for oneself and for others if used in public.

I have to say, hats off to this dad for attempting to solve the problem and kudos to the parents for explaining to their son why what the women were doing in public was so disrespectful and thoughtless.

I've been in similar situations though not right next to a group such as this for an entire meal. It usually happens walking by somebody in a store or, once, waiting in line to buy something and overhearing a short and angry phone conversation. My husband and I've been known to mutter "earmuffs" under our breath - a reference to the Vince Vaughan character in "Old School." His character has trained his kids to cover his ears when curse words are about to fly.

That scene cracks me up, but it hardly solves a problem like this.

In this situation, I think the family did the right thing. They attempted to address the issue and then talked to their son about why what happened is wrong. The only other thing they could have done, perhaps, is talk to the restaurant manager to either have the women change their table or move to another table themselves.

You can't change or control other people's behavior no matter how nicely you ask.

Please share your experience in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").

Help a Mom features questions from readers every Wednesday. If you have a question that you'd like to ask Go Ask Mom readers, click here to email it to me.







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  • hsiflee Oct 3, 2013

    grandmaof9...Grandma...shouldn't u be taking care of you 9 grand chillins instead of tolling the chat lines? Isn't gramps taking care of your needs?...Back at ya granny

  • snowl Oct 3, 2013

    I'd ask the manager to move us to another table and explain why. I have done this before because of children who cry and carry on in restaurants also, so it's not just the adults.

  • asdfg Oct 2, 2013

    I've always tried to teach my child that just because you have the right to do something, doesn't mean you should. And along with the freedoms we have in this country comes responsibility to be respectful of others.

    If someone in a restaurant was bothering or offending me, I'd either switch tables, or find a manager to inform and let them deal with. Trying to speak with someone who is obviously inconsiderate and disrespectful could likely escalate the situation. After leaving the restaurant, I would just mention how the behavior was disrespectful and kept others from enjoying their meals.

    The examples set by the primary caregivers in children's lives will have a much bigger affect on them than some strangers in a restaurant or store.

  • dancingdesserts Oct 2, 2013

    It's a shame people can't keep their potty mouths out of family restaurants. If they want to be loud and use foul language can't they do that at home. I'm an adult and I wouldn't care to hear it, much less my child. Some people have no respect.

  • carelesswhisper Oct 2, 2013

    scott4373, please tell me that he used "pansies". If it's something else he doesn't need to be coaching kids.

  • scott4373 Oct 2, 2013

    I had a similar situation at a youth football game last weekend . My 2 daughters , 13 & 12 were working the sidelines with the down markers and the coach for the opposing team was yelling at his 10 & under players telling them they played like a bunch of P's , ( you get what I mean ) . I confronted the coach and he apologized to me but I thought it showed a total lack of respect for the kids . I then had to talk to my girls and explain we don't talk that way .Some people have no respect for for anyone even themselves.

  • carelesswhisper Oct 2, 2013

    Well said momma6. In this day and age it's not a good idea to "confront" strangers. People are crazy. If the restaraunt couldn't find me another table then I would have left. My kid knows that certain words are bad and should not be repeated.

  • marimom Oct 2, 2013

    I would have just asked to be moved to another table far from them. Let the manager at the restaurant handle them. If there are not any tables then just leave and let the manager know why you are leaving.

  • Yourekiddingme Oct 2, 2013

    As a parent, it is our job to take real life situations and teach our children with them. It is also our responsibility to teach our children that everyone has different values and we cannot dictate how other people feel or react.
    The person who originally brought this issue up seems to be self-centered to me and is looking for justification for being a bully in public.

  • faeriegurl65 Oct 2, 2013

    "Too bad the child wasn't smaller and the mother could have made her kid cry as loud as the poor thing could and see if that bothered them!" - Your exact words

    And it's called the first amendment.. read it