opinion pubs

“Kids running round screaming”

There’s a long-running graffiti debate on a cubicle wall in the toilets at the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, East London — some day, I’ll transcribe the whole thing.

One comment blames the pub’s “downfall” from an apparent heyday in the 1980s on “bearded CAMRA members”, which has prompted someone else to reply:

“No, not the CAMRA c***s — the f*****g child-friendly c***s.”

That’s just one bit of evidence of how angry the subject of children makes some people. Angry in an English way, that is. No-one says anything or complains — they just sit rolling their eyes and tutting. In Britain, there really does seem still to be a belief that kids should be “seen and not heard”, hence the ultimate passive-aggressive sign, popular in pubs a few years ago:

Quiet children welcome.”

Let’s translate that:

“Children who behave like children not really welcome.”

Why should kids have to stay at home? Or, worse, sit on the step outside with a Panda Pop waiting for their parents to emerge? Or, worse again, sit in the pub in absolute silence, bored to death, in case they annoy a nearby curmudgeon and embarrass their parents? I don’t have kids of my own, but I don’t find it hard just to ignore them. I just concentrate on having a nice time with my friends, engage in a conversation, read a book, or whatever, and soon forget they’re there.

Sometimes, it’s even nice to have them around — like in the Pembury, in fact, which can be a little sterile otherwise.

7 replies on ““Kids running round screaming””

Nope, sorry. I agree with all your peripheral points (speaking as a sometime former occupant of the front step), but I still come to the conclusion that a) children don’t belong in the pub, but more importantly b) adults don’t belong in the pub if they have children with them. Like parachuting or catching the latest offering from Kyrgyzstani arthouse cinema, it’s one of those situations where responsible grown-ups should be making other arrangements for the little ones.

I want to be happy with kids in pubs but sometimes you’re reminded why it’s problematic. When in Prague this weekend our visit to one brewpub was completely ruined by a couple of kids who were playing some kind of game that involved shouting. The mother was encouraging them.

A while back, Alan, from A Good Beer Blog, had a post about kids and the pub (, and to avoid thinking and recomposing what I said then, here’s what I think/thought on the topic:

“I think it’s important for parents to take their kids to the pub. They need to train them to behave there (and everywhere). Parents need to de-taboo things like alcohol and bars. They need to model responsible behavior or they can expect exceedingly irresponsible behavior down the road. Akin to potty training, a little effort now saves us from wiping a teenager’s butt in the future. It’s frustrating that more parents don’t do their job. There are many issues as important as potty training. It impacts us all. I don’t mind a little noise in a bar, but I do mind it in line at the grocery store.

As you might expect, I take my two boys to the pub. I’d rather teach my kids about things like this than leave it to teachers, peers and other knobs within the community. I need to serve as a ballast for skewed views. As for the bar, we’re more likely to show up in the afternoon after a hike, or for lunch, so belching, swearing, excessive smoke and adults acting like children aren’t such issues. But if they are, I view it as a teaching opportunity.

Like Alan, I view beer as, if not a part of my family, part of what makes my family what it is.

I appreciate very much one family dinner long ago when my Gramps offered me a glass of wine. I didn’t much care for it. But I later learned that I did much care for beer. And I care so much that I’m going to teach my kids about it (because I also care so much for them).”



Bad parents who encourage bad behaviour aside, kids belong in the pubs. Since the smoking ban came to our city my wife and I take our daughter to the neigborhood bar with us. She is precocious and well behaved precisely because we take her with us. Children have to learn proper behaviour at the proper time in the proper place. They don’t caterwaul in a library, or a restaurant, why should they carry on like that in a pub?

I should add I was often taken to pubs as a kid. My dad was a folk singer back in the 80s (very successful in the North of England and Scotland, in fact) and when the big festivals were on he always took me and I’d sit in the pub during the fringe sessions. He’d usually just buy me a toy of some kind (an Action Force figure was valid currency, I think they were called GI Joe in America) and I’d sit guarding his beer and talking to people. I was never any bother. I didn’t want to queer my pitch for later in life, you see.

One of the things I love the most about Spain is the friendly attitude towards children. I love seeing families out with their friends and their kids – unlike England, having a child does not mark then end of your social life.

And I agree that the more you tolerate children, the less “badly behaved” they are. Not to go all Dr Tanya Byron or anything, but kids mess around to get attention. If you give them attention (i.e. by making them part of the event, part of the group) then they behave like adults.

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