Child-Free Zones Are Becoming Popular

The child-free initiative is spreading all over the globe. Are we becoming too intolerant, or are parents becoming too incompetent?
Jason Snyman
For people who aren’t a fan of screaming, slobbering, crying children – your dreams are slowly coming true. Many people feel there’s nothing worse than having an undisciplined child jumping around in the business class section of an airplane or running around a fancy restaurant or throwing a tantrum in a bank queue. Seats get kicked, things get broken, heads get bumped, and wailing ensues. This could all become a thing of the past, as more and more places are becoming child free zones. Some parents are, naturally, outraged. It has been suggested that we, as a society, just don’t value children anymore. Some have even called the movement ‘baby apartheid.’ They say that childless people are simply intolerant, and parents have tried to boycott various companies and establishments who participate in the ban. Could it be, though, that other people just don’t find your child as precious and endearing as you do? Could it be that perhaps, by bringing children to places which aren’t, by nature, child-friendly, we’re being just a little bit selfish? But, as always, there are two sides to the story.
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Premium ‘Quiet Zones’ are taking off. More and more airlines around the world have started to ban children under a certain age from designated areas in the airplane. This practice is nothing new, but the initiative is expanding.   These airlines include India’s budget airline, IndiGo, as well as Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines and Scoot. These zones have been created specifically for people flying business or first class, who prefer rest and require a quiet environment to work. That might sound pretty great, particularly for those long, boring flights. But, they come at a price. The big question here is, would you be prepared to pay extra for a child free seat? In contrast, China Airlines and Air New Zealand have family couch zones, where seats convert into contained areas for children. Some parents that are travelling with small children will even hand out goody bags containing ear plugs, snacks and a note apologising in advance for what a monster their child is.  

Children Are Forbidden

Last year, Blandford Manor in Randburg, Johannesburg, banned all children under the age of 15 from their premises. Blandford Manor is a country estate venue for conferences, events and private functions – but they also have a public restaurant. Their 10 acre gardens are internationally registered as botanical gardens. Blandford Manor stated that badly behaved, unsupervised children not only destroyed these gardens and damaged the property but also terrorised and killed some of the animals. The two main reasons for this decision were risk to the owners and the interference with the tranquillity that other guests sought in their visit. Children are told to ‘go play’ by their parents, and then run amok and even peep at guests in the spa. In some other restaurants, owners fed up with constantly replacing crockery or complaints about that child riding his scooter around between the tables, also implemented the ban. Independent boutique holiday website, iEscape, offers high-demand child-free holidays. They have a collection of almost 200 quiet retreats which don’t allow children. The implementation of these rules has been met with mixed criticism. Some, fellow parents included, have praised the decision while others have taken offence to it. Something else to take into account; what about adults with learning difficulties, who may be just as loud and bored as a toddler? Will we ask them to leave the restaurant as well?
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Surely, the banning of children from church is a step too far. But that’s exactly what the Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church of Jacksonville in the US did back in 2012. Turns out, though, the reason for this ban was because their pastor, Darrell Gilyard, was a convicted paedophile. Gilyard spent time in prison after pleading guilty to molesting a teenage girl and sending lewd messages to another. Under the terms of his probation, Gilyard was prohibited from contact with children, and so, the church opted to ban the children instead of getting a non-paedophile pastor.  

Child-Free Zones

Parenthood was once revered as a saintly calling. But because many parents are failing so spectacularly at raising well-behaved children, the tide has started to turn. This creates a huge problem for parents whose children are well-disciplined. The idea of segregated public spaces is, of course, absolutely abhorrent. Yet, different environments no doubt need to be age appropriate. No parent should be taking their children to bars, pubs, clubs or festivals. But what about family outings? What about travel in confined spaces, via airplane or train? What about the cinema, or a restaurant to celebrate your grandmother’s 80th birthday? How about weddings or funerals or supermarkets, or anything parents with young children can’t avoid? You don’t want an unruly child screaming all the way through a touching eulogy or climbing all over tables full of champagne flutes. What are you going to do when your child is smacking all the items off the shelves? Some places just, simply, aren’t family-orientated. It could be suggested that if children can’t behave, the parents should hire a baby sitter – or take them somewhere child friendly with lots of activities and padded corners. Plastic cups with lids on them. Certain supermarkets, for example, have offered free childcare to parents while they shop. This could be the ultimate solution – one which appeases the supporters of the kids-free movement and struggling parents alike. Of course, these bans basically ‘pre-judge’ people on their parenting skills, but if people parented their children properly, there wouldn’t be a need for these public bans in the first place. It’s a vicious circle. So, in essence, these bans are not about keeping the children out. They’re not as critical of children themselves as they are of parents who can’t be effective parents. Who could possibly be against that?
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