Are Utah Children Too Unruly?

Published November 4, 1982. Utah is rapidly becoming known for many things: magnificent ski resorts, beautiful mountains, the Great Salt Lake, Temple Square, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and generally friendly people. But if we are not careful, we may gain a reputation for something we do not want: unruly children in public places.

Last summer Susan and I took our children to Disneyland in California. There were numerous people from a variety of countries and cultures around the world. While we were standing in a line for one of the rides, we heard a small child screaming further up the line. The child was not just crying. He was screaming about as loud as he could, much to the delight of his younger brothers and sisters nearby. People near us were all looking ahead to see the source of the commotions. All were questioning in their native languages – Chinese, French, etc. – what was ailing the child.

We finally were able to see the screaming child, other children, and parents all creating a minor scene. And would you believe the family was from Utah? Don’t ask me how I knew. I just knew. But the mother and father did not seem to mind the attention they all were receiving. In some ways, they seemed to actually enjoy it.

Don’t misjudge me. Our six children have not always acted like little angels in public either. But Susan and I do not enjoy it when they do. We have tried to develop a sensitivity for others and remove our children, and ourselves when necessary, from public places when they or we begin to disturb others.

Eve Bean from Layton, Utah is also concerned. Not long ago she wrote:

“Dear Dr. Barlow: I have been concerned about the lack of discipline that some children exhibit at public functions. We recently attended a wedding reception, and some young children were there who were allowed to run wild. Wedding receptions are wonderful places for friends and relatives to gather. But for small children to attend and not have any control of their conduct is another matter. One child was running in and out of the reception line and feeling it was cute to hide behind the group. Other small children were running around the reception hall.

“I sometimes question the advisability of taking small children to social functions that are meant mainly for adults. Surely parents can afford a baby sitter for those few minutes or even hours they are away. But perhaps the problem is more deeply rooted.

“I think back over the many years that we have attended church dinners and have had to sit through the dinners, and then the entertainment afterwards, that were punctuated by the noise and disturbance of young, undisciplined children. It is as if the parents feel that they and their children can just relax at the expense of others. Maybe the children aren’t even disciplined at home.

“We have had a large family and have not allowed our children to run loose at public functions. I know many other concerned parents who have done the same. Why should public events be spoiled for some by others?

Some parents may think their little children are so cute that everyone else will have to put up with their childish antics. I wonder how many other adults are concerned with this problem?
(Signed Eve Bean)

Eve has a point that we need to consider. Is the public behavior of children in our state something that needs immediate attention?

Are we advocating that we go back to the days when children should be seen and not heard? Not necessarily. But there are obviously social situations where they should be both seen and heard less. And then there may be some occasions when they shouldn’t even be seen. “Adults Only” need not be dirty words.

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