DEAR ABBY: I am a performer who makes most of her living as a children's entertainer. Along the way I have also paid some dues as a waitress. I would like to offer some advice to the restaurant owner who has occasional problems with adults who fail to control their children and who then become offended when they are asked to do so.
My experience is that all customers, adults as well as children, respond best to an idea when it is presented as a benefit to them. When children nag me for a balloon animal before it is their turn to receive one, I often explain: "You know, I can't remember things very well, and if you tell me what you want now, you'll have to tell me over and over again because I'm so forgetful. But if you wait until it's your turn to get a balloon, then you'll need to tell me only once!"
It's hilarious, but it works. The children calm right down, and I'm able to make everyone a balloon animal in an enjoyable setting.
Something else I have observed is that it's important to establish the rules of proper behavior up front, and then stick to your rules. The restaurant owner should post a sign near the entrance that says something like this: "We love your children and they are welcome in our establishment. For their safety and the comfort of other patrons, we ask that they remain in their seats throughout your visit, unless accompanied by an adult."
If the parents don't respond positively to this very thoughtful reminder and do nothing to control their children, then they should be asked to leave -- because they are not worth the irritation to your good customers, or the possible lawsuits should their children be injured. In my business, I have found it's never a mistake to make and enforce a rule that makes things pleasant for the majority and allows me to do my best work. -- THE GOOD FAIRY ELFREDA, NASHVILLE, TENN.
DEAR ELFREDA: There's plenty of food for thought in your letter. Small children have short attention spans and often become restless and irritable when required to sit still in adult company for long periods of time. The wise parent plans ahead for this by bringing along a coloring book or favorite toy so the child won't be bored during long spans of adult conversation.