Kids behaving badly: Tips for handling unruly kids at your hotel
Kids and summer go together like bees and honey, but hotel stays with children aren’t always as sweet as they sound.
Hotel staff are often confronted with child guests who are misbehaving, unruly and even posing safety risks to themselves and others. Handling such situations takes a cool head and an appreciation for the hospitality field – as it is service-oriented. That said, there are boundaries and lines that should be drawn when kids’ behavior gets out of control. Read on for expert advice on how to react when guests’ kids drive you crazy!
“Just because kids are accompanied by adults, they are still guests, which is important to remember,” says Donna Quadri-Felitti, Ph.D, Marvin Ashner director and associate professor at the School of Hospitality Management, College of Health and Human Development for The Pennsylvania State University.
“When there’s an issue, you address the parent, rather than the child, unless there is immediate danger to the child,” says Dr. Quadri-Felitti. “Hotel associates are not baby-sitters, but partners of parents. It’s a lot easier if you take this approach.”
If no adults are available, “Then talking to the kids directly is appreciated by other guests," says Michael Oshins, Ed.D., MPS, associate professor of the practice for Boston University School of Hospitality Administration. “It’s important to treat kids with respect. Perhaps they were not aware of the rules, or provide a new perspective of the other guests who came for the serenity of the property.”
Adopting a bit of empathy can also be helpful.
“When a child is away from home, eating different foods – having compassion for young travelers is really important. These young people will have these memories of experiences with your brand and property that will last a long time. The paramount aspect is that their experience is good. Trying to insert your parenting techniques is not a wise strategy,” says Dr. Quadri-Felitti.
Assessing a circumstance is critical, says Dr. Quadri-Felitti. For example, if a child is messing up a hotel buffet, “You have to enlist the parents’ help. Ask a parent to come and hear what you are saying to a youngster in person,” she says and refrain from confronting in an aggressive, angry, physical manner. “Treat them as you would other guests.”
If you can’t locate a child’s parents, or there is imminent danger, like loud, rowdiness by the pool, “Make sure you are following proper protocol and engage other people, such as a security officer or other on-property staff to support you,” says Dr. Quadri-Felitti.
If there is imminent danger, like horseplay by the pool, “If you can reach out to the manager on shift to track down the parents, do so, as lifeguards on duty can’t,” says Suzanne Bagnera, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration.
Warning parents in a friendly tone is recommended as well.
“Tell them that you appreciate their business and would like to see them stay at the property, but to take responsibility for their children. If further instructions are necessary, you will have to invite them to leave the hotel and cancel their stay. I’ve had to do that,” says Dr. Bagnera.
There is an increasingly common reason Dr. Bagnera says parents may be removed from their children’s disruptive behavior at a hotel.
“Another frustrating thing I’ve seen is how parents have their own addiction to their tech devices and don’t pay attention to their kids,” she says.
When weighing the option to let a guest go, “It can be easier to cancel a stay and not charge guests, than to keep unruly guests on property. Hopefully, there is a level-minded manager making this decision,” says Dr. Bagnera.
One constructive tip for those working the front desk or check in, says Dr. Bagnera, is “I’ve seen family-friendly hotels present welcome gifts with books, puzzles and games for kids, to occupy them so they don’t run around the lobby.”