I believe we are suffering from two ills here. First is the ill of the modern, entitlement-minded parent who wants to have kids, but still live the life they had before they had the kids. This is the parent who expects the child’s school to do more upbringing than they do themselves and when they do have their kid with them, won’t try to quiet them down when they’re crying, screaming, tearing up and down the movie theater aisles, etc. Nobody likes that kind of parent and in the end, it’s detrimental to the child as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, it seems that people in general are less tolerant of anything that might be remotely annoying to them. I think two factors come into play for that. The first is children are generally not in the public sphere the way they were when I was growing up. You don’t see children roaming their neighborhoods in droves, going to the park with their friends anymore, etc. Instead they are either cooped up at home because their helicopter parents think it’s unsafe for them to be outside, or they’re in day care, at school, or in some kind of organized activity (band, little league, ballet, etc.)
The other factor of the decreased tolerance for children is the advent of the Internet, the smartphone etc. These things, while quite wonderful, have spoiled us a bit. Online, we have the ability to block anyone we don’t like from contacting us, or even having to read what they post, etc. Our smartphones and MP3 players give us the ability to watch movies, listen to music and surf the Web on the go, thus allowing us to block out the world and people around us.
These factors, I believe, have led to a sort of dissociation of childfree adults from children. Thus when adults without children encounter misbehaving children in the public sphere, they are put off by the misbehavior (the running in the movie theater, the crying, the slinging food in restaurants, etc.). The douche bag parents, who can’t be bothered to actually teach their children proper behavior and etiquette only make the situation worse by ignoring the bad behavior and expecting everyone else to simply put up with it. The good parents and the kids who do know how to behave themselves become unfortunate casualties in the whole mess, painted with the same broad brush as the bad parents with the out-of-control kids.
So my conclusion is that children are more isolated from the public sphere, parents are less responsible in teaching their children good etiquette and everyone else has less tolerance for children than they used to because of the children’s greater isolation from the public sphere and reduced responsibility on the part of the parents.
All of this has of course led to the movement to further remove children from the public sphere by banning them from restaurants, stores and movie theaters after a certain hour or even altogether in some cases.
I can sympathize with those who don’t want to hear babies screaming in restaurants or young children constantly talking in movies, but at the same time, children are people and are part of society. Eventually, these children will be teenagers and then adults. If they are isolated from society for their supposed protection and to keep from offending the sensibilities of those who dislike children, how are they supposed to learn to function in a world that was hostile to them from the beginning?