Tots on a Plane

I think that flying is meant to be uncomfortable by design. You cram 150+ strangers into a metal tube with recirculated air and barely enough room to shift in your seat, hoping that nothing goes wrong at you soar through the air at 550+ miles an hour. (It doesn't help when you forget to charge the DVD player the night before and have no other entertainment options planned for the trip.) The only thing that makes it worse is screaming children, an unfortunate condition that occurred on my most recent flight from Salt Lake to Atlanta.

Now this is an area where I have some mixed feelings. On the one hand, parents can't very well slip their kids some sleeping pills, tie them to the seat and call it good and there's a limited amount then can do when little Johnny decides to give his lungs an Olympic workout. You don't know if their kids are normally really good and today is just a bad day. On the other hand… I still have an instant teeth-gritting reaction to temper tantrums in such close proximity for extended periods. Some part of me always thinks "why didn't you train your kids to NOT be total brats for hours on end before getting them on a plane?" Fair? No, but I'm sure most of you have that instant reaction whether you like it or not.

This particular brother/sister pair decided that they needed to fight most of the way there which usually resulted in the parents trying to give them the stink-eye to hush them up. As we got off the plane after three long hours, I recognized them from earlier in the security line back at Salt Lake. The little boy had thrown a literal kicking-and-screaming temper tantrum in the security line because he wasn't allowed to hold his backpack while they went through. Far be it from a not-quite-yet-a-parent to know how to raise children, but seriously? Kids don't turn out that way overnight.

Maybe I should just remember to charge the DVD player.

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12 Responses

  1. “On the one hand, parents can’t very well slip their kids some sleeping pills, tie them to the seat and call it good…”

    Why not, exactly?

  2. Jesse says:

    I’m pretty sure they’d take you to jail for that.

    And seriously? A comment in 3 minutes? Stalker!

  3. Well, maybe for tying the kids to the seat, but I’m pretty sure they can’t take you to jail for giving kids Nyquil.

    I’ve done extensive research in preparation for my own kids.

    Also, don’t think of me as a stalker. Think of me as a disembodied hand.

  4. bestsariah says:

    If they can’t take you to jail for drugging your kids for convenience, they at least SHOULD be allowed to take you to jail for drugging your kids. There are better ways to make your kids behave, like…teaching them how to behave. Yeah. That.

  5. Brad Molen says:

    Agreed. Children begin learning how to behave at a very very early age. It’s not like you can wave a magic wand when they’re 4, say “kids, behave” and they magically start doing so. Yet that’s what a lot of parents think is their only option.

    Frankly I get concerned every time I think about stuff like that. I am so afraid I will end up being one of those parents, and I will do everything in my power to not become so.

  6. Shauna says:

    Now, I’ve got no experience yet to back this up, but I have been thinking about this a lot and I think I know how to NOT become one of “those parents”. You have to make sure (somehow… I haven’t figured out the HOW part yet) that you don’t become deaf to your children’s screaming and whining and general annoying behavior. And when you’re in public? You basically need to assume that EVERYONE around you is annoyed by your child and it is your job to minimize the annoyance. I mean, as annoyed as I’m sure those parents were that their children were misbehaving, they need to remember that the whole rest of the plane doesn’t even love their children. That makes everything they do ONE THOUSAND TIMES more annoying.

  7. Kristi says:

    This is tough. Because part of me wants to lash out at all the parents I think suck (stop giving in to your kids and discipline them immediately!!) and the other part feels defensive, because I’ve had those moments. And I have really well behaved kids. But sometimes I plan really well and still don’t make it to the grocery store before nap/lunch time and have to try and placate screaming kids without reinforcing bad behavior (spoiled kids are the worst!).
    More often than not though, my screaming kids are the result of my poor planning and I freely acknowledge that. I would guess that’s the case with the airplane ride.

  8. numberless says:

    I think your gripes are legitimate despite not having kids. Did you act like that as a kid? Despite not having kids of my own, I know I didn’t act like that and there were two reasons. The first one was what I fondly refer to as the “dread gaze.”

    Nap, snack, whatever… the only kind of planning necessary to make children behave is the dread gaze. That was the only planning necessary for silence on the part of my siblings and me. The only one of the four of us that didn’t react immediately was my little brother. Every couple of months he seemed to forget what the dread gaze meant coming from either of my parents:

    Dad: You were going to get hauled into the nearest bathroom to get belted.

    Mom: You were going to get smacked right then and there… and then when she reported to dad, you were going to get belted.

    Tired? Cranky? Fine. Pout *silently.* Failure to comply just flat out equals getting belted. (And I gotta say, the belt really didn’t hurt that bad. The noise it made and the dramatic lead up was the scariest part.) Short of being injured or sick (or some other circumstance you can’t control), you better never even consider throwing a fit.

    Needless to say, once the consequences of the dread gaze were taken to fruition once or twice, that was it. Like I said, my little brother—who, throughout his entire life insists on learning everything the hard way—was the only one who dared tread further ever. And that was a rarity in and of itself.

    The second component is that modern parents think that acting on some kind of equal/friend basis with their little kids is a good idea. Well, let me tell you, it’s not. You don’t negotiate with your small children and you do not let them forget who is in charge and who makes the rules. I know this sounds a little iron fisted, but it’s really not. One of the first things it does—this is, of course, presuming you’re not some insane abusive bastard—is establish your position as a parent and as such, your child wants your respect because it’s natural in the human social dynamic. If you can’t stand up to your own child, how can that child view you as strong or as a protector?

    It’s just like a good male/female relationship. Women tend to respect guys that can make a decision and be assertive since, biologically, that’s your role. Ever met a girl who really respected her mealy mouth boyfriend? I haven’t. And let me emphasize, there’s a huge bridge between being assertive and, in the case of children, in charge and being an abusive tyrant. Belting a kid for throwing a tantrum in the store is fine. Beating him is not.

    Respect should really be the lasting solution. You want the dread gaze to give way to this one to the point where it never has to be used.

    Once your child respects you and understands his/her position in the relationship, *then* you can work on being “friends.” Friendship has to be earned though, and after that you can begin negotiating. You’re not always going to be right as a parent. If you’re not a moron though, you’re usually going to be right. There’s a reason your parents seem to get smarter as you get older! Still, as I grew up, when I got to be a little older (8 – 10) my parents encouraged me to talk to them when I didn’t agree or didn’t understand a rule and to speak up if I felt they were being arbitrary or out of line. This worked, later in the relationship, because the confines of said relationship had been clearly established when was little.

    As children age, hand them more freedom. Reward those who use it responsibility and those who don’t, well… I guess if you want to act like a 4-year-old, you’re gonna get treated like one.

    One more time, let me repeat, being in charge, assertive and willing to be a disciplinarian does not mean you have to be an abusive monster. There’s plenty of middle ground. Honestly, I can count the number of times I was belted growing up on my fingers (and I don’t even use all of them). I knew my parents loved me and I had absolute respect for them. As such, their disappointment was worse than the belt and that’s because my position was clearly established really early on. Be loving and be understanding because you should be. However, don’t confuse love and kindness with being a wuss. Don’t confuse it to mean you *have* to negotiate or compromise with them. Children depend on you as a parent for shelter, food, protection, etc. They’re hardly in a position to use whining and screaming as a bartering chip and if you let them, they will.

    One of the worst forms of child abuse out there is a lack of discipline. Just think of what those screamers are going to be like when they get older. And worse, wait until one of the little bastards enters the adult world and tries to deal with someone like me the way he dealt with his parents. Like my ex-girlfriend’s buddy Thomas learned, the dread gaze works just as well on adults.

    As an addendum: be creative! Punishing your children can be fun and rewarding. I remember two specific punishments I had as a child that, while dreadful at the time, were effective and I laugh at them now:

    Mom’s idea: When I was younger I hated cleaning. (Okay, I hate cleaning. I did then and I do now.) I don’t remember specifically what lead up to it, but we’d been brats and refused to clean up and rather than get whacked my mom came up with something much, much better. She said, “Fine, if you don’t want to treat me like your mom, you lose the right to call me mom. For the next week, you have to call me Mrs. [Last Name].” That was horrible.

    Dad’s idea: So, my younger brother and I were caught playing with matches in the back yard. My dad has us come stand in the kitchen and then tells us to go get our favorite blankets and stuffed animals from our rooms. He then goes into the garage and gets his blowtorch and lights it up. Needless to say, we’re pleading and crying because he’s telling us he’s gonna torch this stuff. He didn’t though and went on to explain, “See how sad you’d be if this stuff got burned up? Imagine how I’d feel if you guys burned up. Don’t play with fire.” Again, effective. So effective in fact my grandmother, who was present, said to my dad, “I’m never going to play with fire again!”

  9. Bill says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Good biblical quote and it applies whether or not your religious or not.
    Like the post above, I was raised exactly the same, and turned out pretty much ok. I not only don’t “hate” my parents, (quite the oppposite), but rather am appreciative for the guidance it gave me in my maturing.
    My father had the same “look” and was supported by my mother, and never was there allowed any negotiation between parents. In fact, trying to influence one against the other brought terrible
    Lack of firm discipline is most certaintly one of the contributing factors in the current trend of ill behaved children and lack of overall manners in todays population. Rarely do you see anyone holding doors for other people (and yes for women as well), or apologizing for bumping each other, or any common courtesies.
    I also resent the fact that parenting properly is being interfered with by the state. (Referencing incidents of non-abusive spanking or disciplining where a child “reports” the parent resulting in an authority punishes the parent instead.) All this and YOU are responsible for your childs behavior too! So take away the tools, punish the parents twice. Yeah that makes sense.
    *Steps off soapbox*

  10. Emily C says:

    For those non-parents out there, remember that Benadryl, 40% of the time, results in a HYPERACTIVE CHILD, not a sleepy one.

    So test it before you get on the plane, PLEASE!!!

  11. Bill Fox says:

    One thing has improved. My early days of flying were on airlines that allowed smoking on the plane that could make you more uncomfortable than any screaming brat could do. It was so stupid. They had a smoking section and a non smoking section all the while using recirculated air. It also didn’t help when your seat assignment was 15E and the smoking section started in row 16. BTW nothing has changed in 35 years on the screaming kid front. Some can be pushed aside as just the kid having ear problems as a result of takeoff and landing. Other screaming is just a parent attitude problem. I find the same attitude in Church out of some parents. The kids are screaming away and you look over at the parents and they have an angelic, I don’t have a care in the world look on there face, while I’m ready to pick the kid up myself and take him or her out. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago while going to church in Fort Brag. During the Sacrament, there was one kid screaming in the pew right in front of me and another screaming in the pew in back of me. All the while the one in back had an older brother who was constantly kicking the back of my wooden seat

    Even good people obviously don’t have a clue!!!!

  12. Shannon says:

    I cringe when kids are freaking out on the plane. And at the same time I try to ignore it because you just never know if it’s a generally rotten kid or not.
    Because of my own experience I tend to believe that a childs traveling attitude is not necessarily a reflection of their general attitude. My son Tryston, 13, give him a dvd or an Ipod and he is good to go. Ricardo, 2, travels like a dream even without a dvd. However Santiago, 1, has been a nightmare traveler from birth. If we drive across town as soon as you hit about an hour in the car he starts letting out a high pitched scream. It does not matter if he has a dvd, toys, anything. I think he just can not stand to be still. Even as a baby he would NOT go in any type of bouncy chair or swing. Nothing. So, that leads me to believe that sometimes parenting has nothing to do with it, because we beat all of our children and that one still should not ever be allowed on a plane.

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