Submit your own Neatorama post and vote for others' posts to earn NeatoPoints that you can redeem for T-shirts, hoodies and more over at the NeatoShop!

Flying with Cranky Kids: What Would You Do?

Last month, Pamela Root and her son Adam got kicked off a Southwest flight when the 2-year-old toddler got unruly during a pre-flight safety instruction. Later, Southwest apologizes and gave her vouchers for her inconvenience (though not for the decision to yank her off the flight).

Amy Alkon of Advice Goddess Columns disagrees with Southwest's apology. She wrote this op-ed at the Los Angeles Times on how parents with unruly kids are "stealing from the rest of us":

There is a notion, reflected in numerous blog comments about the incident, that other passengers should "just deal" and "give a kid a break." This notion is wrong. Parents like Root and others who selfishly force the rest of us to pay the cost of their choices in life aren't just bothering us; they're stealing from us. Most people don't see it this way, because what they're stealing isn't a thing we can grab on to, like a wallet. They're stealing our attention, our time and our peace of mind.

More and more, we're all victims of these many small muggings every day. Our perp doesn't wear a ski mask or carry a gun; he wears Dockers and shouts into his iPhone in the line behind us at Starbucks, streaming his dull life into our brains, never considering for a moment whether our attention belongs to him. These little acts of social thuggery are inconsequential in and of themselves, but they add up -- wearing away at our patience and good nature and making our daily lives feel like one big wrestling smackdown. [...]

I know, I know -- because I am not a parent I cannot possibly understand how hard it is to keep a child from acting out. Actually, that probably has more to do with the way I was raised -- by parents I describe as loving fascists. As a child, I was convinced that I could flap my arms and fly, but the idea that I could ever be loud in a public place that wasn't a playground simply did not exist for me.

I hear claims that some children are prone to tantrums no matter how exquisitely they are parented. If this describes your child, there's a solution, and it isn't plopping him in a crowded metal tube with hundreds of people who can't escape his screams except by throwing themselves to their deaths at 30,000 feet.

What do you think? Was Amy right? Link

(Photo: Karen T. Borchers / Mercury News)

Certainly she is right. These parents are unable to control their children because they don't really want to be anything but the child's friend. The rest of us suffer. In restaurants, stores, and planes, my children bother no one because we taught them to respect others and themselves. No threats necessary on my part.

AS for the brats that infest our lives, I never hesitate to confront the parents, or complain to the manager (or whoever is supposedly in charge). Hand out vouchers to some miserable loser of a parent? No way! Give vouchers to the rest of us for the abuse we suffered.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Once again, the experts on parenting are the ones without kids. Bottom line, if you choose to fly, you're choosing to take your chances with your fellow passengers and whatever annoying behaviors they may have.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Hide yourself from the world. Live in fear of being inconvenienced by your neighbors. View the next generation with hostility and suspicion. Live and die alone, and you will never have the peace of your days troubled by others.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
People who demand better, receive better. Most people are too craven to speak up, either through low self-esteem, or for fear of appearing intolerant, unhip, uncool. I don't strut about feeling entitled, but some of us expect at least a minimum amount of common courtesy from others, and a certain level of service when we are paying for something. Why can my children sit quietly in a plane, and others cannot? It is how they are raised. Some people still--as hard as it may be to believe--actually raise their children to grow up as decent, courteous, respectful adults. And these miserable excuses for parents and their brats are rewarded, in the above case, with vouchers?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I agree that parents need to be able to keep their kids quiet, but it is age specific.

Kids 2 and under are going to do what they are going to do. Anyone who says otherwise has no experience parenting.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
News flash: there's currently no other way to get across the Atlantic in anything short of 2 days than by flying. Even within the United States, some people have to fly. Are we going to stand at the gates into the airplane and ask each parent of a small children "now do you REALLY need to fly? REEEEALLLY? Are you SURE you can't drive?" If you think that's a good idea, call up American Airlines and ask if they'll hire you to do that job.

The fact is, no mother wants their child to yell on an airplane. No really, we don't! Shocking, I know. In fact, I had to fly with a child across the Atlantic, and at the conclusion of the trip I realized something: Forced airline travel with small children should be on the list of acceptable interrogation treatments given to terrorists. After 15 hours of little Bobby screaming in their ears, they'll willingly give up the location of the Rebel Base!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"People who demand better, receive better. Most people are too craven to speak up, either through low self-esteem, or for fear of appearing intolerant, unhip, uncool."

That's curious - anyone who doesn't complain is venal and pathetic?

Maybe they just don't get bothered as easily as you do.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Sure parents these days can't control their kids. This is awful.

However I don't ever recall airlines claiming their flights will be free of annoying children or other annoyances. If you don't want to be annoyed you probably shouldn't consider air travel.

Having said that, airlines always have the option of throwing passengers off the plane for any reason (aside from race, creed, etc). They have every right to this woman and her child from the plane for being disruptive. The airline does not guarantee everyone the right to fly.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I'm not sure what's worse... people with zero social manners or people with an overinflated sense of entitlement like this author. Two year old children are exempt from both but my reaction, were I to be on the aircraft, would be directly proportional to how hungover I might be at the time.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Until Alkon can say she has been in a similar situation as the parent in question (with a small child throwing a tantrum) and has been able to control the child, I can't take her seriously.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Kids are going to scream, especially kids 3 years or younger. It's a fact of life.

Maybe it would be wonderful if everyone minded their own business, but I think it's healthy to occasionally have to deal with other people - even the nutty, annoying, or weird ones. :) I think it was unreasonable to put the mother and child off the plane, even after having ridden on a plane for nearly 5 hours with a massive upper respiratory infection and a small child kicking my seat. Children are going to be annoying ... Especially if they're scared or their ears hurt b/c of air pressure changes. I know I -wish- I could scream and cry like that sometimes!

I kinda hope the author of that article someday has to take a small child on an air plane. I've met very few who didn't fuss even a little. It's not like she's going to be able to say, "Oh, well. I can't make that emergency flight to my relative's bedside today. Maybe next week!"

Silly writer.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I hate tantrums.Even worse is kids you can't punish. That means no matter how much time out or things you take away they don't care. They just right back to doing what they want. Drives me nuts. :L
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Frankly, it's a stupid article, and it is wrong.
It's not stealing, it's a drag. You're in a public space and you're going to have to put up with some inconveniences. I carried my children out of restaurants and other places when they don't behave: If I have paid a few hundred bucks for a plane ticket - and I need to get home - that is not an option.
Two and three-year old children sometimes freak out when they don't get their way or when they are tired.
I used to give people dirty looks and I would think to myself "control your child." Then I had kids who would throw (not often) tantrums.
Kids act like that because they are trying to get something - attention or something more specific.
One of the ways of stopping the tantrum is by giving them what they want, which reinforces the behaviour which means it will happen more often.
Ignoring the tantrum means it will stop and reduces the chance of it happening again.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I agree with the author. My best friend has a 2 year old and she knows she will be punished if she throws a tantrum in a public place. I guess that's just proper parenting though.

Part of the problem is that people are too afraid to actually discipline their children. With threats of child services being called in, no one will even slap their kid's hand in public. That is absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes, a child needs a little bit of a slap or a spank so they know not to do something again.

People also need to give their children attention. I've seen plenty of parents talking on the phone while their child is having a tantrum and all that kid wants is a little attention. Parents don't seem to have an interest in their children's lives as much as they used to. When my parents were little, their families would sit down every night for dinner. I haven't sat with my family since I was probably 9 years old.

I think that for the first few years after a couple has children, they shouldn't be allowed to have any extra money. Why? Because kids whose parents are on welfare are usually well behaved. They know that they can't have whatever they want just because they act up in a store. Or maybe people should just learn to say no to their kids.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't have my own kids, but I teach school. Have to say, parents can definitely do a better job at raising their kids to behave more appropriately. It's not hard, really; just have to start young. (I don't mean newborn infant-young, but it's not unreasonable to have simple behavior expectations for a two or three year old.) It would be nice to see parents pay more attention to their children's behavior in public and to guide them proactively, instead of the "Stop that, Johnny," reaction that usually happens once the kid is doing something that is clearly inappropriate and irritating to other people. Of course it's a lot of work, and it's tiring as heck--but if the effort is invested early in the child's development, it will make the rest of the child's growing up time a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I disagree with some parts, I agree with others.

I see way too many children with no concept of manners. My kids have manners. They don't always use them perfectly, but typically all it takes is a stern look from a parent and suddenly "Yes Ma'am" and Please/Thank you aren't a foreign language. Children can certainly be taught to be considerate, and they should. It leads to more confidence on their part, and others will enjoy their presence rather than merely tolerating them.

Having raised these kids, I have also dealt with some 2 year old tantrums. I guarantee you no matter how awesome your parenting skills, when that child is tired, stressed, and in a very unfamiliar and uncomfortable place such as... an airplane, they can and will freak out at any moment. When that happens, you do your best and hope the other passengers are more understanding and sympathetic than Ms. Alkon.

So yes, parents teach your kids manners. Those who aren't parents, try using your own manners and showing a bit of compassion to a child in a difficult situation. It's called "adulthood" and it sometimes involves looking past your own convenience and comfort, and realizing the world isn't actually revolving around yourself.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I would be willing to pay extra for Child-free flights.
I would be willing to pay extra for Child-free MOVIES
I would be willing to pay extra for Child-free hours of operation in restaraunts
I would be willing to pay extra for a house in a Child-free neighborhood.

PLEASE somebody offer it!!!!

So you can't keep your damn legs shut, why is that my fault? I don't want to deal with your disgusting, obnoxious spawn that would have been left in the woods tied to a tree for wolf bait in ancient times.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Reading the full article, the author states if she wanted to hear screaming kids she'd bypass her normal coffee spot and go to Chucky Cheese. Seems like these businesses each cater to a specific patron, one for adults only and one for those with children. Maybe she could tell me, which airline is for which patron?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
The kids will be kids excuse im reading here is bs. If you cant control your kid its your fault not because children are somehow inherently uncontrollable.

Anyway, here's my solution - Give your kid a sip of preflight nyquil, problem solved :D
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
People are going to have children and you can't do anything about it. I don't, but why fight it? Your parents were drunk enough to have you and surely it happens to others. The simple solution to flying near children: noise canceling headphones.

You think enough people would pay to support a "no children" anything? and that business won't

A. lose money
B. get sued?

get real twits
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
We just flew a transatlantic flight with my 5 and 3 1/2 kids, plus plane commute, plus car. A long 16 hours journey overall. I'm quite happy to say that everything went right.
But we brought crayons and coloring book, a leapster, books to read, card games, small board games, trip games, etc, etc. We got prepared and we played with them. (check this out btw :

Last week-end I was in a high speed train with people going to Euro-Disney. They did not bring anything for their 2 daughters. Result? 2 1/2 hours of pure hell...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
If you do not have a child then you really have no clue about how much of a challenge it is to keep a young child that is confined for hours happy. Before my sons birth i would see kids in the market and think "that poor child." Now i feel for the parents because i understand that they enjoy their kids tantrum much less than i do. My son has flown cross country with me and he was a pain, but with that said most of you probably think "WHAT A TERRIBLE PARENT!" or "you must be the most inconciterate human i've ever met!" or my favorite "what a bad parent." It must come as a shock then when i say that strangers frequently comment on my son's great behavior and manners. He knows to always say please and thank you, he knows to excuse himself from the table, he knows that he needs to show everyone around him some respect. So you need to get over yourself and be realistic when flying on an airline with children on it. sorry for the rant
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I have a two year old who required a major surgery. Where we live no specialists were available and so we had to travel 7 hours on a plane from Europe to Chicago for the surgery. We did everything we could to prepare him for the trip and everything was going fine until about hour 4. For no particular reason he decided he had enough and started to scream. He had never done this before... then again he had never been on this long a flight before. We did everything we could to calm him down and after about 45 minutes he finally fell asleep in my arms (in the bathroom).

Long story short sometimes you HAVE to travel on a plane with a small child. The nasty looks and little snide comments we got really didn't help. It was a horrible experience for us and the unsympathetic passengers really don't help.

By the way he did amazing on the way back. Not a peep.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
The example in the article is wrong. I mean, a two-year old just can't control his temper yet. Neither can a younger baby. Birds fly, babies cry.
I can't really say what is more annoying: A crying baby or a bunch of businessmen telling dirty jokes over two hours after having had a good sip of whiskey above ground. Latter at least could control themselves. You would think.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't have kids, but jeebus, this is what earplugs and earphones are for, people. I've been on five 21+ hour flights in the last few years and most kids are really well behaved. The kind of behaviour that upsets me is from adults who should know better. Kids are still learning!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't have a kid, but I have friends who do have kids.

First, taking a kid that will cry during a drama is just stupid. Control your kid or get the eff out.

As for my friends. One of my friends has a great story that concerns flying over oceans, and includes half an hour of tolerance, than then the story ends with "hit him."

My friend is right. Children who get hit for crying will still cry, but instead they will whimper, instead of bawl. Once they stop bawling, THEN you hug them, until them, you tug the bit.

I'd be a baby hitting mofaku as a father. You don't have to hit them hard, or even hit them hard enough for it even to be called a hit, just let them know that they are doing wrong.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Wow, there's a lot of hatred towards this woman, and "wait until you have kids". Maybe she's not planning on having kids.

Really, why should other people have to suffer for your poor parenting skills?

I like the idea of having something to occupy your children's time, so they're not bored to death on a plane. Or just give em drugs.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I'm personally way more aggravated by adults having loud, negative, and boorish conversations (cell phone or otherwise). I try to take deep breaths and the like but I was raised in a house where manners and being considerate of others were treated as gospel. It drives me insane, thank god for the "quiet car" on Amtrak trains. Children can be awful on planes if they're not being supervised by the parent. I was on one flight, minding my own business with my Bose headphones on, when a lone little toddler came up to me and vigorously coughed open mouthed in the direction of my face, about a foot away from me. he then proceeded to make cute faces as he rubbed gunky fingers on my armrest. That is not fair, seriously that is an avoidable behavior and children must be parented or someone else will do it for you.
The truth of the matter is that if you CHOOSE to have children you need to keep them reasonably in control or at least you need to be seen to be making an effort to control them. That is the distinction, if you don't try it makes people think you are willing to rob them of their time/happiness/life. And that is what makes the world an uglier place.
If you CHOOSE to own a dog you need to teach it not to jump on people or scold it when it does.
It's all the same..... it really is because no one cares that you have a kid. Good for you.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Argument: Complaining about misbehaved kids? You don't have children or are too self centered to have them.

Translation: I'm not going to address the actual point of contention but instead I'm going to insult you in hopes of derailing your argument.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Paradigm shift!

When I was six years old (maybe even earlier?) I went on a transatlantic flight from New York to Pakistan, (with a stop in Manchester, I think). I can assure you, it was not fun to have my ears pop. I did not enjoy any of the food (all I ate was carrot strips and some bread, which my little brother compared to plastic). I couldn't hear anything on the television screen, even after plugging in the headphones. It was Sesame Street, and I couldn't hear what they were saying! I was NOT happy. Even worse, it kept repeating THE SAME episode. I was so mad. (Fortunately, it was working on the return flight, and it was amusing to see that it was in all in Urdu, which, even more fortunately, I could actually understand.)
Anyway, the point is, regardless of how excited I was to be on a plane, I wasn't having a lot of fun. (To be honest, I'm not sure if anyone was, or is even supposed to.) My mom is a no-nonsense kind of lady, so I knew not to throw a tantrum. I knew that she would not be afraid to scold me in public. There were consequences for misbehaving, which were demonstrated when my brother ran ahead of us at the airport. So, if my mother didn't teach me how to behave and be polite, we probably would've pretty much ruined everyone else's flight experience (which was already not very pleasant due to the flight service). My mother taught me that I was responsible for everything I did. I would be responsible for apologizing if I spilled someone's coffee, or if I woke someone else up. That's the way it's supposed to be.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I can tolerate a kid who's crying as long as it really does seem like he's scared/sick/whatever... but when that kid begins to come across as simply a brat- parents give in to him all the time therefore scream and cry because it works, that's when it gets hard. I'm with the airline on this... I think they handled it well. For one thing, once the kid was that upset, who knows how long it would have lasted AND the mom must have been a wreck at that point, too. Giving them both time (and space) to cool down and start over sounds like a reasonable alternative.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"Douglas, November 28th, 2009 at 7:53 am, I don't have a kid, but I have friends who do have kids.
First, taking a kid that will cry during a drama is just stupid. Control your kid or get the eff out. ..."

Douglas, could not agree more. I'm so tired of parents who kiss the butts of their children and then expect me to do the same. They become terrorists. I'm not allowed to defend myself against the hellions without being accused of being a child abuser.

I swear to all things unholy and revered, the next time I get accosted by a toddling Petri-dish in a onesy with an indifferent, arrogant parent, my soda will accidentally on purpose explode all over the beast.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I think the real screamers are having inner ear troubles. I know I do and I take a decongestant before I board, maybe parents need to look into that.
Having said that, I notice a lot of parents who give their children attention when they're being bad, but ignore their kids when they're being good. A basic rule of learning is: Any behavior that is followed by a desired consequence will increase in frequency. Pay attention to them when they're good. That's all. Easy. I once kept a toddler (not my own) from fussing on a Boston-SFO flight. First we got friendly by eye contact and smiling. Whenever he was quiet and he looked at me he got a big smile and approval and PeekaBoos. When he started to fuss, I frowned and turned away. We didn't hear a peep out of him (except for giggles) for most of the flight.
Now I train all sorts of animals and I find this sort of thing entertaining. I don't expect other people to while away their hours teaching strange children good manners, but I do expect parents to do their homework. The kid wasn't a surprise, you had 9 months to read up on the subject. I don't agree that people who don't have children are self-centered. The real self-centered people are those who don't teach their children manners. Even if you don't care for the rest of us, that kid will be handicapped when he grows up and is expected to behave like a human. Force isn't necessary, in fact it's a hindrance to the learning process. Try reading Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor for starters.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I have been a teacher, grades 4-12 in music, for 20 years and have seen the results of bad parenting, especially in the community I live in now. Here even the smallest child has RIGHTS more than DUTIES or OBLIGATIONS or whatever you want to call them. So they do follow rules or bother someone else, it's OK, but if someone bothers them, it's a big thing. No, I think it's time that folks realize that PARENTING means more than just having the child. If they think having one or four at home is tough, try working with 25-30 all day at school just like theirs only each with their own quirks and problems. I LOVE teaching and I LOVE kids, but sometimes the "baggage" they've brought from home makes it almost impossible to work with them OR for them to get along with each other. NO WONDER they have one has given them any boundries, any guidelines, or any guidance. And NO, the public should NOT have to deal with YOUR problem child NOT at the prices they pay for tickets. If you can't control your child, then don't fly. Flying, like alot of other things in life, is NOT a right, it is a privilege. DEAL WITH IT. PLEASE RAISE YOUR KIDS: DON'T BEFRIEND THEM.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I have to agree with everyone else who expresses the thought that if your feeling are so damn delicate, stay home.

Entitled whiners. The world does not revolve around you. I blame a culture that gives trophies to all the little leaguers instead of making people work for a reward. Jeebus - grow a skin.

*ssholes annoy the crap outta me too - it's part of life and no one said it was "fair."
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Airline tickets are expensive. I don't want to sit next to bratty children who scream and kick my seat. I love kids, but I couldn't care less for these new-age formula-raised babies. today's children are not disciplined enough these days, and therefor have absolutely no manners... and this is not everyone else's problem. I should not have to "deal with it" because your baby was raised by TV, daycare and Twinkies.

For those arguing "well, no one wants to be the parent of a screaming child in an airplane!".. no duh! But just "not wanting" something does not remove guilt and is not a proper excuse. I "didn't want" to fail my college Chemistry 101 exam, but I did anyway -because I didn't study hard enough-! I accept this now. It's time you did too.

The way your child acts is more often than not a reflection of your parentining skills. I was also raised by "loving facist" parents... I grew up with my head in the clouds, but pitching a tantrum in public was simply unthinkable.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
If youre allowed to have screaming kids on the plane, i should at least be allowed to have a ciggarette or twenty. Delicious nicotine is far less intrusive then horrible baby sounds!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 46 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"Flying with Cranky Kids: What Would You Do?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More