Who’s responsible for those little brats on a plane?

By | April 8th, 2013

Alexei Losevich/Shutterstock
Alexei Losevich/Shutterstock
When kids misbehave on a plane, adults like to play the blame game. Who’s responsible for the little brats: the kids, the negligent parents, or the laissez-fare airline?

That’s what Claire Muller-Moseley, a college professor from San Francisco, wanted to know after enduring a recent Air France flight from Paris to San Francisco. And it’s a timely question, given the recent report of a family who was removed from a United Airlines flight amid a disagreement about the inflight entertainment choices.

“The yelling, screaming, and seat kicking of the two children seated behind us was not once stopped by the parents,” she remembers. “I issued disapproving glances over the back of my seat several times, without the parents’ reaction or effort to stop the ear-piercing vocalizations and bad behavior.”

Ignoring the shrieking toddlers didn’t work. Her noise-cancelling headset didn’t block the whining. So she finally turned to the parents and asked them to control their offspring. They did not respond, she says.

“Finally, in desperation I got out of my seat and went back to the cabin attendants and asked for some assistance,” she says. “They spoke to the parents. The noise and chaos abated for a short time and began once again.”

The cycle continued for 11 long hours. Muller-Moseley counted four separate intervention attempts by the Air France attendants. All of them failed.

This case stands out for several reasons. First, the professor is no ordinary air traveler. She’s a subject matter expert who teaches a college course on children’s language and literacy development. So it’s unlikely that her expectations for these young passengers were unrealistically high. Second, the way the airline handled this problem — apologetic, but dismissive — underscores the fact that it’s often difficult to find a guilty party.

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And finally, it suggests that despite frequent and heated debates on this topic, we’re no closer to finding an acceptable solution to the “kids on planes” problem.

Air France apologizes

After Muller-Moseley contacted Air France about her nightmare flight, she received a short, apologetic response from Delta Air Lines, which represents Air France in the United States.

“We care about the well-being and safety of all our passengers,” it said in an email, “and we strive to provide everyone with an enjoyable and comfortable cabin environment. It is disheartening to learn that despite all attempts made, our flight crew did not manage to reverse the intolerable environment you endured during your transatlantic flight.”

Delta offered her and her husband two $50 gift cards to make up for the trouble.

That’s not enough for her.

“While I realize the airline can’t be wholly responsible for children’s behavior, I do feel that as a full paying customer my tranquility and comfort should be reasonably assured,” she says. “Just as if it were an adult creating the disruption and discomfort, there should be penalties for these unacceptable behaviors manifested by the children and tolerated by the parents. The parents should be held accountable.”

Who’s to blame?

Muller-Moseley’s contention that the parents are responsible for their children’s bad behavior is one I hear often. And at this point, I should probably admit my own bias: I’m the father of three young children. I usually love traveling with them, but not always. Like everyone else, they have good days and bad days.

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To assume I have some kind of remote control that determines exactly what they do on a plane would be patently false, of course. No one can always control their kids.

A more extreme version of Muller-Moseley’s position is that there’s no such thing as a bad child, only a bad parent.

In a recent National Geographic Traveler column, I admitted that I lost control of my six-year-old daughter on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. She jumped from seat to seat, ran down the aisles, and screamed for part of the trip. I did everything I could to quiet her, including offering her food, a book, video games, and my undivided attention. Nothing worked.

And still, readers scolded me for being a bad parent.

“You say think about others,” chided Loretta McCarter. “Were you thinking about others when you traveled with kids that you could have guessed were not prepared for flying? Were you as their parents prepared for their boredom, sore ears, sitting for hours?”

(As a matter of fact, we were — but kids can be unpredictable.)

I can see how flight attendants — and indeed, airlines — feel just as powerless. You can try to reason with a passenger but sometimes, no matter what you say, children will act up.

I wasn’t on Muller-Moseley’s flight, but based on her description of the events, the parents were pretty clueless. They behaved as if the main cabin was a playground for their children. That’s unacceptable.

“Offensive,” she says.

OK, offensive.

Maybe the solution to the problem of unruly kids is a little education: Helping parents understand the challenges of air travel, and how it can affect the behavior of their children. Also, helping them realize that they can’t just let their kiddies run free.

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And perhaps, helping other passengers understand that no matter what we try, kids will be kids.

Who is responsible for misbehaving kids on a plane?

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  • jmtabb

    This is a “can’t win” kind of discussion. I expect there to be lots of disagreement and nasty words over this one as there usually is with this topic.

    I’ve been on both sides of this. I have a 12 year old who has been traveling her entire life. She’s been mostly good, but occasionally awful. I’ve offered to buy drinks for the passengers sitting around us when she’s been uncontrollable. I’ve apologized over and over again when she wouldn’t stop screaming and kicking the seat in front of her (I spent about 2 hours physically holding her feet to keep her from kicking. It just made her scream louder).

    But sometimes I’ve been the one on the plane with the (same) kid who people said they had no idea a small child was sitting behind them. It was a day to day, moment to moment kind of thing.

    I’ve also been the poor shmuck stuck next to a mom and her kid who would not stay seated during takeoff and landing. Flight attendant is yelling at mom. Kid is screaming and hiding under the seats, and other passengers are suggesting I slip some vodka into his juice to get him to calm down.

    And last week I was stuck in line through security with a very unhappy toddler that shrieked at ear piercing levels all the way through security, then had the poor luck to end up on the same flight with the (still shrieking) kid. Not fun,

    Bottom line is that kids are unpredictable. I know some will suggest that we shove all of the families into the back of the plane – and it often seems like that’s what’s happening already. But that just makes it intolerable for the poor few that will end up in the odd seat back in the “family” section.

    So this is where I’ll suggest that we all “do more”. Parents need to step up in keeping their kids entertained and happy. Bring food, games, books etc. Loosen family rules about videos/sugar or whatever else might keep your child pacified during the flight. Passengers need to pack extra patience. Babies will cry and little kids will find being stuck in their seats for a long time trying. And finally flight attendants need to do more to mediate between the two. I know it’s not easy, and it won’t always work, but they should at least try…

  • dourdan

    so did she want the airline to stop the plane some and kick off the family?

    as i said before- a plane is public transportation. i don’t care if you paid 1,000 dollars for your ticket– so did everyone around you. if you want “tranquility and comfort” – fly first class.

    yes i have had a child kick my seat for an entire flight. i have also had a homeless man vomit on me while on a bus. — it’s the price of public transportation.

    i now fly first class when ever possible. and walk instead of taking the bus.

  • Britt Boyd

    The public transportation analogy doesn’t work for me. When I ride the bus, I can change seats if I have an issue with fellow passengers. I can choose to wait for the next bus if I realize I’m about to board behind a screaming child. And if the situation becomes untenable, I can get off easily. I have choices and can be proactive.

    While I in no way advocate dropping misbehaving children off at the nearest airport, it’s a tempting thought when you’re trapped on an extended flight and neither the parents nor the airline seem to take responsibility for such children. I’m incredibly sympathetic when parents are actively trying to control their child. It’s an uphill battle at times and we all have to have tolerance. But when a parent refuses to do anything? Should we as the public let it slide?

  • jpp42

    I think the “do more” should include understanding the physical needs of the child as well. Maybe they should have been allowed less sleep the night before, so they would sleep more on the plane? Were they given too much sugar and not enough foods that cause relaxation? And there are plenty of drugs that are safe for kids (anithistimine class) that cause drowsiness and would be appropriate to administer prior to long flights. I agree that these things aren’t something a parent should be doing regularly, but should definitely be considered prior to long-haul flights, along with everything you said about food, games, books, etc.

  • And if you can/are so inclined, offer help/assistance to the parents, who may be just as overwhelmed and frustrated as you are by the little hellions. Offer to take the kid for a walk up the aisle or something, so long as they can be quiet. It’s not like you can abduct them, right?

    I know my normal ‘tactic’ with little kids is to “make friends” with them by saying hello and asking about their shoes, a book, whatever — before they do anything untoward. That way, if I need to say something directly to them to get them to behave, I have some standing/familiarity with them.

    And as a parent myself (who thankfully hasn’t taken my LO on an airline flight), I’m sure I’d welcome a helping hand in dealing with the kid. Or even the offer would give me assurance that folks recognize the challenge.

  • andi330

    Please do not give your child an antihistamine just to make them sleep. First off, if your child doesn’t need an antihistamine to alleviate allergy symptoms they don’t need the drugs in their system. Second, almost all allergy medicines today warn that they may cause drowsiness OR excitability. Just as passengers wouldn’t want to sit next to a screaming child or a child hopped up on sugar, I guarantee you that no one wants to sit near a child whose parents gave them Benadryl to make them sleep only to discover it made them hyper instead.

  • jpp42

    I agree that you need to understand whether the antihistamine will cause a hyper reaction in your child, but this is MUCH rarer than drowsiness – hopefully the parent would already know the effect in their child. I’m not exactly making it up that this is a valid medical treatment, and according to a brief web search, antihistamines are definitely a medically recommended (and preferred) OTC sleep aid for children. Of course, always read the labels and/or check with a physician! I’m just pointing out that there are options.

  • ESCism

    The parents have to go prepared. Yes, even then there can be problems but it’s obvious when the parents are engaged and not. This story is about non-engaged parents. I had a very very similar flight, when I asked the child (who was old enough to understand) to stop kicking my chair firmly (I did not yell, I did not raise my voice but I did make my request to her in a parental firm voice clearly enough that the mother could hear it as well) after enduring that for multiple hours and asking previously both child and mother nicely – the mother screamed for the flight attendant and blamed the situation on me. The poor attendant, of course, had no idea what’s going on only that she had an hysterical mother.

    The father was sitting in our row and never once said a thing. I’m pretty sure he was scared of his wife.

    The mother ultimately exchanged seats with the child and I had no more kicking, which frankly surprised me.

    This is a wonderful discussion because yes, I’m a parent… I’ve had difficulties with my own children on planes. Including a two year old who stiffened her little body to a board and screamed the entire way from SD to Phoenix. I tried every trick I had with no luck and apologized profusely to the folks around me.

    I always make it a point to praise good parents on airlines, even when they are unsuccessful.

    The question really is – what are the airline’s responsibilities to other passengers in situations where there is bad parenting, as this story relates. Not only that, but what can they do? It is clearly a very very difficult situation for the attendants.

  • ESCism

    First class does not ensure tranquility… I fly frequently for business and pleasure and have had certainly more bad experiences in economy but business/first have not been trouble free. Not a solution since it doesn’t address the problem described in the story and it only makes it a lower probability event for the person employing that tactic.

  • Grant

    As a child, my 42-year-old daughter was a monster. She would act out for any (and usually no) reason. After making sure there was nothing physically wrong with her, I learned to deal with the tantrums by restraining her and holding my hand over her mouth. When the screaming stopped, she was released; if it started up again, back into Dad’s loving arms. Worked like a charm. Parents can’t always prevent a child’s acting out, but if we’re any kind of considerate people, we CAN minimize its impact on the innocent bystanders around us.

    As an aside, my daughter developed a wonderfully healthy set of lungs… as her husband can attest. :-)

  • JP

    First thing an adult has to think in that situations is that no one was born at age 20 (as far as I know). So, little or lots of patience is the first thing to have. There are lots of things in the world worse than a little kid acting up, and planes can’t fly so much time (a father of two below 5 years old, used to fly 13 hours nonstop with them)

  • DavidYoung2

    Your comment that kids are unpredictable is the key to this entire discussion. Kids are KIDS – not little adults. You can’t treat them like little adults nor can you expect parents to be able to control expressive, energetic, excitable kids. They have their own personality and it fluctuates wildly from day-to-day.
    There simply is no solution because you can’t change the essence of kids. Sure, parents should do their best, but passengers also need to realize that, just perhaps, even they weren’t all perfect angels all the time when they were that age. Really, what does the OP want? Oh, yeah, the ‘full refund’ thing, right? Get real.
    Sigh – and at the end of the week we board a flight from LAX to LHR with our 7-year old. Hope she’s having a good day —-

  • Little Hello Kitty handcuffs, Duct tape with Caillou on it…just saying. There is, I feel, a little-known FAA requirement for a minimum of one (on single-aisle aircraft) or two (on dual-aisle craft) screaming children per flight.

  • Cindy Kaebisch

    There is also a difference between parents that are trying to do something about their child throwing a fit versus the ones who virtually ignore the behavior and simply expect the other parents to tolerate it – obviously, even though I’m childless, have more sympathy for the former instead of the latter. My worst example is the parent who intentionally brought a child with an ear infection on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Milwaukee.

  • sirwired

    I think every parent should carry the thermonuclear weapon of non-violent child pacification on every trip: Codeine or Hydrocodone cough syrup. (Or, if you are squeamish about giving your child a (hopefully rare) mild dose of opiates, use Benadryl instead.) With the consent of a doctor, of course.

    It’s absolutely correct that sometimes kids are just having an “off” day, and if you were at home, you’d take the child home. Obviously not an option on a plane.

  • I’m a parent of 3 kids (10, 5 & 5) and we travel by air a few times a year. It’s my responsibility to insure that my children behave in a appropriate manner on the airplane. Not the airlines. Its also my responsibility to make sure that I do everything thing I can to get them acting appropriately while on the airplane.

    I’m sorry but this sounds like a pair of “I don’t give” (fill in the blank) parents. They didn’t prepare their children for the trip (we expect the same behavior out of them during a car trip when we can stop and correct behavior). They didn’t stop behavior the easily could stop (kicking).

    Drugs are not the answer. Parenting is….

    Parents need to parent. Period… end of story.

  • GeoffDepew

    They’re on the planes. They start screaming, I shrug and try to just listen to my music more.

    The small monster who decided, on one flight sitting next to me, that ‘slap the headphones and glasses off the man, then laugh, and then punch him in the ribs as hard as possible’ (which for a child about four or five is actually VERY hard) was a game to play… I looked at his mother and said, “Control your child or I will END him.” She tried to look offended and say he was just playing, and at that moment he grabbed my glasses – still on my face- and tried to pull them off. I snarled, he let go, I called the attendant….

    …and yeah, I got moved to a seat all the way in the back of the plane, but I wasn’t sitting next to Damien anymore!

  • CarolinaLannes

    You show you care about your fellow passengers.

    I mean, I understand a baby or a toddler might cry the whole flight long. Really. The only way to avoid it is having my own private plane – and I’m not there.

    But when the toddler/kid is moving/kicking/physically disturbing other passengers, it is the parents’ responsability to act. Like you say you did, by holding the kids legs for hours in order to stop the kicking.

    Kids may have a really bad day. But even so, when parents act up in a timely manner, it’s never as bad as those nightmarish kicking/screaming/hitting my laptop stories we hear.

  • Michelle

    I’ve had it both ways, flights with extremely well behaved children and flights with little terrors. I understand that not all behavior can be controlled, but being a little pro-active and a lot apologetic goes a long way in my book. I have been much less upset with unruly children when the parents take ownership of it by apologizing and actually making an effort to alleviate the problem.

  • smileyb

    Having just come back from Europe travelling with my 3 grandchildren of 9, 5 and 3months, I was delighted in the way the two older children behaved. They sat in their seats (except for a toilet break) and looked through the window, or played with their games. My daughter is very strict with their behaviour, if they are out in public they do not upset other people. It is the parents responsibility for bringing their children up with good manners. My children were brought up to “wait to speak to an adult”, behave in public and to be quiet when requested and now with their own children the same rules apply. Obviously the 3 month old couldn’t help crying when he felt he was ready for his food, but his needs were met and therefore not much crying, but the other two are old enough to know that they must sit and wait until such time as mummy or grandma can help them and this they did. Parents who ignore what their children are doing are either, showing no interest in their children, don’t know how to behave in public themselves or are just down right selfish, that is my opinion. Good manners = good behaviour. There is no excuse for these parents to ignore what is going on around them, but unfortunately morals and standards are poor these days.

  • Vindwyn

    I found this story on the Daily Mail to be quite fitting.

  • Michael

    I completely disagree. First off, first class does not guarantee a screaming child free zone. In fact just 2 weeks before Christmas I got to experience this myself flying JFK to LHR in first class when I was awoken by the commotion of the argument amongst 3 passengers over the screaming child that awoke 2 of them. Luckily noise isolating ear buds did insulate me from said child, but the commotion of the escalating argument and the flight attendants trying to intervene did still wake me so I still blame the child for starting it. Second, your right it is public transportation where we have accepted standards of public behavior. S my question is if it would not be acceptable for to just be having a bad day and start screaming in my first class seat on an overnight transatlantic flight, then why was it ok for the lap child to do so? While I was luckily ale to fall back asleep quickly and was oly going Christmas shopping, I would think if I had just dropped 10 grand for that flight so I could sleep and be rested to conduct business in the morning, as I’m sure everyone else probably was doing, I would have been just as pissed as the 2 passengers sitting across from the offending child.

  • RH Omea

    Call me old-school but…
    Children running around cabins are an accident waiting to happen and should be restrained in their seats by their parents. If it were an unruly drunk adult the airline would have no qualms about strapping his legs into the seat, so why should children whose parents can not stop their child from kicking a seat be treated any differently. In the above case the FAs, if all else failed, should have attempted to move either the adults or the children to other seating.
    some other Proposals:
    A. FAMILY ZONES IN LAST 10 ROWS OF THE PLANE. This way other parents, who are presumably more sympathetic to the situation and expect disruptions are in one space, children are kicking parents seats and paying passengers who do IMO have the right to a quiet and peaceful travel environment, are protected by a buffer zone.
    B. parents who travel with unruly or wild children (and I’m sorry but there is no such thing as a child who only acts out once so parents should know what to expect) should bring some pacifying element with them especially on any flight that is more than 2-3 hrs. Benadryl works wonders, as do several other OTC items including herbal/organics like Rescue Stress, etc that contain light chamomile, et al.
    It is entirely unacceptable that a planed up of people must suffer through 11 hrs of disturbed and stressful travel because of a wild uncontrollable child.

  • cjr001

    It’s your spawn. So, yes, you are first and foremost responsible for them. Not other passengers, not the airline/flight attendants.

    That said, I at least give credit to those parents who try and prepare for situations like this, who try and bring things to keep their children occupied.

    Unfortunately, all too often, some parents don’t bother preparing. Or worse, when the kid has a fit, they do nothing; they choose to just not parent at all, or expect somebody else to do it for them.

    Flying is already a frustrating if not downright awful experience for most these days. Nobody wants to deal with anything that will contribute to it.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    If the parents are not responsible, who is? If you can’t control your kids in situations like flying, go into first class where fewer will be bothered, take a train/bus or drive.

  • marshmaven

    I think education about expectations for all (parents, kids, crew and other passengers) can help. We traveled from Ireland to Boston with an 18 month old. He was actually quite well-behaved playing with a digital music game- but we even got head turns and requests for quiet regarding the game. Despite the fact that our son wasn’t crying, running around or kicking the seats, we still felt the need to try to comply. Perhaps if the other passengers had realized the potential alternative to some game noise being crying and upset, some more tolerance would have ensued.

  • billy

    the PARENTS! but the airline should also have a policy to handle unruly chilren just as they do for unruly adults.

  • jane4321

    The responsibility lies first with the parents and then with the airline. First, the parents have to control their own kids. I have 2 kids and travelled with them plenty. You can prepare by having lots of things to do, plenty to eat and drink, and then a few bribes and threats (not physical of course) waiting in the wings. If the kids get obnoxious it is up to the parents to bribe them or tell them that the consequence of their bad behavior is they won’t get to do the fun thing they are traveling for–they will be grounded or disciplined in some way. That’s the parents’ job.

    But if the parents do nothing, and the scene is becoming as dangerous and disruptive as a drunk adult, then it is the airline’s job to remove the entire family. If an adult were kicking the seat and screaming for 11 hours, the FAs would likely restrain him and then he would be met by authorities at the gate. Parents are actually legally responsible for the actions of their kids, and so perhaps if parents thought that they could be met by the authorities on landing, they might try a bit harder to control their kids.

    All this said, I’ve also seen truly unreasonable complaining and whining from adults when babies and toddlers cry. Babies and toddlers do cry. That’s life. Parents can do their best, and sometimes the kids still cry. We can ‘hope’ but It is unreasonable to ‘expect’ silence when traveling on public transportation. I understand that it is distressing when babies cry, but if a person is really so tender that he or she cannot be exposed, he or she should hire her own private jet. Perhaps the entitlement in public spaces is actually a cultural trend. I’ve noticed that more and more people view cafes and restaurants as their personal offices. They get annoyed and shush people who are actually having coffee, eating, talking and socializing in a space designed for that purpose.

  • EvilEmpryss

    There is a huge difference between parents who are prepared and actively attempting to quiet an unruly child, apologizing to their fellow passengers for the disruption, and self-entitled parents who sit there like they can’t be bothered to school their own children better than chimps at a zoo. I’m a mother of two and I can empathize with the harried parents doing their best. I’m much less likely to be overly irritated and complain if the parents are trying to do *something*.

    Those who ignore their responsibilities as both parents and members of a larger community deserve to be tied to their seats and have the rest of the passengers visit all the torments back on the parents — seat-kicking, yelling, screaming, etc.

  • Tanya

    As a child, I knew if I threw a tantrum in public, there would be heck to pay. Either my parents would stop (mid grocery store cart full/ checkout line at mall/ mid meal at a restaurant) whatever they were doing and I would either be taken out or a look would generally do it. My parents taught me to behave. Planes are different, you cannot leave, but parents can instill their children with manners and appropriate behaviors. So, I do blame the parents. And kids can be unpredictable, but depending on the age, they know what is appropriate and what is not. That baby crying on the plane annoys me, but annoys me quite a bit less than a 5- 6 year old throwing a tantrum, the difference is the baby does not know any better, that 5 and 6 year old know when they are being bad. I was flying by myself by the time I was 6. Never did I think it was appropriate to kick the seat in front of me, scream, yell, do anything other than sit with my book and walk-man and say yes or no ma’am or sir. I did throw tantrums as a kid, when I was at home, but they were few and far between. Mom says we learned pretty quick how to behave and it generally just took the once leaving the place that we learned our lesson.

    The only time I had a bad experience is when I was suffering a bout of motion sickness and the woman sitting on the aisle refused to let me get up to go to the bathroom. My sister had been up about 20 minutes earlier and she informed me I lost my chance and she was not moving. So I used the bag in the seat pocket and grossed her out, I figured that was her fault, I asked, my sister asked and she got what she deserved. To this day, my sister says I should have gotten sick on her. But I didn’t as I was taught better. The FA did have a chat with the lady after this happened and my sister and I were moved to different seats for the rest of the flight.

    All this being said, patience is needed and I do have sympathy to those parents who are dealing with children that are acting less than their best. I have great sympathy for those who are showing an effort to control the child. I have almost no sympathy when the situation with the OP is occurring. The parents should be doing everything humanly possible to control the child’s behavior, starting with teaching them appropriate manners.

  • SteveZ

    Yes parents are ultimately responsible but come on…sometimes there is NOTHING a parent can do! I’ve been there. Had a 3 year old on a plane trip from NY to CA and the last couple hours of the trip were miserable. Nothing that we did would calm my son down. It was getting late because of two airline delays and he was tired, he was out of his routine and lost his pacifier somewhere between plane changes and our “spare” ones were in the checked luggage. If you think the parents are having a grand old time you’re crazy. Having lived through this nightmare my sympathy goes out to the parents that have to deal with this kind of situation.

  • Jim Zakany

    As a parent, I usually give the benefit of the doubt to other parents. Children and immature, by definition. I like it when someone tells me that my kids are not acting appropriately if I don’t notice, because that helps me do a better job.

    You can be damn sure that, if you tell me that my daughter is kicking your seat back, that it won’t happen again.

    However, I have a disabled son and usually get the opposite. The, “it’s okay” when he doesn’t act properly because, well, he’s disabled. Nope. He doesn’t get a pass. It’s no less important that he doesn’t act a fool.

    No one is perfect. Not me as a parent. Not my children. But we will do our best and, sometimes, our best won’t be good enough.

  • JenniferFinger

    Parents are responsible for making sure their kids don’t kick seat backs, throw tantrums, or run around the cabin. It’s a far from easy job, and yes, other passengers and crew members can help by being understanding of that. But ultimately, parents cannot shrug responsibility off onto anyone else.

  • William_Leeper

    I agree with most of your point; however, as the parent of a child with a disability, I would NEVER dream of putting my daughter on an airplane without her medication! It would not physically harm her, but it would make your flight miserable and mine as well. Yes she looks 100% normal, and can act 100% normal, get to spend some time with her and you will realize that her “drugs” are part of a package deal. In that respect, I think your generalization is a bit off.

  • William_Leeper

    I agree with your point, but have a good long talk with a child psychologist, and you will find that if the fit is to gain attention, the BEST thing to do is to ignore it! Giving them attention reinforces the bad behavior! This is also true for the other people being annoyed. When they get agitated and acknowledge the behavior, they are reinforcing that behavior.

  • William_Leeper

    I agree with you fully. Take a quick look at 90% of OTC sleep aids, they are Benadryl. Sleep aid is an approved off label use by FDA standards.

  • @Walhon My 10 yo is a chronically ill child and my wife teaches special ed. I understand traveling with carry-ons full of meds and some children having conditions that require medical intervention / drugs. My comment was directed more at those that believe that you should simply drug a child for convenience while on an airplane instead of parenting to control behaviors.

  • Passportjunky

    Like at an amusement park, you must be this tall to fly on a commercial airline.

  • Stevez

    I was not implying that parents shrug responsibility off to anyone else. I am simply stating that sometimes despite a parents best efforts nothing will sooth a child. I am looking for some compassion and understanding in these cases. It seems people are quick to put all parents of kid son a plane int he same box so to speak or want to ban children from planes which is highly impractical.

  • MortarMagnet

    I sympathize with so many people who have had their peaceful flights ruined by screaming and disruptive children and I empathize with the parents who honestly try to control their kids on a plane. The pendulum does swing both ways, *BUT*:
    For those that are contemplating bringing newborns and other children who are susceptible to crying jags, screaming and tantrums on a plane, regardless of the cause, please think twice. You have no right to impose the behavior of your children on others. I even see this now in business class where I mostly travel. This is intolerable, especially on long international flights. We, all of us in every class, pay a good penny for our transportation, and nowhere in the conditions of carriage does it say we are expected to put up with this. If you cannot control your children and automatically adopt a butthurt and confrontational attitude when asked to do so, then you have no business bringing them on an airplane. If you can afford to go on vacation, you can afford a sitter or leaving them with relatives for your vacation.
    Courtesy at all levels is important up there. From flight attendants who would do the Gestapo proud after discovering their new-found federal authority, to drunken louts, to parents with disgraceful children, it’s all up there and we all have to work together to solve the issues, but a line has to be drawn in the sand as far as what passengers are expected to tolerate. I’m over 50 (that’s as far as I’ll admit), and I would have had my ears boxed by my parents if I had conducted myself in the manner some children behave today. Perhaps that’s what’s missing form their discipline?

  • William_Leeper

    Thanks for the clarification! You have been in my shoes, you understand.

  • Casa Mariposa Panama

    As a smoker, I am bound by ridiculously stringent laws aboard an aircraft, such as a $5000 fine if I sneak a smoke in the lavatory. Yet, some passengers ( or their kids ), can engage in unacceptable behaviour among other passengers. I wonder, if I lit up a smoke in the middle of coach, what would happen? Well, probably once everyone got over their initial shock that such unacceptable behaviour was even contemplated by someone like me, the FA’s would no doubt rush to my seat and demand that I extinguish the foul-smelling, offensive thing before the captain decides to turn the aircraft around citing some horrible emergency onboard. Then, of course, I would be detained at my destination and fined, probably, $500,000 or so for being so stupid.

    Unruly, out-of-control child situations on an aircraft should be treated in the same fashion as an unruly adult (drunk, smoking, or otherwise) situation. The FA’s should speak to the person (in the case of an unruly adult) only once. In the case of an unruly child, the FA’s should speak to the parents only once. In both cases, a stern warning should be given, and forthcoming consequences should be clearly spelled out if the annoying/dangerous behaviour does not stop immediately. The consequences should be immediate upon landing if the behaviour continues.

    How’s this for a solution: the unruly adult is immediately arrested at the destination airport, charged with whatever law applies, then required to pay a fine of $25,000. The same for the parents of unruly children: the parents should be immediately detained, charged, and required to pay a fine of $25,000. This would only need to be tested once or twice for the message to get out quickly. Unruly/dangerous behaviour aboard an aircraft will not be tolerated, and the perpetrator (adult or child’s parents) will be held responsible.

    The end result I believe will be fewer children on an aircraft, or properly-behaved children (or adults). Either way, it seems to be a win to me.

  • Chasmosaur

    Someone noted elsewhere in this thread that “kids are unpredictable.”

    I don’t have kids…but I am a very active aunt, a long time baby sitter, and worked in a daycare center during my teenage years. (Not to mention I did a stint as a Triage Receptionist at a major ER in a large metropolitan area – I have seen and sat with kids under highly-stressed conditions. Like compound fracture situations.) So, yes, not a parent, but not a child-hater or unfamiliar with kids and how they roll. (Many of my friends say I’m the most child-friendly childless person they know.)

    To say that kids are unpredictable is true to a certain extent – you don’t always know what will trigger a stress or anger reaction, it’s the nature of their age and maturity level. But as a parent? You generally know their temperament. You know that you have the one child that is generally pretty good – calm, accepting, mellow, and goes with the flow. They may occasionally surprise you by acting out, but it’s usually the exception, rather than the rule, and can usually be traced to something (loss of a beloved toy, not enough sleep, too much sugar, illness, etc.). And you have the other child that dislikes ANY variation from the routine – because you didn’t give them the right cup for their milk at breakfast, or because you didn’t put their shoes on the RIGHT way – and that sends them into nuclear meltdown land. So you know fully well that strapping them into a plane for several hours after running the gauntlet of the trip to and through the airport is simply not going to be a good thing.

    As a parent, you absolutely need to be prepared for this. Part of it is long-term training – making sure they know how to entertain themselves, the understanding that there is a difference between public behaviour and private/at-home behaviour – but part of it is bringing an arsenal of distractions for the short-term. Yes, it’s a pain in the @ss with modern airport security, but it’s what you have to do. It may take a village to raise a child…but that’s a village that knows the child. Public transportation is just not the same thing. And if there are 4 or more of you (and the airlines don’t play their constant switcheroo game)? Book two sets of seats, one behind the other. Put the seat kicker in the rear so he’s kicking a family member, not a stranger.

    And mostly – as someone else also noted – the appropriate punishment and threat needs to be carried out. Kids can smell weakness, and are incredibly manipulative. If they know there is no consequence, they are going to continue to kick that seat and scream and do whatever tantrummy thing they can get away with.

    Most people are can tolerate the spasms of kid behaviour if they see you making an effort to stop it, or if you apologize for the behaviour. Because most people – even childless ones like myself – have been around kids, and we know what they are capable of. But we also know what parents are capable of.

  • Jayson

    On a trip on a plane isn’t the same as a road trip where the father pulls over and threatens to turn around and not go to Disneyland. They are captive and the parents need to know how to handle over excited/over energetic kids. The long wait sitting around the airport prior to boarding doesn’t help kids burn off their high strung enthusiasm and it gets misplaced onto the plane.

  • JD

    There are so many things wrong with the following quote:
    “…I do feel that as a full paying customer my tranquility and comfort should be reasonably assured,” she says.
    If you’d like “assured tranquility,” then charter a private jet. An airline is public transit, with all of the accompanying warts. As a former platinum level flyer, I can assure you that no airline guarantees any level of “tranquility,” and far more often it is adults that are the most disruptive. Unless these kids were sitting in their parents laps, which is about the worst possible way to fly anyway, these kids were “full paying customers” as well. I’m also the parent of two kids, and have definitely been “that family” when one or both of them melted down on a flight. We were appropriately apologetic, (and embarrassed) and most fellow passengers were understanding. Others acted like children, huffing, puffing and making their disapproval as public as possible. Maybe they were professors too.
    But that quote wasn’t enough, the she continues with this gem:
    “Just as if it were an adult creating the disruption and discomfort, there should be penalties for these unacceptable behaviors manifested by the children and tolerated by the parents. The parents should be held accountable.”
    This is a GREAT idea. Make already busy flight attendants mediate passenger disputes AND give them authority to levy punishments. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Andrew F

    How about fining noisy passengers (including parents with misbehaving kids) and using the money to compensate others? This can be done quite formally: if a decibel meter shows noise over certain level, the money is automatically deducted from the offending passenger’s credit card and transferred to the people sitting in the 12-foot radius.

    Putting all kids in the “family zone” is unfair to well behaved children, like my daughter. You could make a database of troublesome parents and, as a punishment, put them in the back of the plane “jail” in the next flight, but doing so preemptively makes no sense.

  • ploughmud

    DRUG THEM! Yes I did say that! A light sedative will calm them and possibly put them to sleep for a while. It is the responsibility of the parents. Parents, inc you Chris, should step up to the plate. You are in charge, not the kids. Take control! If needed a light swat and a firm “sit down” will help. Yes I said swat to all you that think this is child abuse it is not. It is making a statement that this behavior will not be tollerated here or anywhere! Period! You are the parent.

  • mbgaskins

    Spanked. The kids needed to be spanked. It worked well for my generation and we see what this “me” generation is like that didn’t get spanked.

  • Andrew F

    An arrest sounds like an overreaction. A crime requires intent, which parents of unruly children clearly lack. A fine — yes, absolutely. Once again, $25K sounds too hefty; something like once-twice-thrice the original fare (per noise source, of course) is more reasonable.

  • bbgunplinkplink

    You sound like an excellent parent. Good for you!

  • cjr001

    I suppose you also walked uphill 3 miles each way to school every day, too?

  • Lisa Stevak

    I think that if I pay for a flight, I should be able to expect reasonable quiet and no one kicking my seat. I have sat next to unescorted children. Usually I interact with them because I like children. However, sometimes a child simply doesn’t want to be on a plane and nothing will make the child behave, or sometimes I am not in the mood to entertain a child who is not mine. If a child is not going to behave, the child should not be on the plane. Alternatively, everyone disturbed should be compensated at least 20% of the fare with a minimum of $100.00 in compensation. That would certainly incentivize the airlines to make certain they charge an appropriate fee for children–which if they passed it on to the parent would incentivize the parent to make certain s/he has a child who is well behaved or doesn’t fly. For example, “for each 5-minute period your child does not behave, you will be charged an additional $100.00. Please bring a credit card which we will charge (whatever the appropriate amount is for the flight). We will credit back the unused portion to you at the end of the flight.” Or something like that. If parents had to pay extra for unruly kids who make other passengers miserable, I think there would be a lot fewer unruly kids.

  • Julie Northrop

    I know how you feel. I was sitting on a flight and a mom asked me if I wouldn’t mind switching seats so that she could sit with her child. It was another window seat, so I said no problem. The kid was maybe 3 or 4, so being a mom (of a now 13 year old) I understood. Well, the kid proceeds to kick my seat. I let it go for about 45 minutes and then glared at the mom. She didn’t do anything, and the kid kept kicking. I turned around again and asked the mom politely to please ask her son to stop kicking my seat because it hurt. She actually had the nerve to say no. So I turned back around and after another 10 minutes I turned around, looked the kid dead in the eye and shouted “KNOCK IT OFF!” This brought the FA and I let them know I switched seats with the kid so he could sit with his mom, but after asking the mom politely to get him to stop, she refused. I asked the FA to let me have my seat back and she did. The mother became irate with me and said that I gave up my seat so her kid could sit with her. I showed the FA my boarding pass and I got to have my seat back. The mom apologized and begged me to change my mind, to which I said “It’s too late for apologies, I gave you a chance and you refused….deal with it.” Maybe the child had special needs, I don’t know, but I do know that if I am doing you a favor and you won’t control your child; don’t be surprised if I choose to go back to my original seat and leave you to deal with it.

  • Raven_Altosk

    My daddy always said, “Never trust a woman with a hyphenated last name.” Also, college professors may claim to be “experts in their fields” but has this woman actually had a child? Or does she just pontificate about them? $50 each seems fair for this…I mean, c’mon. If airlines are responsible for their passengers, then how about giving me a free flight for having to sit next to a dude that stunk like feet last week. OFFENSIVE SMELL did not even begin to describe it.

    That said, I’ve been on those nightmare flights. I’ve complained about the kids to FAs when it was WORSE than this. I was on a flight where a kid of about 8-years old was throwing an ever-loving tantrum. The mother just plugged herself into her iPad and ignored it. When an FA said something about it, the mother retorted, “He’s autistic. I can’t do anything.”

    So, for that entire four hours of hell, I witnessed this kid throw things, kick the seat, shriek at the top of his lungs, all while Mom watched some stupid video. Noise cancelling headphones did nothing for this kid…but it sure did get mom’s attention when he slapped a Coke out of the FA’s hand and the Captain came back. Then, all of a sudden, the mother put her iPad away and worked to keep the kid in his seat.

    How would I have handled these idiot parents? I would’ve put the most offensive, violent movie on I could find in my library and held it within view of their darlings. “Oh, sure. I’ll turn it off as soon as you manage them.”

    Or better yet, recorded the tantrum and play it back for the parents while they try and sleep. After putting it on Youtube tagged “worst parents ever” of course.

  • Raven_Altosk

    On the movie incident: I have no sympathy for these parents. PG-13 movies are pretty much the standard for the industry. They are the highest grossers and they market to a large audience. If they didn’t want their Snowies seeing the horrible movie, there’s an app for that. Get a laptop, iPad, phone, whatever, and stock it up with movies you want your kids to see.

    Causing a problem on a plane that causes ME to be delayed because we have to divert is just going to annoy me.

    I honestly can’t believe the press that story is getting; it’s all slanted as if the airline was in the wrong.

  • Julie Northrop

    Now that you’re a parent, have you had to fly with your young one yet? You seem to have lightened up considerably on this issue, so I was just curious if you’ve had to FWC (fly with child) yet. How is your baby btw?

  • Raven_Altosk

    She’s doing great—just figured out crawling and I can’t stop her. Yes, I have a lot more empathy for people in this situation. However, I also still fly an MCO route a lot and let me tell you…there ain’t much parenting going on there. Everyone is too busy worrying about “Magic” and “Fast Passes” and other Di$ney nonsense.

    I flew with her once when she was four months old. She did great! When she started to fuss during take off and landing, my GF (now fiance) fed her to help with the pressure change. She slept most of the trip and we were in the bulkhead row. When we were deplaning on one of the flights, one of the people in FC turned around and said, “Oh, there was a baby back there?”

    Yeah, she was pretty quiet, but we planned to keep her entertained had she not fallen asleep.

  • chickadee

    Yes, but this approach is a long-term solution to the problem. An airplane is not the place to engage in behavioral modification programs whose implementation affects others. If you have a badly-behaved child with a persistent problem that requires you to ignore the behavior to avoid reinforcing it, then drive or stay home.

  • William_Leeper

    The thing is, if you ignore it, it subsides. Usually within an hour or so. The first dirty look or scolding from a flight attendant, that child got what they want, and the behavior will get no better. I have a special needs child and to tell me to drive or stay home would be considered discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    How do/did you handle your children?

  • Nysatin

    On the issue of drugs, I’ve said it before and I’ll say forever – My “kids” are now in their 20’s and 30’s, but we traveled at least 3 or 4 times a year for most of their lives. I “drugged” my kids – NO, not to keep them comatosed, but to make everyone’s trip a wonderful experience. We’d get on the plane, get settled, each child with a backpack full new toys, books and snacks and then I’d administer ONE minimal dose of legally obtained tylenol with codiene (or similar substance). They fall asleep soon after takeoff and when they arose, the trip would be half over, they’d be hungry for the snacks and eager to play with the new toys. My kids weren’t always little angels, but having them rested and full made the trip fun without seat jumping or hours of bordom. They’re now happy, healthy adults who never developed drug problems and have wonderful memories of fun family trips!

  • LFH0

    As common carriers, airlines have a legal duty to transport anyone willing to pay the established fare (and other reasonable tariff conditions), up to the capacity of the vehicle. So unless passengers are actually interfering with the operation of the flight, there’s probably no legal responsibility on the part of the carrier (the airline might even breach its common carrier duty to the passengers in such a circumstance). The airline tariff does not promise to passengers “tranquility and comfort”; the tariff only promises transportation.

    That being said, the airlines likely do not want their passengers inconvenienced by such rude behavior, and even in the absence of any duty to do so, the airline might well want to take action to avoid being dismissed by those passengers who were inconvenienced. That may mean having the airline employees encourage polite behavior and/or compensating those passengers inconvenienced. But in the end, the social interactions on a common carrier are a reflection of the standards of society . . . and parents not acting as parents happens all too frequently in many environments.

  • Julie Northrop

    That’s awesome. Brandon, my son, was about 4-6 months when he first flew on a plane, and he did pretty well too. Entertainment is DEFINITELY key to keeping them calmer. I will say that it gets trickier when they are about 2-5 years old, and I say this from personal experience. I made the mistake of not bringing anything to keep him occupied, and I spent most of the flight apologizing to people. After that, I always remembered to bring some sort of toy or book to keep him occupied and that seemed to help (along with snacks, snacks, and more snacks)!

  • rwm

    This is actually the best response I’ve read. We just didn’t see this kind of behavior in our generation.

    This reminds me of an incident with my neighbor’s 2 year old. My wife does ceramics. We went next door to make some ceramic playthings for their son. As my wife was working, the kid was pushing clay and other materials off the kitchen table onto the floor, and just generally making a huge mess, and destroying some of the materials in the process. Not once did his parents say “No, don’t do that”. Instead, they said “We don’t want to place any limitations on him. We want him to explore to his fullest potential”…
    Translated: “We are afraid to discipline him, so we’ll just let him do whatever he wants”.

  • chickadee

    I flew with babies, toddlers, school-aged girls and now teenagers. I packed whatever was necessary to keep them occupied during the flights and had no problems or complaints. However, I practiced what i preached to you. Most of my baby/toddler travel was via car so only family was affected.

  • chickadee

    And I just don’t think that you are entitled to expect your co-flyers to wait an hour for your child to stop kicking or screaming. Unless you pay for their drinks or flights.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve recently started taking Amtrak a lot, and I’ve found out that they’re not considered a common carrier by law, but a “rail carrier”.

    They can and do remove any number of passengers at the discretion of the conductor. Of course they can stop anywhere – I suppose it can even be between stations. I have heard of cases where they alerted local law enforcement and had a passenger forcibly removed. Their terms clearly state that someone can be removed “Whose personal hygiene makes them offensive”. I can imagine someone who has been backpacking for two weeks without a shower might fall into this category, although there are also the homeless trying to get somewhere.

    There was one particular passenger who apparently talked about 16 hours straight (in the middle of the night when others were trying to sleep) on her cell phone. It might be possible with unlimited cell to cell calls on the same network, and trains have power outlets. She was removed and arrested in Oregon for disorderly conduct.

  • TonyA_says

    C’est la Vie. Unless you drug them; these brats are like Energizer Bunnies. Had a pair of them on my last flight from Hong Kong to JFK.Yup, 15 hours of “fun”. But I know there is nothing I can do about it. So I keep my mouth shut and try to enjoy the ride.

  • y_p_w

    You know – we recently traveled on a cross-country flight with our child. The one thing that seems to make it comfortable for most of the parties was that there were a couple of kids near us. All the kids seemed to be a bit calmer in the presence of other kids. The adults were also parents and seemed to be more understanding. They weren’t absolutely quiet, but most of the time they were no louder than many of the adults in the same cabin.

    Occasionally my kid just bolted for the rear (and once even headed to business class) but we were trying to stop it. Still – sometimes a kid just won’t want to be seated and belted.

  • y_p_w

    Decibel meter? That’s subject to a lot of interpretation. The distance to the source and where it’s placed makes a huge difference. Calibration is important.

    Besides that, noise level isn’t that much different than the normal sound from the engines and the wind noise. However, it’s the type of noise that makes a difference. You can hear screaming and talking through typical aircraft white noise and it tends to be more annoying even if the level is drowned out by the environment.

  • DavidYoung2

    Does anybody really suggest drugging children to make them less of a bother whilst flying? I mean, absent a medical reason to do so (diagnosed ADHD, etc) that seems a bit over the top simply to ensure somebody isn’t ‘inconvenienced’ by bothersome kids.

  • Eileen Joan

    Parents are responsible. Period. Kids do act up, we all understand that, it’s only when we see a lack of taking control of the situation by the parents that makes the situation intolerable.
    That being said, my son was on a SFO to EWR flight, when an exhausted Mother of two, had a little toddler that would not stop crying no matter what she did. With her permission, he picked him up, walked up and down the aisle and he immediately quieted down. He finally gave him back to the Mom and it started all over. His company seat-mate gave my son a push and he was on duty again. Being a Dad himself, he was glad to help as his wife has had to fly alone with his children. This was a case where the Mom did try everything to stop the crying and was very apologetic about it. That makes you WANT to help if you can.

  • y_p_w

    An adult knows better. To do that would require a willful act on the part of an adult to light up when it’s not allowed. As for a child, I have seen cases where someone got really upset at the behavior of a child, and the parent was about to do something drastic out of frustration that might make the situation worse. Before and after having children, I had/have a lot more compassion for parents trying to control their children than adults who know better but choose to willfully do something wrong.

    I can almost guarantee you that if stiff fines were levied for adults when they have difficulty controlling their children, some parent is going to hit a child out of frustration and possibly even cause severe injury.

    And I remember a time when smoking was allowed in aircraft. I was young and actually felt quite ill by the time we completed a 12 hour flight. I was almost ready to vomit on my fellow passengers, and I generally have a strong stomach.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    So we should just ignore a child kicking the back of our seat for 8 hours?

  • andi330

    If you read the children’s benadryl label, it states specifically that it is not for children under 2 and it is only for ages 2-5 when prescribed by a doctor. The recent TIRED study (Merenstein, D., et al., The trial of infant response to diphenhydramine: the TIRED study–a randomized, controlled, patient-oriented trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2006. 160(7): p. 707-12.) suggests that giving children benadryl does not help children either fall asleep or stay asleep. MedlinePlus (run by the NIH) states specifically that diphenhydramine (benadryl) should not be used to cause sleepiness in children. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682539.html

    I understand why some parents consider using this to make their kids sleep on planes, trains, long car trips etc. But I find it concerning that people so readily throw it out there as an option without thinking about whether or not it is the best choice, not for them or the other passengers but for the children, when medical studies suggest it will not have the effect that parents are hoping for.

  • y_p_w

    Almost all are technically sedating antihistamines. Diphenhydramine is the most common, but there’s another ingredient (doxylamine) that is almost never sold for allergy/cold symptoms. I’ve never seen chlorphenamine sold as a sleep aid, but it does the trick just fine.

    I know an allergist who has told me that there’s no real difference between diphenhydramine sold as a sleep aid vs as an antihistamine. Typically the sleep aid will be dyed blue while the antihistamine is dyed pink. And of course the sleep aid will cost more. Even the blister packs for generic diphenhydramine don’t say anything about what it’s used for.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Parents with badly behaved children should be placed on the “no fly” list.

  • andi330

    Unfortunately, yes. Just look that the comments here. There is one down below that outright says “drug them.”

  • Daniepwils

    This is doesn’t always work. I say you need to use the punishment that works on the child. When I was a kid, just a look from my parents was enough. My brother on the other hand was not so easy. You could spank him all day and he would laugh.

    Parents need to TRAIN their kids on how to act in public. We were pretty well behaved going out to eat, flying, etc. My mother once told me her little secret. We were active in sports and usually had something every night of the week to be going to. So she would usually book flights late in the evening after we had a baseball game or soccer game. We would fly in the late evenings/middle of the night and we would sleep almost the entire flight.

  • y_p_w

    On our last flight we brought along some toys. That can work out great, but occasionally they get dropped, and a child’s frustration can start if said toys can’t be retrieved. It can be hard to find something that’s slipped, especially in such tight quarters as modern airline seating.

  • SickMomma

    My mom loves to tell the story of flying from Chicago to LA with me when I was 2 (in the late 1960s). Apparently, at some point in the flight, I lay down in the aisle and refused to move. When the flight attendants told her to make me move, she apparently shrugged and told them that if they didn’t like where I was, they could move me themselves. As the parent of an 8-year-old, strong-willed girl, who had half a dozen roundtrip flights before she was 2, I can’t imagine allowing that kind of behavior from my kid.

    My kid is generally well behaved when traveling, thank goodness, but there are times when she’s not. And as far as I can tell, there are sometimes no ways to predict when things are going to go horribly wrong. And when that happens, we do our best to contain the damage. We apologize profusely (and sincerely) to anyone she disturbs and try to better monitor what she’s doing so we can be as proactive as possible.

    (It can be really hard to see if she’s kicking the seat in front of her while her tray is down. I had one lady complain to me *at the end of the flight* that my kid had been kicking her seat; I apologized, but wondered why the heck the woman didn’t say something when there was something I could have done about it!)

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    I voted for the Flight Attendants to be responsibile. Ultimately, they have the last word, if the parents can not control their children, they are a safety hazzard, and the FA should step in, and request they be attended to.

  • scapel@suddenlink.net

    Looks like a bunch of spare the rod and spoil the child syndromes. The rod with pain works people.

  • Julie Northrop

    I too have a child with special needs, but I would NEVER expect other passengers to have to deal with a screaming/crying/kicking the seat in front of him kind of fit. I agree with chickadee on this one. An airplane is not the time, nor place, to instill behavior modification. My son takes medication, so that helps when he is flying (he’s 13 now) and he’s an excellent flyer. However, when he was about 3 or 4 he threw a tantrum on the plane. I did what any responsible parent would do. I gave him some toys, read him a couple books, and watched a movie on my laptop. I made sure that I dealt with the situation swiftly. My son is no angel, he has his moments, but again I take care of it IMMEDIATELY. I’m also quite sure that a child psychologist would tell you not to allow that kind of behavior on an airplane, and there are times when you need to calm the situation immediately.
    If your child were to kick the back of my seat for over an hour, I would be asking you for your name and address so that I could send you a doctors bill for my back as I have 2 rods holding my spine straight from scoliosis surgery, and have back pain when repeatedly kicked.

  • Julie Northrop

    Amen to that. That’s when you get a FA involved and have them moved to the back of the plane.

  • cahdot

    i think the behavior learned by children via the parents starts on day one so— if the parents do not have a clue early on(and many do not know how to discipline ) the kids will never learn to behave .. and trying to get them to do so on a 4-6-8-11 hour plane ride is useless as they have not been trained earlier..that is what is needed and so many parents cannot figure it out… i had to listen to a kids IPAD(he was 2) on a flight and his mom turned up the volume on the animal sounds so we could all here MOO-MOO -MOO all the way home –u get the idea … not fun for all .. the mom thought it was great…

  • cahdot

    i applaud u and ur daughter and how well behaved ur grandchildren are esp when traveling bravo

  • William_Leeper

    First, let me say that I hate flying and avoid it when possible. My daughter too takes medication, and other than her constant chattering she is good.

    At 10, if she were kicking the seat in front of her, I would put a stop to it unless that person were laying back on her.

    Finally if you asked for my name and address, I would ignore you. That information is need to know, and if you have back problems that is not an issue of mine, perhaps you should pay for a higher class of service.

  • William_Leeper

    If people are polite, I have NO problems with dealing with things. If you were rude or demanding, I will let them keep going just to make you mad.

  • Grande

    I do think the parents should keep the children from kicking the seat in front of them . The noise can not always be stopped but you can hold your child. For that long a trip and to be kicked when you want to sleep is not acceptable.

  • Julie Northrop

    That goes against everything you just said regarding IGNORING fits, and when a child throws a tantrum and is kicking seats, you said that we should just ignore this and it will resolve itself within an hour or so. So which is it? Ignore the kicking, or you put a stop to it.
    Just to let you know, if your child WERE kicking the back of my seat, and you ignored me when asking for your information, I would report your child to the FA for kicking my seat and ask that you be moved. I shouldn’t have to pay more because you can’t control your child.

  • Julie Northrop

    If you allow your child to kick the back of my seat because I choose to recline, then you show how irresponsible of a parent you are. There is NO EXCUSE for a child to kick the back of my seat. Secondly, I have no qualms about getting an FA involved regarding your child kicking my seat and asking for assistance, nor do I have a problem shouting at your child to KNOCK IT OFF. Lastly, I shouldn’t have to pay extra because YOU can’t, or won’t as it sounds like, control your child.

  • William_Leeper

    I draw the line at kicking. I don’t like my seat being kicked! If you would be so kind as to read back and tell me where I mentioned kicking in my original post it would be appreciated since it wasn’t mentioned before you brought it up.

    I was referring to the fit throwing. My opinion is that planes are loud anyway, and kids will be kids. If they are squealing and laughing and having fun, I am being an excellent parent. I do not and will not rule with an iron fist. If anyone has a problem speak up. I don’t like it, but they are children.

  • LindaG

    I was once on a flight from Seattle to Orlando with a little one seated behind me. After about an hour of having my seat kicked and listening to fussy and fuming I said in a loud voice, “Mickey Mouse will not want to see you if you don’t behave.” It was instantly quiet and remained so for the remainder of the flight.

  • William_Leeper

    I am glad that you feel entitled. This site has a policy against personal attacks and that is what you are doing. You have crossed the line and I am not going to accept your behavior on this forum.

  • Both you and Julie’s comments have been flagged as inappropriate by another user. Please remember our rules of engagement: http://www.elliott.org/comments

    Thank you.

  • Julie Northrop

    How have I personally attacked you? Because I’ve stated what I will and will not accept when flying? I wouldn’t accept that kind of behavior from anyone, you just happened to make a comment about fits, and ignoring them. Usually a fit includes screaming, crying, and kicking. You said everyone should ignore them, I just pointed it out. If you feel attacked, I’m not sure what to tell you there. However, if any child were to kick the back of my seat, I would involve an FA in the matter. I don’t consider myself entitled in any way. I could say the same thing about you feeling entitled in regards to your child. I don’t consider having a comfortable flight (or as comfortable as those seats allow) an entitlement.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Perhaps you should stay home and not have your child torture the rest of us.

  • William_Leeper

    Look, I share your feelings, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. Problems with sitting still and other behavior are one reason I choose not to fly. I honestly prefer to drive as I can take breaks when I want, and I can see the scenery.

    I became emotionally involved on this discussion when I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry that I have kept going. I really am a good person, and I’m sorry!

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Please stay home next time and leave the flying to the rest of us.

  • William_Leeper

    Look, I have two (reasonably) well behaved kids, it hasn’t always been that way, and while I understand your point and sympathize with you, a 5-10 minute tantrum will not hurt anyone. We were all children once, and unfortunately, it has gotten to the point where a person cannot discipline their child without being in legal trouble. I was raise in a military family, I understand discipline, but I also understand empathy, and patience.

  • I have to say, the Hello Kitty handcuffs comment was priceless. I just read it to my family, and they laughed out loud. Except my six-year-old daughter. She wants a pair.

  • “On a trip on a plane isn’t the same as a road trip where the father
    pulls over and threatens to turn around and not go to Disneyland.”

    That works, unless you have a smart and sneaky nephew. On a road trip from their house to my parents’ house, when my sister turned to the back seat and did just that, he retorted that no, that wouldn’t be happening, because they’d gone too far already! And then proceeded to continue bothering his brother…

  • Scooter David

    Some of it is cultural. I travel a lot internationally and I know not to travel in certain countries around school holidays.

  • Cynthia

    Really, you shouldn’t travel with small children. They won’t remember much about the trip. We work long and hard to save our money to travel – it’s a complete waste to have it ruined by parents (yes, you – I know) who insist on bringing their children on long flights.

  • naoma

    Parents and parents alone. Traveled with our child (now an adult) when she was very young — from USA to England and people commented on the beautiful, well-behaved baby. She was never slapped nor spanked when she was growing up, was a great student who won a scholarship to college and did a year at Oxford. Were we lucky? No, we just had one which is all we wanted and she is wonderful.
    We also took her out to dinner with us when she was still in a high chair and people came by to meet this well-behaved child.

  • flying mama of three

    kids are kids. I have 3. I’ve traveled with them all – even by myself, when the youngest was just 9 mos old, across the country. Sometimes they’re complete angels. Other times they’re in a mood. Not unlike the other annoying passengers on board. How about the idiot that puts his seat back – and keeps it that way for the duration of the flight, leaving me with no knee room, nevermind legroom? The annoying talker. The drooling sleeper. The iPod listener -that is apparently oblivious that I can hear every rap song in his playlist, louder than a jackedup honda at a stop light? The glares? The stares? no. That does not work. That’s plain annoying. Offer to help. But staring and glaring? You think my cranky 2 year old is going to pay attention to that? Wait, maybe. Perhaps he likes seeing your wooly eyeball. So do it again. I promise. That scream you hear? He can do better. Sheesh. Next time I hope not to sit near you. Should I be annoyed with the idiots that ALWAYS board my flight sick ? I mean really – every time I get off a flight, within 3 hours I have a sinus infection from some thoughtless, probably adult, who had a meeting that couldn’t be cancelled. So now I’m sick (and likely my three devil spawn too) because you couldn’t cancel your meeting. Congratulations, buttmunch. You just infected 200 people with your stupid virus. What about your insipid pressing of the button? Or insisting on using the first class cabin toilet? Please. Maybe the solution is to have a babies only section. Then the other adults in the section won’t stare at me when I whip out my boob to calm my baby during take off and landing …..

  • flying mama of three

    maybe the annoying ones were the ones with the clueless parents like the story above ?

  • Bill___A

    The poll question doesn’t allow a true answer. The kids are supposed to behave, so they have a responsibility there. The parents have the responsibility of raising the kids in such a manner that they know to behave on a plane. The kids should be coached as to the positive aspects of the trip (seeing grandma, Disneyworld, etc.) and reminded that they need to behave while travelling.

    the parents need to pay constant attention to make sure that this is so.

    As far as the crew is concerned, they are responsible for ensuring that the parents do their job and that they hold the parents accountable for ensuring their kids behave.

    They have databases for people who return items to stores too often. They need a database of “bad parents” so this can be tracked. This would give the parents a strong incentive to ensure they and their kids behave.
    There can be 50 kids on a plane and 2 will misbehave. Most often it isn’t because they are “sick” it is just plain old fashioned bad upbringing.

    And yes, there are some kids who just should not be on a plane.

    I feel compelled to mention that this is not an article about sick people, smokers, fat people or any other issue. It is about kids on planes.

  • cjr001

    “I would’ve put the most offensive, violent movie on I could find in my library and held it within view of their darlings.”

    This story seems oddly appropriate:

  • DC Girl

    I think that the advice is not to ignore all tantrums, but to ignore tantrums when you can. When a child becomes disruptive in the confined environment of an airplane, to the detriment of others, it’s time to do something.

  • I think airlines should have
    different sections for kids and non-kid friendly people. I also think if people
    so believe that there shouldn’t be children on flights they should have the
    consumer choice to buy flights with guaranteed no children. I have a 7 month
    old and we have to travel a lot. I pray he sleeps and I sit next to people who
    are not going to issue “disapproving glances” at
    me. There really is only so much you can do to control. I realize a baby is
    different than a child, but sometimes with children the best reaction to bad behavior
    is no reaction. Please use as an example any child that has acted out badly for
    attention and in giving them the reaction you are rewording and encouraging the

  • Lindabator

    amen! the reason MOST get so out of hand, is the parents ignore the bad behavior, thus empowering the kids to behave badly.

  • Lindabator

    problem is the families do not WANT to sit at the back of the plane – which is where most were quietly put in the past.

  • Lindabator

    then you are a bigger jerk then your child, but he WILL learn the same behavior and be worse as time goes on!

  • MarkieA

    So, we’re supposed to wait an hour for your child to “calm down”? Really? Suppose someone else with your attitude thinks it should be 90 minutes? After all, there appears to be no real science to your solution, just best-guess experience. Someone else’s experience may say that it takes 2 hours for the desired effect. How about that? At what point can I step in and do your parenting job for you?

  • MarkieA

    The entitlement just pours off of your posts.

  • MarkieA

    RetiredNavyPhotog posted, “So we should just ignore a child kicking the back of our seat for 8 hours?” to which you replied, “If people are polite, I have NO problems with dealing with things. If you were rude or demanding, I will let them keep going just to make you mad.”

  • William_Leeper

    Thank you! That’s the point I have been trying to make, unfortunately people like to be rude about posts like this.

    I appreciate your wording of this.

  • William_Leeper

    The ONLY thing I’m entitled to is to not get on a plane! If you would read my posts you would see that I DON’T FLY. I don’t like it.

    In Arkansas, verbally disciplining a child without permission of the parent when the parent is present or reasonably available is considered abuse which is a class d felony, and punishable by 10-20 years or life if enhanced as a crime against a minor. Are you sure you would like to try to do my job for me?

  • JenniferFinger

    I agree, it’s highly impractical to ban children from planes. But ultimately, regardless of how bad a child is being, it is his or her parents’ responsibility to make sure they are not disturbing other passengers or the crew or preventing the plane from flying-not anyone else’s.

  • Ian C

    I blame the parents, for the most part, but I also blame the airlines for allowing children on the plane in the first place. They should ban anyone one under the age of 5 from flying, or they should have a special “family section” which is sound proofed from the rest of the cabin.

    On a 9 hour flight from New York to Moscow these two little monsters were crying the whole time. It was a red eye flight and most of the people just wanted to sleep but were unable because of these two little monsters. It is because of bad parents like this that decide to bring there immature monsters on a flight that make me consider getting a Vasectomy. I was also tempted to give the parents of these monsters condoms so they would not bring any more noise makers on to this world. And when they weren’t yelling and screaming from their seats they were running or crawling down the aisles.
    Airlines: be like the amusement parks. Get a “You must be this tall to ride” policy. Ban all children under the age of 5 on all flights. We are all tired. at the conclusion of the flight everyone in the cabin wanted to kill the whole family


  • One of our travelers on flight HX707 (HKG-DEP) a few weeks ago:

    We are surrounded by kids of all ages some screaming and
    crying, some kicking the back of the seat in front of them and some being loudly
    shouted at by their mothers whom had chosen to sit on a different row from
    their offspring. I am such a huge supporter of kids free flights, or just a
    kids free section in the airplane would be a start. I would happily pay more to
    enjoy that privilege because nothing is more annoying than the offspring of
    others being loud and obnoxious. Even a business class ticket would not have
    saved us from this peril, as the loudest screams and cried seemed to come from
    upfront. Heck, they don’t allow people that are drunk, intoxicated or otherwise
    socially impaired on the airplane, so why would you be allowed to bring little
    humans that don’t understand the concept of good manners and proper behavior?


    I believe that sums it up…

    — Travis

  • orsay

    Absolutely, correct. I suffer from motion sickness, the kid kicking the seat would have made me ill. If I had risen turned around to the parents and threw up on them, I wonder if I would captured their attention then?

  • Stefanie

    the mere suggestion of drugging your children is absurd. clearly you must not be a parent and quite honestly sometimes those drugs can have a reverse effect

  • Dougibert Bert

    I suggest you read the Americans with Disabilities Act. You do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to your child’s disruptive behavior.

  • William_Leeper

    Resurrecting dead posts much? Lol. Actually things have gotten much better since this was posted, occupational therapy does wonders. Plus again…we don’t fly commercially, I have several friends who are private pilots, it’s faster, easier, and less hastle.

  • Dougibert Bert

    There is more to the law than stated. Also, if you cannot do your job, perhaps the foster care system can lend a hand. That is, if you cannot parent your child(ren).

  • Dougibert Bert

    It has been my experience that the parents who claimed to have raised angels, 90% of the time have raised “evil incarnate demons.”

  • Bluerabbit

    We raised a wonderful daughter, who could, we knew, sometimes act, well, like a child, especially before she was 5. Guess what. We never, ever, took her on a plane. When we took vacations, we drove. When you decide to have a child, you accept the rewards, but also the responsibilities and sacrifices involved. Others are not obliged to accept the consequences of a decision you made. Perhaps grandparents could fly to meet the baby, or just see him on Skype.

  • Bluerabbit

    Yes, they don’t like other people’s kids either. Theirs, of course, are adorable and everyone should be delighted to admire their antics and/or entertain them. Rolls eyes. Kids, especially young kids, like their own homes and normal routines. Parents need to consider–is it really absolutely necessary to bring them? I never flew when I was a child, and neither did our daughter.

  • Bluerabbit

    Kids like this are birth control. Maybe high school students should be put in a plane simulator with kids like this for a few hours as part of a class in real life skills. Might cut the teen birth rate even more.

  • Bluerabbit

    So your child is a weapon of destruction? This is what many of us have suspected about the parents of children who behave this way.

  • Bluerabbit

    We had a great child—and we always drove.

  • Bluerabbit

    I think family flights and family sections may be necessary. It’s true that many parents feel the same way about this sort of behavior–from other people’s kids–as we who are travelling without children do. They don’t want to sit in the midst of pandemonium either. Well, tough. If it is absolutely necessary to fly with a child, then I guess it is absolutely necessary to suffer the discomfort of being with other little darlings. It isn’t one person’s child at issue here. We have all experienced the joys of travel with free-range children.

  • Bluerabbit

    Me too. Our daughter never flew until she grew up.

  • Bluerabbit

    Many of us neither flew as children nor took our children on planes.

  • Bill___A

    The parents are responsible for controlling the kids if they misbehave. The airline is responsible for taking actions against the parents if they do not successfully control their kids. In no circumstance is the rest of the plane supposed to put up with the crap. Start booting them of and the issue will correct itself. End of story. Don’t know why this is so hard.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    How do you boot in midflight?

  • Bill___A

    Same way they dealt with unruly smokers. Land at the nearest airport. Start doing that and they will learn.
    I realize this is a dramatic step, but according to a recently quoted survey, quite a few people are sick to death of this and the current situation of doing nothing needs to be changed. They also need to change the laws so that if the parents decide to sue the airline for booting them off, that every passenger on the plane can also sue the parents for disrupting their flight. Might make them think twice.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You’d land a plane and disrupt the travel plans of hundreds of passengers on that plane, as well as the next set passengers who would be embarking on the now delayed plane because some kid is unruly.

  • Bill___A

    Absolutely. Short term pain for long term gain. Right now, it causes annoyance and discomfort for hundreds of thousands of passengers and nothing is done about it. I surely would advocate this, you better believe it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There are several fundamental flaws in your analysis. It appears that you are hoping for the deterrent effect. This will not happen. Parents of unruly children will hope, perhaps vainly, that the kid will behave. Then you have the infrequent flier/new parent who doesn’t appreciate the challenges that flying brings.

    Consider the parents’ choices. Not fly or roll the dice and hope for the best. I suspect most parents will choose the latter, thus little deterrent effect.

    Most notably though, an unscheduled landing is a serious matter. I doubt if many people will appreciate the plane landing and having their travel schedules disrupted, particularly is the unruly child is not sufficiently close to them to be a bother.

  • Bill___A

    Realistically speaking, in my experience, I have generally been able to reliably determine prior to take off the bad behaviour and situation. I would like to see the airline saying to the parents:
    “Obviously you have not prepared your children for this flight. We will put you on a flight tomorrow so that you can have a chance to prepare them and tell them what they can expect and what is expected of them”.
    I realize that as a lawyer you will tell me this and that about how this won’t work and how that won’t work, but the point is that something needs to be done that will work. It is a problem which needs to be addressed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No legal mumbo jumbo today.

    If a child is being unruly before the plane leaves then you have the recourse of removing the child and parent(s). But do we really want to be the child-behavior police? It would trouble me, as an American, if we started taking actions on what might be. My crystal ball isn’t nearly that clear.

    I cannot accept that you, a perfect stranger, can tell when an otherwise perfectly behaved child is going to go postal.

  • Bill___A

    Well first of all, I think one can be tolerant of the “otherwise perfectly behaved child” that goes postal. Of greater concern is the “always poorly behaved child” and in that, I have a very good track record of detecting.

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