Did you see the story in the news about the father and his three-year-old son who were kicked off the Alaska Airlines flight because the boy refused to stay seated with his belt fastened? Naturally, all the parents were up in arms about it and all the non-parents were applauding Alaska. Here's my opinion: if you can't control your child, you can't expect others to be understanding about it. I think Alaska did the right thing.
Now that doesn't mean I think the father is a terrible person or a failed disciplinarian. The kid is 3. Children act out, and often at the most inopportune moments. They sometimes scream or shriek or sing loudly, which can definitely be annoying to everyone within earshot. But while a minor annoyance is one thing, public safety is another. You can't have an unruly toddler climbing out of his seat and running down the aisles of a plane because he just didn't feel like sitting down at that moment.
That being said, I think there are people who are overly sensitive, inpatient, and often completely intolerant when it comes to children. One little peep out of them and it reaffirms their attitude that we're all just ignorant and inept "breeders" who think everyone else should just have to deal with our unruly spawn. And while that may be the case with a select group of self-centered individuals, it is certainly not the rule.
One of my worst fears as a parent is that my kid is going to disrupt others, and that I'm going to be in a situation where I cannot remove him. Like flying. My son is 7-months-old. We flew home for Christmas when he was just 2 months old. I specifically requested a seat at the very back of the plane, hoping to minimize the annoyance to fellow passengers should he have a meltdown. I planned his feeding schedule so it would coincide with the flight, and I came equipped with pacifiers just in case. I was lucky. He didn't make a sound. But that didn't stop me from being completely on edge the entire trip.
That's why It's such a shame to me that the father took such offense and proclaimed that he'll never fly Alaska again. I would have hoped that he would be more understanding. But instead, his arrogance and attitude just perpetuates the problem. In this particular instance, it was not personal. It was about safety. So stop taking it that way.
To me, it's all about how you handle the situation. If you can calm your child, great. If you can't, remove them so they aren't disturbing others. This is just common sense to me. One time at the movies, a couple in front of me let their child talk, no, yell through the entire first half. I finally leaned forward and asked politely for them to ask their child to stop talking, or at least whisper. The mother gave me a death stare and said to me, "I guess you ain't got no kids?" At the time I didn't, but I told her that what I did have was manners.
Another time, a mother let her toddler run up and down the aisle throughout the entire movie. At one point, the little girl actually squeezed her way half way down our row of seats (her mother was in the row in front of us) and crawled up into my lap. When I tapped on her shoulder and asked her to retrieve her child, she didn't even get up. The child eventually crawled up over the back of her mother's seat, across a number of other strangers and back out into the aisle where she spent the rest of the movie rolling around.
On the other hand, I did encounter one father in a restaurant dealing with a temper tantrum. I watched as he got down to his son's eye level and calmly explained the following, "I need you to please stop screaming. If you are screaming, you cannot tell me what it is you need. And if you cannot tell me what it is you need, I cannot help you." The child sniffled a few times and then said that he wanted a drink of water. His father gave him the water and the child thanked him politely. It was the single most intelligent and effective exchange I have ever witnessed between a parent and a misbehaving child.
So what about you? What do you do when your child acts up?
Photo by Flickr member mdanys, used under a Creative Commons License.