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Toddler Travel and Child Discipline: What Works?

According to The Gay Uncle, né Brett Berk, “parents, not kids, need to learn the best way to make it through a long plane ride.”  In a recent post on Momlogic, he recounts overhearing a mother trying to get her child to sit still on a flight by saying, “I’m going to push this button [the flight attendant call button] and have them take you away.  I’ll say, ‘Randy’s misbehaving. Take him away.'”

Berk’s point is that parents shouldn’t make empty threats as a means of trying to control their children, and I agree.  In this instance, however, I think this poor mother was just using hyperbole to try to keep her child calm for the benefit of others on the plane, unlike the mother of the 3-year-old who screamed so loudly on a flight he caused a woman’s ears to bleed.

I don’t mind hearing baby noises on a plane.  Even before I became a parent, I was never one to audibly grumble about the kids seated near me.  As Berk says, that’s why God made the iPod.  I generally smile and play peek-a-boo with nearby toddlers, typically to the relief of the child’s parents.  But on a flight I took Monday, I sat across from a couple who let their son hit them repeatedly without disciplining him at all, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

Part of me wanted to say something to the little boy, or just distract him so he’d stop.  Part of me wanted to ask the parents why they were letting their son get away with that type of behavior, but I knew that wouldn’t help anything.  The way he was hitting his parents wasn’t really affecting me personally, but I couldn’t help but think their lack of discipline would end up turning this kid into a holy terror in a few years.

As we headed into our final descent, I was able to successfully distract the couple’s infant daughter from fussing by asking her to give me five, which kept her happily occupied.  The little boy, however, continued to hit both of his parents even after we landed, which prompted an older lady, probably a grandmother herself, to say, “Don’t hit Daddy!  He’s gonna cry now!”  I was shocked to see the look of disgust on the mother’s face as she eyed this woman for simply trying to help.  It was as if to say, “I can take care of this myself,” and yet she clearly couldn’t.

How do you deal with your child(ren) in flight?  Do you feel responsible for keeping them calm, or do you think kids will be kids to some extent?  Would you be upset if someone else tried to help entertain or discipline your child on board?

Photo: georgeparrilla via Flickr

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