Posted by: Kate | January 23, 2007

Sometimes It’s Bad Luck…

…and sometimes it’s just bad parenting.

I wasn’t there, so I can’t guess which camp this falls into. Big local news story, a Worcester family was on vacation in Florida and got kicked off their plane before take-off because their 3-year-old refused to sit in her seat and was having a huge tantrum. Now the parents are outraged and making national news.

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

First, 3-year-old. THREE. Not a tiny infant who is unable to understand or cope with the pressures of travel. I recognize that travel is stressful and often brings out the worst in people, but this is a child who is old enough to be reasoned with and, if necessary, threatened into submission. Jacob is two and a half, and you’re darn right he would never, ever behave like that in public. Both of my children already understand, quite well, that I will tolerate a certain level of poor behavior at home, either with benign ignorance or with whatever ideal and perfect parenting response is required by the situation. But in public, my tolerance for crap goes way, way down. Make me look bad, and I will retaliate. Not with beatings (those are for home), but I actually will leave a restaurant, not leave the car, depart from a party, if the behavior dictates thusly. My kids believe me, they know their limits and my own, and I simply cannot imagine a circumstance where they would get so far out of control, in public, that I couldn’t fix it.

Which means that most people who meet my children believe them to be very smart, polite, well-behaved, well-rounded individuals, and I don’t disabuse them of that notion. They don’t see the screaming “I don’t WANT a bath” tantrums (post on that to follow), and I’m content with pretending they don’t happen. Sure, that makes me an arrogant parent. Some things, I do pretty well. Sue me.

That’s the first thing. The second is, think back to the times you’ve been on some form of mass transit. A plane, a train, a bus, whatever. There are always kids having tantrums of some sort, and planes are worse with the depressurizing (or is it over-pressurizing? I never remember) and the cramped spaces and frankly boring surroundings. Most parents prepare themselves to the gills, with snacks and toys and books intended to last a 3-hour flight but actually able to distract the child for about 43 seconds. So, tantrums happen. It’s part of parenting, it’s part of being a toddler. We’ve all sighed and felt either pity or scorn, maybe both, for the afflicted family. And we’ve let it pass, because what else can you do?

So, then. How BAD must this particular tantrum have been? Seriously. It must have been cranked right up to 11 on the dial, you know? Official news reports refer to the child as hitting her parents and crawling under the seats. After being asked to sit, repeatedly, and being unable to contain their 40-pound travel companion, the parents and spawn were escorted off the plane. I cannot imagine.

Third, at least they were escorted off before the plane took off. It would have been so much more inconvenient for the family if the airline had asked them to leave shortly after reached cruising altitude.

So, yeah, this has been stuck in my head today. I was willing to give these parents the benefit of the doubt, maybe their kid was getting sick or has a disability or is in some other way unable to control herself; maybe the parents are sick or disabled or in some other way unable to control her. But I saw their interview on Good Morning America this morning, and by all appearances, the parents are of normal functioning abilities and don’t place heavy emphasis on discipline or communication with their offspring. During the television interview, for which, presumably, they had some time to prepare, the child was lolling around on her mother’s lap, whining, and generally begging for a little structure. And not getting it. Fine, so, maybe it’s not bad parenting, but it’s not model parenting.

And while we’re on the topic, if you and your significant other are sitting in a parked pickup truck in the parking lot, two spaces away from me, with the window cracked open a bit, and are smoking so heavily that I cough on it, then I will be turned off and unimpressed. Sorry, but smoking doesn’t rev my engine. But we can coexist. But if you have a child small enough to be in a full five-point carseat in the cab of the truck between you, then we’ll downgrade it to outright disgusted. That kid’s lungs just don’t even have a chance.

Two clarifications on the plane thing: from what I’ve read, it sounds like the problem wasn’t the child’s tantrum that was the cause for the family’s removal; it was her unwillingness, and parents’ inability, to secure her into her seat safely. None of us grown-ups get to float around the plane unseatbelted during takeoff, why should she? If anything, she’s LESS safe than us. And, two, I don’t think it was the kid’s fault. Kids aren’t expected to be in control of very much at that age… but the parents are.Just, seriously, please. If that happens to me, kick me off the plane. Twice.



  1. I don’t have kids, but I do remember when I was little, my Moms was very interested in me becoming a benefit to society and not detracting from it if it could be helped. My Mom bless her heart was able to communicate to me that I was being out of control with a simple glance (It wasn’t a bug-eyed stare, it wasn’t coupled with any gesture, a simple glance). Telepathic? I think not…telekinetic..I think so, because that one look gagged my ability to misbehave. What well mannered children you have…..what big eyes you have gramma, and what big teeth!?

  2. I agree with you – I think parental discipline has become very lax these days….of course, I say this while thinking back to my younger sister. She would have thrown a fit regardless of the consequences just to satisfy her own need for attention. (at 29 yrs of age she still pulls crap). My other sis and I knew better than to try anything. So – maybe the kid does have problems, but if I was a passenger on the plane, I would probably have been glad the kid was off!!!!

  3. I’m with you on the child and the smoking. But I can’t help but feel a little shiver when I hear about an uncontrolled tantrum, being the parent of a 3 year-old with PDD-NOS. Though I think I would have left the plane voluntarily if he was having a bad episode.

  4. I agree with a lot of what you say. But the bottom line is that a child was forced off an airplane to accommodate the needs of the adults on the flight, who presumably had slightly better coping skills than a three-year-old, well-parented or not.
    (I would tan my child’s backside if they ever threw a fit that bad, though, BTW.)
    As for the poor little baby being murdered by inches – I am a smoker, and I take great pains to try to keep secondhand smoke away from my kids; I find it criminal that those parents would do that to their infant. Sick.

  5. Love your thoughts on the airplane incident — just not quite sure what to think here. Sounds to me like those parents (and I did not see them on tv) lost control of that kid a long time ago. And if they think it’s bad now? Yikes.

    The murdering by inches bugs me to no end. Smoking, pregnant moms, parents exposing their little darlings to secondhand smoke, and folks who refuse to put their kids in carseats all beling in that other category you mentioned — dropping at cruising altitude. Don’t get me started. I’m having a bad day…

  6. Wordnerd, just think of the size of the airplane we would have to fill, to be able to satisfactorily drop off enough idiots. It would be a three-flights-a-day endeavor for a year…

  7. Flying with kids is hell, that’s for sure. I was terrified that I had two trips scheduled after Anna died and that I’d be in over my head with my 3 by myself. Thankfully, my kids rose to the occasion twice and were really well behaved when we flew. I wonder if the parents in question had a portable DVD player. As much as I try to temper tube time at home, I have no qualms plugging my kids into a video from the minute we walk into the airport to the minute we leave the destination airport. Also, if the kid was 3-1/2, he would have had his own seat. If you can get him buckled once, you can just keep your hand on the buckle and the kid can’t get out anyway. I’ve done this at times with my two year old. Though it also goes along with the body language of “you won’t win this one, so don’t try”.

    As far as the smokers, it’s clearly a bad choice for them to subject their kids to the smoke. But it’s also a bad choice for them to subject their kids later to having to deal with a parent with lung cancer. So not only should they not smoke around the kid, they should not smoke at all, for the love of their kids.

  8. I know this is kinda late in responding but over the christmas holidays we took the the girls (one 10 and one 2) to my parents in Cali. The 2 yr old did fine on take off. Even sat in the seat (sometimes screaming her head off intially). But I had the cure. I brought gum. It lasted until we were up in the air and than she would look out the window, or go to sleep..or climb all over the two of us (Daddy and me). It was stressful for me but at least she didnt scream the whole time. My youngest is a total rebel. She will scream in the store, in the park, in the car, etc. I just get up and leave..I scream…I spank..I threaten. She still does it. It is just the way of a two year old. I know this and I keep her home at all cost.

    Though if you ask my husband what that little girl would have happen. He would have said, she would scream the whole flight but she would have been in the seat (or the in the bathroom).

    The Mama

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