Our trip to Miami was fabulous. We slept in, went to the beach, swam in the ocean, read, ate great food and just relaxed. Until we got on our Continental flight from Miami to Newark…
I don’t know anything about being a parent. I’m not one yet. But I know how NOT to be a parent and I learned that valuable lesson on Flight 44 — thanks to a family of four that sat in front of us.
The parents were traveling with their two and four-year-old daughters and completely ignored those girls the whole trip. For that excruciating two hour and 28 minute flight – one of the girls was whining, while the other one was screaming at the top of her lungs…the entire time. I’m not kidding. And the parents were zoning out – doing nothing — literally nothing. I was feeling my blood pressure rise.
I don’t blame the kids at all – they are innocent in this story. It’s the parents who I have a problem with. They acted like they were in their own living room instead of on a crowded plane with 200 other people. They were rude, selfish and inconsiderate to me and to their kids.
I’m not a parent yet and I’m not pretending to know what it’s like to be one. So I’ve enlisted the help of my parent friends for this checklist for good parenting:
Jene Luciani, Gigi’s Mom
- Count to ten before reacting in a high pressure situation
- Always find time for laughter; at the end of the day, a happy child trumps all else
- Always be as prepared as possible…especially when going on a trip! Bring everything you could possibly need in any situation – make lists!
Alisa Bowman, Kaarina’s Mom
- Never threaten to take away something that you know you won’t really take away. In other words, don’t say, “If you don’t stop whining, we’re not going to Disney World.” You only have to be a paper tiger once for kids to stop taking you seriously.
- Practice what you preach. If you want your kids to learn how to share, share with the grownups in your life.
- Teach kids real rules that they can follow. Rather than pretending that curse words don’t exist and that they don’t know them (most first graders know all of them), have a discussion about when they are appropriate and when they are not.
- Give them lots of praise for what they do right. You can’t over do this.
Cindy Ratzlaff, Kathleen’s Mom
- Have a pre-trip family meeting where you discuss exactly what will happen. Talk about waiting time and the fun of the unexpected. Agree on a code word that children and parents alike can use to signal that they’ve “had it” and need to change the mood. We use “ardvark.” Every time someone says ardvark, we all laugh because it’s like screaming “I can’t take it anymore.” Then we get up, take a walk, or dig into the pre-packed goodie bag.
- Create a goodie bag of small, inexpensive gifts that you can “reward” your child(ren) with for patience during travel. Your momentary bribery strategy will not damage your children for life but will demonstrate good citizenship to your kids and your fellow travelers will be grateful.
- Pack healthy snacks in small zip lock bags that are easy to grab on the go. Being too tired or too hungry, both for you and your kids, is deadly while traveling.
- Teach your children to say please and thank you. Rudeness is never acceptable but rudeness while traveling increases the stress level of everyone around you. Be a moment of sunshine in your fellow passengers’ lives, not a stress inducing encounter. It’s also important for children to learn to make eye contact with those they are speaking to. Travel is noisy and children’s voices don’t always carry well in a crowd. Teach them to look directly at someone who asks them a question and respond politely.
- Earphones are a must for electronic games. That’s the rule, period. We are glad you brought games for the trip but we do not want to listen to Mario hop to the next level for the entire three hour flight.
- Please do not yell at your children. This does not make them calm. Model calmness yourself.