Dear American Airlines Passengers, I Can’t Make My Toddler Be Silent

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By now, it’s a common stereotype – the terrible toddler on the plane. Everyone who has ever been on vacation has a story about a screaming brat of a kid and the parent who simply wouldn’t control them. And while I know that these awful parents exist somewhere out there in the universe, most of the time I wonder if it really could have been that bad. I mean, what parent honestly doesn’t care if their child won’t behave? I can’t even imagine seeing my child scream or throw a fit or annoy total strangers without being embarrassed and irate.

Well now, it’s my chance to find out just how this perception of bratty children got started. I’ve about to take my three year old on her first flight. And I’m completely terrified that she’ll misbehave.

See, I’m trying to figure out just what the expected behavior is for a toddler on an airplane. I’m nervous because if people are expecting me to keep my toddler silent during an entire two hour flight, they’re delusional. Unless I drug her, which I might be considering as long as this isn’t CPS I’m talking to, a little girl is going to talk. They’re kids. That’s what they do. She’s going to want to talk about the airplane. She’s going to want to look out the window. She’ll be curious about everything that’s happening. My daughter is going to talk.

If my fellow passengers are expecting this little girl to hold her tongue for hours, they’ll be disappointed. But one thing I can promise is that my daughter will be polite. I can’t make her zip a lip, but she will keep her voice down. I can’t stop her from saying hello to you, but I promise she won’t badger you while you’re trying to sleep. And I can’t force her to fall asleep, but she won’t be allowed to run up and down the aisles.

I’m hoping that this is enough for the travelling public. After all, polite little girls are adorable, right? I mean, I realize this is terrible, but can we get a pass because my daughter is intelligent and adorable? That should win us some goodwill. And if nothing else, I guess I just won’t check out any internet rants next week, so please file your hate pieces accordingly.

(Photo: Kids Confidential)


  1. Pix

    October 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    If you actually make an effort to make her keep her voice down, not harrass other passengers, and not run up and down the aisles, then you are making an effort to get a two year old to act almost as polite as any other chatty passenger. And that is as much as anyone can ask.

    It’s the kids who are allowed to talk loudly or scream, fight with siblings, run around, annoy people, stand up and stare over the back of their seat at me while dropping whatever crayon or doll they’re holding onto my lap or the floor in front of me over and over again until I feel like I am playing fetch and I am the damn dog… Those are the kids that I think people have every right to be annoyed by. It seems like so often the parents start out well, trying to reign the kid in, but after a while they give up and let everyone else deal with it for two hours.

    One of my biggest annoyances on planes is people kicking my seat or people using my seat to pull themselves up multiple times. (I’m aware some people may have physical difficulty getting out of those darn seats and that I understand. But you can tell the difference between the person who has to do it even though they don’t want to annoy you and the person that just does it because it’s convenient for them and it doesn’t even occur to them that someone is in that seat.)

    I’m sure that keeping a kid from doing those things is not easy, but at least as far as I am concerned, your effort goes a long long way. I am far less annoyed by these things when I see a mom physically stop the legs and tell the kid ‘stop kicking the seat.’ You get extra brownie points for saying ‘There is someone sitting in that seat. Don’t kick it please.’ (I like hearing parents explain their reasoning to the kid instead of just barking an order.)

    Wow. That was not intended to turn into the rant it did. Anyway, my biggest point here is that when it comes to parents in public, those actually making an effort are the ones who get a pass from me.

    Have a fantastic trip Lindsay. 🙂

    • LV

      October 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

      I totally agree with your comment! I think that most people don’t have a problem with children per se in planes or other crowded public places, but with lax parents who don’t do anything to rectify their children’s misbehaviour.

      On a flight a few years ago, I was in front of a small child who kept kicking my seat. I finally turned and asked her father (politely) to ask her to stop doing it and he just LOOKED at me like I had two heads. He didn’t do anything to stop his daughter from misbehaving. That’s what really pissed me off, not the little kid acting like a little kid.

  2. Mollie Hemingway

    October 15, 2011 at 12:32 am

    As a professional flyer (or so it seems), I think the key is that you do your best with your child. Planes are full of decent people who will make you feel like a world-class mother if she’s great and will help you out if she’s not.

    Also, I always introduce my toddlers to the people in the seat in front of them and then I tell the toddler that the person will get very sad if they kick the seat. For some reason, this personalization of the victim of the kicking helps.

    But all of my horror stories involve children younger than 3. Once they’re three, you’re fine! Have a great flight.

  3. Lindsay Cross

    October 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Just as a quick update… We made it! And it actually went wonderfully. No melt downs or tantrums and even the college guy in front of us said that my daughter was adorable. Talk about a proud parenting moment.

    • Ange

      October 18, 2011 at 12:19 am

      Good for you!

      No reasonable person would expect you to keep a child completely silent but it’s always nice to see a parent making an effort to stop their child from disturbing others. Sadly it’s not common enough these days – and I say that as someone who flies regularly for my job.

  4. Emily

    October 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Unfortunately, I have run into the folks who actually do expect even young children to sit stock-still, silently, for the duration of the trip. On a recent flight, the man sitting next to us (me, a 3-year-old, and an almost-2-year-old in my lap) said, as he was sitting, “They’re going to be good, right?” This without a hint of jest or even good humor in his voice. I said, “Of course they are! And, I know that you won the airplane lottery here, but it’s only an hour flight!” The kids were as good as could be expected – zero trips to the potty, zero screaming, just me pulling every toy out of the “bag of tricks” but the guy was still visibly annoyed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who thinks that kids should be allowed everywhere, all the time. I don’t bring my kids to late R-rated movies, fancy restaurants, or the like. When I am out and about, I do my best to keep these guys acting like normal humans as much as possible. That makes it extra frustrating when people seem to disdain the young being out of the house at all.

  5. Eileen

    October 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I’m a little late, but I want to agree with everyone else. No one expects a toddler to be silent – mostly, I just want some indication that the parent is actually paying attention to the child’s behavior. Although if a kid starts screaming and continues screaming, that’s going to be a problem.

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