I was booked on a flight to Florida once and ended up on a plane that, to my horrified eyes, seemed filled to the brim with families with children. When the flight attendant offered the chance to change flights to accommodate someone else who wanted in on the overbooked flight, I practically jumped out of my seat I wanted off that plane so fast.

The memory came to me after reading a Wall Street Journal report about the rise in “baby ghettoes,” a growing practice within the airline industry to seat families with children in the back rows of planes so as to lessen their ability to annoy other passengers.

Parents and advocates for families argued that they were being unfairly ostracized and that airlines were giving in to the demands of unreasonable curmudgeons who just don’t like children. Their basic position: “Children cry sometimes.”

That’s true. And I definitely think that airline seating policies, also described in the article, that sometimes sat young children apart from their parents are really bad ideas that put children’s security at risk.

And could advocates for strict controls on children on airlines have unrealistic expectations based on a view about idyllic childhoods that perhaps never really existed? Possible.

But the real issue at hand is parenting, not children, and what responsibilities parents have to train and police their offspring.

I didn’t want to be on that family-filled flight to Florida not because I hold any animosity toward kids, but because I feared that they had been poorly trained by their parents on how to behave and interact with society at large. And that their parents had unrealistic views on how prepared their children really were to deal with some of the challenges they would face.

It’s the same for anyone who’s had to deal with poorly trained children not only on airplanes, but also at movie theaters, in restaurants, or even on the playground.

I don’t have children. But I do have nieces and nephews and little cousins – and I have had similar discussions with their parents, too.

I have no illusions that I, or any of my siblings, cousins or peers, was a little angel as a child. But I can attest to the no-nonsense childrearing of my parents and so many other parents I encountered as a child.

It was a childrearing that demanded that children understand that they were not the most important people in the world, and that consideration had to be shown to others. It’s a childrearing that is too little seen today.

Parents have to think about how their children’s behaviors may negatively impact others and work on moderating the most aggravating of them.

Then, it’s about being grown-up enough to recognize when a child may not be ready to do things like go to the movies, eat in a nice restaurant or fly the friendly skies – without perhaps being banished to the “ghetto.”

 

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