Recent news items have reignited the debate over children’s behavior in public places, and parents’ ability (or inability) to control that behavior.
Nadya Suleman (of Octomom fame) recently took 12 of her 14 kids on a 6-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles that ended up being delayed two hours. Apparently, the kids (eight of whom were 2 years old) were being noisy and disruptive. Suleman and her helpers (one other adult and two older children) were apparently unable or unwilling to control the octuplets, to the dismay of other passengers.
In other airline news, Malaysia Airlines has banned infants from first class on many of its flights. Apparently, other airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have also considered adults-only flights on some routes.
Back on the ground, McDain’s, an “upscale, quiet and casual” restaurant in Pennsylvania, has taken the step of banning children younger than 6, stating: “We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times they have disrupted other customers.”
These types of situations raise some interesting questions: What level of behavior is acceptable in public places? At what point does “Aw, look at the cute kids,” become “Get those brats out of here?” What responsibility do parents bear in reining in their children?
Another important question is this: Do children misbehave more now than a generation or so ago? Or have adults become less tolerant? Clearly, people are going to have varying levels of tolerance for children’s behavior. Speaking from personal experience, I became much more tolerant of crying babies after having dealt with my own.
If having children makes you more understanding of them, then as a society, we could be much less tolerant right now. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five women are currently ending their childbearing years without having a child. That is up from one in 10 back in the 1970s.
As far as whether children’s behavior has changed, I believe it has. Perhaps I’m getting old and going through a “kids-these-days” phase, but it seems like we’ve come quite a ways from when children were expected to be seen and not heard. Kids now seem much more vocal about their desires in general and are also growing up in a society that values instant gratification and constant stimulation. It’s not surprising they become easily bored and disruptive.
Friends and relatives who live in or frequently travel to other countries have told me that they’ve been astonished at how much worse children’s behavior is back here in the states, so there may clearly be a cultural component at work here.
Does this absolve parents from the responsibility of making sure their children behave appropriately? Absolutely not. Can parents prevent their children from crying or making a scene? No, but they can and should take appropriate steps to deal with it, including distraction, discipline or removing the child from the area. This just seems like common sense and common courtesy. Then maybe airlines and restaurants wouldn’t feel like they need to institute “no-kids” policies.
By the way, after we deal with the kiddos, what are we going to do about those annoying adults? Just like children, they come in a variety of categories. Should we ban them next? How about a no-rowdy-drunk section in restaurants? Or “scent-free” flights to avoid those overly perfumed folks? The possibilities are endless...