Toddler Turbulence: How to handle traveling with someone else's kids

Q: I hate when kids on airplanes scream and fuss for hours or play a game of “who can kick the seat harder?”  Please tell me how I can get them to stop.

A: Cranky kids can ruin air travel–but whether you should speak to their parents depends on exactly what is happening.  If a little one is crying,don’t complain–the parents are probably already doing their best to calm her.  (However, you might see if there’s a seat available elsewhere.)  Kick-the-seat is a different story.  Just address the parents (or child) politely:  “Excuse me, but my seat is getting banged.  Would you please try to stop it?  Thanks!”


  1. Alicia

    Oh yes it is hard traveling with kids on flights. Both if you are traveling with the kids or when you are the other people on the flight. Screaming and fussing is hard to avoid as many of the ways people sooth their kids are not avaible on a flight and just like adults kids are often off their scheduale when flying. So babbies and toddler screaming the best defense is earplugs. A smile of sympathy for the adults with the kids however will work wonders as they have probably been doing absolutly everything they can to take care of the situation and are embarased enough as it is.
    Older kids say 4 and up can be asked to quiet down or to stop kicking. Addressing the kid is likely to be more effective. A distraction like someone who last year distracted my neice by offering to show her a disappearing and reappearing biscoff cookie trick. The whole plane was thrilled that the majoc trick got her to stop focusing on having to be confined at takeoff.
    Now if you see three toddlers under 3, and a set of parents, and an aunt at thanksgiving flying this year and the kids are acting up please please just give the aunt a smile as I promise I’ll have spend all day doing my best.

  2. mimi

    This etiquette question is a bit strange to me. It shows impatience of and intolerance for children. The best etiquette to me is to be considerate of the fact that children are the future – they are learning and growing. Sitting still in a seat on an airplane is really a challenge for kids and parents who I have found are trying their best. Everyone goes through this stage in life so a little patience and sensitivity to the next generation and those who are raising them goes a long way. With kicking I have found that it usually stops on its own. If not a quick glance back does the job.

    • Sara

      My problem with your reply lays in the responsibility of the parents. While often parents are trying their best, and while often children will be children, there is a point where the parents have learned to tune it out. If I hear the parent say “Stop kicking the seat” and the child does not listen, I can tolerate it. If the parent does not bother to discipline his child, I will not tolerate it. There is a difference between a child being a child and a parent ignoring the behavior of his child.

  3. Raven

    “The best etiquette to me is to be considerate of the fact that children are the future – they are learning and growing.”


    Children ARE the future – and unless we want a future generation of boundless, disrespectful, rude adults, inappropriate behaviours need to be nipped in the bud.

    You should not have to wait for the children to stop kicking your seat. Do the child (and their parents, should they not be willing to intervene) a favour and politely ask them to stop. If it continues, politely address the parents. You don’t have to be rude about it and terrify the child; simply point out their behaviour and how it affects you, followed by what behaviour you would like to see.

    Why are people so unwilling to discipline children? Coddle them now, pay the price for it later. We’re already seeing that.

  4. Belinbeau

    HERE, here! I second the comment from Raven… Too often boundaries are neglected by well-intentioned parents attempting to protect the child’s delicate ‘sense of freedom’… And ALWAYS at the expense of the adults around the child.

    Whatever happend to ‘be seen and not heard’?

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