Keeping Children Content On Airplanes

I took a 3-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle to meet my coaching mastermind and was excited because I love airplanes. In the past, I got a lot of work done on airplanes because being buckled in and without a kitchen means I can’t distract myself from work by making a snack every 10 minutes. That’s what happens when I work from home.

Before we even left the ground I heard an 18 month old whining along with muttering from those around me. Things like, “Oh great! I bet that kid’s gonna whine the entire trip.

Being a child behavior specialist I thought, “Come on people, give this kid a break. He deserves to take a trip to visit his relatives too. He’s probably a little nervous. I’m SURE dad knows what to do.”

But I was wrong. Dad didn’t know what to do to calm his child’s anxiety.

For THREE hours Dad:

  • Repeated “no” over and over when his child wanted to get up and move in the aisles
  • Yelled “stop whining/fussing/screaming” every 10 minutes
  • Said “you can’t cry here!” repeatedly
  • Tried reasoning by saying, “bro, talk to me, I got you”

Sadly, this dad didn’t know that reasoning, repeating and yelling doesn’t calm children down. It only makes behavior worse because their emotional needs aren’t being met so the scientist part of the brain keeps “trying harder.” This is a sign of not feeling safe or not knowing how to self-soothe, which is common for young kids in general. Especially on airplanes!

I’ve heard people lament about kids on airplanes and comedians joke about it, but I wasn’t prepared to feel so sorry for this kid – and this dad – who clearly had no way to bridge the communication gap.

If you’re flying, here’s a quick tip:

Use emotional communication. If your child is whining, say “I know it’s hard to stay sitting for such a long time” and take a walking break up and down the aisle every half hour. The other passengers will be relieved, not bothered! Acknowledge your child’s feelings rather than reasoning or raising your voice. This helps to defuse the emotional bomb.


Come learn the tools of the Mad2Glad Blueprint to stop the yelling, frustration and fighting you’ll feel confident in handling any situation. Airplanes included!

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