I am not sure how much etiquette 7 year olds are supposed to have but this one did not have any. I was on a flight from Chicago to Phoenix. I got on the plane early and took my seat by the window. Another woman sat in the aisle seat and we were all fine and dandy. The plane was almost full and this family walks on: A mother, father, 2 boys and their aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, there was a free seat between me and the other woman and the mother of these boys directs the 7 year old to sit between us. As she continues to walk towards the back of the plane she tells us good luck…. The boy sits down and he looked pretty shy and quiet so I was not sure what she was worried about.
The plane takes off and the boy is still silent until the woman in the aisle seat, lets call her Carol, decides to talk to him. She asks him his age, name, what he is doing etc, trying to make the kid feel comfortable. Well, he certainly did get comfortable. He quickly turned into a nightmare. I was attempting to read a book and he kept asking what I was doing. Then he would take my book and close it and put it on his lap. He kept asking me if I would switch seats with him and I told him no. He then was leaning over me so he could look out the window. I closed the window shutter so he would stop but then he would lean over and open up the shutter.
I was losing my patience at this point. He kept screaming across the aisle to his aunt asking her if he could sit by her. She told him no, that all the seats were filled. Then he was trying to get the man that was sitting next to her to trade seats. She tried to explain to him that he couldn’t do that. That people pick these seats because they are better etc. He then started farting, yes farting, and he would tell me if smelled like star fish, yes, star fish. Carol tried distracting him by showing him pictures of her pets on her laptop but that did nothing. I attempted reading the magazine in the seat back pocket but he kept taking that from me too and sitting on it or something along those lines. He then bit me, yes, he bit me, I don’t remember why but he just did it. I think I bit the kid back, I couldn’t take it anymore.
He was sitting up in his seat hollering back at his mom. He went back there for a bit and she gave him one of those Leapster games that kids play these days. He was playing that with the sound on! OMG, while doing this he was kicking the seat in front of him and this disgruntle man kept telling him to stop. He then got bored with the game and said he was going to sleep. Of course he leaned on me. I was happy though, he got quiet…..for 3 minutes. Then he woke back up and started his antics again. Carol kept telling him what a good boy he was and how well he was doing on the flight. I wanted to punch her for rewarding his awful behavior. If you have a child like this do not let him sit by himself on an airplane for everyone’s sanity. 0210-11
You should have contacted the stewardess at the very first touch of your book you were reading. And I don’t undertand how a 7-year old has the ability to remove a book from adult hands. You are bigger than he is. Hold on firmly and just as firmly tell him to keep his hands to himself and then buzz for the stewardess. As for leaning over you to reopen the window shutter, that’s when you block his action with your forearm and say, “No, you may not.”
You let a 7-year-old walk all over you because you lacked the knowledge or where with all to control of your own space and the child’s behavior escalated because you did not call for a stewardess to address the issue of a rude child who only got more rude as the plane trip continued.
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I can’t believe this needs to be said, but–no matter how badly-behaved children are, DO NOT BITE THEM.
If you do, use steak sauce first. (I kid). I missed this the first time. What a bizarre story.
Ha! Good point. 😉
I think some airlines have rules about minors being seated next to their accompanying adults, and aren’t allowed to sit on their own with strangers. I find it odd to hear that this happened.
On a different note: I am so happy ms Jeanne is doing ok. I wasn’t sure if I should write, but I did think of you.
In particular male adult strangers. (These are unaccompanied minors). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airline_seating_sex_discrimination_controversy
Ah, you’re right! Thanks mark, it was indeed a different story.
I agree as an adult, the OP should have taken and maintained control of the situation. However, some of the blame must go to the mother who wished the people sitting with her son, “Good luck.” She was obviously aware of what was about to happen which is why she dumped her son on these two strangers rather than taking him back with her.
I’ve never taken my daughter on a plane when she was a child (and even at 7, my daughter always behaved outside. At home was another matter) but I would never inflict her bad behavior on strangers for what was probably a long flight. I’m guessing she doesn’t maintain any real discipline on him and feels it was just fine to inconvenience two strangers as long as she didn’t have to deal with him.
This. I don’t know if OP even had to wait to see what the warning was about. I think it would have been okay to call the flight attendant at that point, and insist that the mother take care of her apparently problematic child herself.
I find this really hard to believe. If a seven year old was biting, and an adult bit them back, there would be quite a hullabaloo ! I think the writer probably had a badly behaved child sitting next to them, but felt they needed to embellish the story in order to convey how annoying it was.
When I first read the line, I think I bit the kid back, I couldn’t take it anymore, my eyebrows shot into my hairline and my immediate reaction, too, was ‘this HAS to be fake.’ On second thought, though, I think it’s possible that that particular line was just a joke that didn’t really translate into text. We can but hope!
If it was a full plane, was the family fly on stand-by? Flying with extended family – Were they heading to a funeral? Sometimes you don’t get to choose to sit together. And if the family was not sitting together, why didn’t you offer to one of the parents to switch seats with you so the 7 year old is not sitting ‘alone’?
It may have been the child’s first time on a plane and sitting alone? Children are not born with the skills that it took you decades to learn.
The saying is still true, it takes a village to raise a child. Why didn’t YOU step up to do just that? Children tend to respond better to strangers than their own parents in situations like the one you were in. You could have taken a few hours out of your precious life to step up and entertain the child. It would have made everyone’s trip (including your own) more pleasurable.
From your post, it sounds like in your world children are supposed to behave like adults and you are whining because a child acted like a child.
Seriously? The behaviour described is FAR beyond ‘kids being kids’.
I agree with Jeanne; the OP should have alerted the flight attendants and asked them to solve the problem.
If I’m sitting on a plane and a 7 year old is plunked down beside me, it is absolutely NOT my responsibility to entertain him. She definitely could have handled things better (calling over a flight attendant, to start), but no. She shouldn’t have to take hours of her time to ensure that the kid behaves. That’s his parent’s job.
Jenni: the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means everybody in a community is responsible for protecting, teaching and disciplining the community’s children, not for indulging and entertaining them. In Africa where that proverb comes from, any adult would take for granted that it was his or her duty to turn the little so-and-so over their knee and spank him till he knew to behave better.
Ah yes the old “boys will be boys” type of excuse when it comes to such horrible things as assault resulting in broken bones or comas. “Ah don’t worry about it, they’re just kids being kids!”
Oh, HELL no. It is NOT my job to entertain someone else’s child under ANY circumstances – unless I’m being paid to do so. I’m not big on interacting with other adults when I’m flying, let alone someone’s badly behaved child. If mom was sitting with the child and I thought she needed a break for a few minutes, I might offer to play with him for a few minutes – but if someone expected it of me, they would get a well-deserved setdown.
I definitely don’t think it would have made her trip more pleasurable to spend several hours devoting herself to entertaining this child.
It’s not her job to entertain/educate someone else’s child. Maybe she wanted a few hours to relax and read a book – certainly her privilege!
I agree with Admin. OP let this kid walk all over her. She should have called for a flight attendant to take this kid, who was still in need of parenting, and get him seated with his parents.
I suspect MUD (Made Up Drama) – the writer was probably seated next to a poorly behaved child, but it sounds like there was much embellishment on the story, including biting a child. No matter what, an adult does not bite a child under any circumstances! If that were to happen, I am fairly certain there would have been a massive stink (and rightfully so). Also, most airlines will not seat a minor next to strangers.
At any rate, as an adult traveler, you have two options. One is to complain to the flight attendant at the first sign of trouble, which is what the OP should have done, and two, to attempt to entertain the child all the while setting appropriate boundaries – “We do not take other people’s things without permission. Are you interested in the book? Would you like to read it together?”
We have traveled with our children (who are younger than the child in question), and while I do not claim to have precious, perfect angels 100% of the time, my DH and I are diligent about managing their behavior and inconveniencing other travelers as little as possible.
“Also, most airlines will not seat a minor next to strangers.”
That’s true. It’s likely that an attendant would have asked another passenger to trade seats so that the child could sit next to a parent. I would gladly give up a window seat in order to avoid sitting next to an unsupervised, young child.
Also, I’ve been on flights where attendants asked people to trade seats for various reasons.
Air travel is public transportation. You may not like it, people sometimes suck, but you must cope with the public on public transportation. They even have staff to help you do this, e.g. the flight attendant.
Only up to a certain point. What this kid did is NOT okay and is certainly NOT considered normal childish behavior. I’ve met many better behaved 5 year olds.
No its not.
Air travel is not paid for by the government or by taxes. It is a private business industry. At best, it is -shared- hired travel.
So yes, you can expect certain standards of behaviour to be met. Airlines are allowed to specify that you must behave appropriately in order to fly with them, and can take actions to remove you if you don’t (including landing the plane mid-trip if they so chose). Its all laid out within their terms and conditions of purchase and of boarding.
The woman’s issue isn’t that she can’t seem to deal with coping with other people, its that she failed to contact a steward.
The child was definitely very poorly behaved, but you let it go on while criticizing “Carol” for also letting it go on. If Carol deserves blame from you for enabling the behavior, you must keep some of that blame for yourself as well. And biting back is not an acceptable method of controlling a child, in any circumstance. You are very lucky you did not suffer legal consequences for that. While it may seem like self defense, courts tend to take a dimmer view of adults biting children than children biting adults.
Another question: if you didn’t want to look out the window, why did you insist on keeping the window seat? I’ll never understand people who demand to sit in the window seat and then get annoyed when their seatmates want to look out the window.
It seems several opportunities were missed to avoid the child’s misbehavior, and then as things escalated, opportunities were missed to correct the misbehavior. Frankly, it seems Carol was doing far more than you to attempt to remedy the situation, even if her efforts ultimately were for naught. You seemed to want to just ignore the boy and hope he’d go away. While I can understand that you don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s child (and you certainly don’t have to be), ignoring him isn’t going to work like that. It would be far, far better to call the flight attendant to deal with the situation. They have many tools for dealing with unruly passengers, and will not have to resort to biting.
As I see it, the boy’s parents, possibly in conjunction with the airline, created a bad situation. Your seatmate attempted to divert the boy, but this failed for whatever reason. You attempted to ignore the boy, until eventually your temper could hold no longer and you bit him in retaliation for being bitten. That part still puzzles me. You do not mention why the boy bit you. I’m not saying it was in any way justified, but it would be helpful to understand the context of the attack. It’s extremely rare for anyone to bite completely unprovoked, so it would be interesting to know what motivated the boy to do so. I am also a bit puzzled that you are unsure whether or not *you* bit the boy. That isn’t usually something that goes unnoticed. It seems clear your bite was pure retaliation; fine. But why did the boy bite you? Easy to write it off as “oh, he’s just a monster”, but it’s actually rarely that simple.
Why do some people pick the window seat, even though they shut the shade and won’t let others look? Because it offers a smidge more room. The curvature of the fuselage allows for just a little more room off to the side. Some people use that to their advantage, and bring a pillow and blanket so they tuck into the corner and sleep. Others may have anxiety riding on a plane, and they can also feel more secure if they are next to the wall.
Yes, what o_gal said. I also can sit through a 4 hour flight without getting up, apparently unlike most people, and I don’t like to be disturbed. You can look out the window, if I don’t notice you doing it. Leaning into people’s limited space on a plane is annoying and intrusive. Stay in your own.
A note to the Admin– “stewardess” is a gendered and outdated term. Please refer to cabin crew as such, or you can use the acceptable term “flight attendant.”
Please note that “stewardess” is actively used to refer to the cabin crew on charter yachts. http://www.bravotv.com/people/kate-chastain It is obviously not an outdated term.
That may be, but in the context of this story (which takes place on an airplane), “stewardess” is an outdated term.
I wouldn’t use stewardess, but I also won’t use secretary or sweetheart. YMMV
And what is wrong with using a word that also depicts a person’s gender? It’s no different than calling a man in that profession a steward.
Well, we don’t call them stewards, though.
And gendered terms for professions can be considered sexist as it indicates that gender is somehow relevant to the job, when it’s not. “Server” is starting to replace “waiter/waitress.” Many female thespians prefer “actor,” though awards shows still use both actor and actress. In that field, however, gender can be significant to the job.
It’s not true that airlines will not seat a minor next to strangers. I’ve had a kid sit next to me.
It was on Southwest. And the boy, about 10, was traveling with two adult males. They got on the plane last and there were only middle seats left. I thought I’d be less cramped in my seat with a child next to me than one of the large adults traveling with the kid so I actually spoke up and invited the child to sit in the middle seat of the row where I was in the aisle seat.
He was very well behaved. He showed me a whole bunch of things my iPad could do that I was never aware of.
I do feel a little bit sorry for the poor boy. He might have some kind of “letter diagnosis”, like ADD, ADHD or something. All it took to trigger him was “Carol” starting to talk to him. And she couldn’t know what would happen either, and that once triggered, he would have a hard time to stop.
The blame should fall on the mother and father, who knew what the boy could do, but let him sit between two strangers instead beside one of his parents.
I have “lettered” children. This boy’s behaviour is mostly spoiled, not “lettered”. I would never have accepted a seat apart from my kids if they were under 10 simply because I would not expect a stranger to monitor my kids’ safety, never mind their behaviour toward others. There were times, however, when my kids were spoken to harshly by others, whether deserved or not, and usually I had to ask my kids if they had pushed someone too far, and thus reaped the consequences. But my kids weren’t spoiled, even when their behaviour seemed to be, and a stern look or reprimand from strangers would have induced meekness and even sobs, since they would be worried what they could receive next from either that stranger or from me (i.e. a spanking or forfeit of a toy or privileges). This boy was clearly not cowed by his seat mates at all. He was quite spoiled.
I disagree that a child displaying poor behavior that isn’t immediately redirected by a reprimand is necessarily spoiled. The child in the post, however, is either spoiled or his mom has given up. A good parent will keep a firm hand on their “problem” child. My own son has behavior problems that are typically associated with spoiled kids, but he’s anything but that. He has a stubborn streak a mile wide, doesn’t comprehend consequences until they occur, is impulsive, etc. When I’m not around, I’m certain my child can sometimes appear to be a spoiled brat. When my husband or I are there, you will see that we have a constant stream of praise, redirection, warnings and reprimands going. I *know* my child is challenging, and I don’t expect anyone else to deal with his nonsense who is not paid to do so. I would never dump my child with unsuspecting strangers and expect them to care for them while I relaxed in another area.
I can believe a lot of what the OP says. Unless they were standby or emergency (bereavement) flying, the family should have been together. (biting back I don’t believe)
First time the kid touched my book it would have been a firm NO and call the attendant. The rest of the bullarky would have been nipped in short order. I do not take to being crawled all over even on the ground, you do not mess with my space in the air.
Oh, Miss Jeanne – “stewardess”? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Other than that – I completely agree with you. The minute the mother wished me “good luck” with her kid, I would have been ringing for the flight attendant to find out if there was a seat I could move to. If there wasn’t, I would have made the mother or father give up THEIR seat and come sit with their little spawn of Satan. And heaven help the person – child OR adult – that tries to take a book out of my hands – it would NOT be pretty.
Yeah…I was writing that and thinking, “I know there is another word for that but I’m brain dead today.” I think I’ve been watching too much “Below Deck” lately where they repeatedly reference the interior staff as “stewardess”.
I noticed your earlier reference to that fact. I wasn’t aware of the term still being used in that context (possibly because my travel budget doesn’t run to charter yachts!). Your column is educational in more ways than one!
I find this hard to believe too. A seven year old biting seems out of the ordinary, but an adult biting him back is crazy. The OP also says she thinks she bit him back as if she can’t remember if she did for sure- that isn’t something you forget. Also Carol praising him for being a ‘good boy’ in spite of all this seems very unlikely.
I am surprised that the family or any of the other passengers did not offer to exchange seats so that at least one adult from the family can accompany a child. I have travelled quite a bit (including a lot of international travel), and I have seen people exchange seats all the time – even so that adults traveling together can sit together. I myself have often exchanged with people when I am traveling alone, as long as the seat is in the same or higher preference level (eg., I should get an aisle for an aisle, or my aisle for a better seat). I was once traveling with my husband when a family of 4 (parents and 2 kids) came in (they said that they had missed their connection, and hence they put them in our flight at the last moment). All 4 of them had different seats, rows apart. They did go across the flight, with the help of air crew, and managed to get 2 and 2 seats together, so that each child was with one of the parent. My husband and I were together, and we did not want to move unless we HAD to; but it ended up that we didn’t have to.
I am not sure if domestic flights are different, especially that they don’t usually have food that children often need help with. But I’d have assumed that someone would be willing to exchange seats.
Exactly. I do not live in USA, so no experience of domestic flights there, but on international flights I have seen trading seats and traded them myself often enough. If a small child seated next to me would clearly prefer to sit by a family member, I would probably offer to trade inmmediately, before seeing how well-behaved the child is or isn’t.
Mind you, I have no preference for particular seating, I just sit wherever the airline puts me.
I imagine that trading seats would also be the first solution the flight attendat could offer, if called. After all, it’s not like they can discipline passengers’ children.
Exactly. I was on an international flight from Germany to India several years ago and traded with a gentleman when my travel-fogged brain deduced that the woman next to me, holding a very small child in her arms, was his wife. Yes, I did have to give up my aisle seat for one of the middle seats on a wide-body jet, but it was worth it not to be next to the baby on the 9 hour flight and to let the family be together. This incident was pre-kids for me. Now that I’ve had children, I would be even quicker to offer up my seat as I now intimately understand how helpful it is to be able to hand off a lap child for a few minutes to stretch or take a mental break.
Though I agree with previous comments that LW’s story sounds a bit exaggerated, Emmy brings up a point I was actually thinking about. Most people seem to agree that the common courtesy would have been for a passenger to offer up their seat, so the child could sit with a family member.
Recently I was on a long haul international flight (think 10+ hours) where for many people it does matter where they sit. For such flights, I often try to get an exit row seat if I can, but at the very least I want an aisle seat, so I can get up and stretch and use the bathroom without bothering anyone. I saw a mother and her child get on the plane and both had been assigned middle seats one behind the other. The mother asked a man sitting in the aisle seat next to her son’s seat to switch with her. He initially looked uncomfortable and said he would prefer not to but eventually gave in because the mother repeatedly begged. In that situation, the trading of seats is actually an inconvenience for the passenger, who might, like me, have wanted an aisle seat. Is it rude in that case to politely decline to trade? On a shorter flight, I wouldn’t have minded, but this flight had me thinking.
As I said, I have no particular preferences, so I would have no problem trading.
However, I know that for some people having a particular seat is important due to their size or health issues and I believe in such a case they are under no obligation to trade seats if they don’t want to. Last time I flew, a lady in my earshot was asked if she would mind to trade seats and she declined, saying that she chose this particular seat on purpose (aisle seat close to the toilets). As it was a budget airline, she certainly had to pay extra to choose it.
No small children were involved, though, it was three adult friends who wanted to sit together. I think someone else offered to trade instead.
@NB- that’s exactly my point about my seat preferences. I travel quite a few long haul flights, and I am quite tall. I don’t really want to be crammed into a middle seat (and there is a US-based airline that has 2-5-2 seat arrangements on some 10+ hour routes!). But that said, if I have to put up with a small child next to me, who is not related to me, I might probably prefer the middle seat to being next to a fidgety child, and even more anxious mother!
But that said, I don’t think it is ever rude to refuse a trade, because you are entitled to the seat – especially if you chose it.
For heaven’s sake, why didn’t you just offer to trade seats with his aunt so SHE could deal with him?
What’s all the fuss over the word “stewardess”? I personally don’t have any negative associations with the word. It feels a bit the same as “secretary” to me. If you say that in my company, they WILL correct you because they are “management assistants”. As someone who has been a “management assistant” for 8 years, I really never minded being called a secretary.
What I can think of is that it is because the role has changed. Flight Attendants don’t want to be seen as people that serve drinks (part of the job, but they do so much more), just like management assistants don’t want to be seen as people who pick up the phone (part of the job, but they do so much more).
Maybe there is someone here who is a flight attendant and can inform me better?
Well, one of the problems is that nowadays, many flight attendants are male – so the use of a gender-specific word like “stewardess” is inappropriate. On the other hand, “secretary” isn’t intrinsically gender specific – so not a problem.
So call the male ones stewards, like waiters/waitresses.
No, iwadasn. They are all “flight attendants”, as are police officers, firefighters, authors, pilots (“aviator”/”aviatrix” anyone?). See my “rant” below (?).
Exactly, ladyv — it’s the gender specificity that makes words like “stewardess” inappropriate. Lots of professions that used to end in “-ess” have been gender-neutralized to no one’s dismay.
I was reading a murder mystery from the 1930s in which a woman writer keeps referring to herself as an authoress; even in the period context, it was self-degrading, as if she were a just silly woman despite her literary success.
Granted, this example was from the 30s, but such (female) gender-denoting words were in use into the 60s and 70s when many traditionally-male jobs were being filled by women (at great effort) and vice versa.
The dignity of the job and recognition of the work essentially required gender-neutral job descriptions, so “policeman/woman” became “police officer”, and “steward(ess)” became “flight attendant.”
Apologies for the rant, but this obviously struck a nerve for me. 🙂
It didn’t strike a nerve with me. I don’t have an issue with words being gender-specific. There is nothing sexist or demeaning in their origin or usage. People still use words like “actress,” “waitress,” “sculptress,” and “hostess,” so why words like “stewardess” should be considered inappropriate makes no sense.
The problem is if you say “the stewardess should help with a child out of control,” you are implying that a female employee should do it. If you say “flight attendant,” it’s not gendered.
It’s easy for us who grew up with stewardesses only to slip up, but it’s clearly more accurate to say flight attendant when the male/female ratio is equalizing more and more.
I’ve never heard “sculptress.”
And I think “actress” is because ones gender is relevant to that job.
Waitress is actually going out of fashion, being replaced with “server.”
I’m still having trouble believing the mother would voluntarily put her kid between two strangers. She doesn’t know LW or Carol from a hole in the wall – they could’ve snatched him upon landing, for all she knew. Why not keep the kid with her and have an adult take the lone seat?
And I’m pretty sure if this whole biting thing happened as LW described, we would’ve heard about it on the news. It would be all over social media.
The mom didn’t worry about that because she knew her son; it would have turned into The Ransom of the Red Chief.
I realize I’m catching up on archives. But that you so much for referencing that hilarious short story!!! I haven’t thought about it in years. You brought a huge smile to my face.
Thank you, not that you. Stupid fat fingering 🙂
It sounds like this happened on Southwest, where seating is first come, first served. I believe “family boarding” (earlier in the process) is only for if you have a child age 5 or 6 or younger, so this family may have missed the cutoff, then forgotten to check in until too late, thus guaranteeing only middle spots would be left.
So the OP would have had to give up her window seat that she worked to get (checking in 24 hours in advance, or sometimes even paying a bit extra) in order to get stuck a middle somewhere else if she wanted the kid to sit with family. But it sounds like it would have been well worth it. I know if a parent told me “good luck” I’d have immediately wondered why–and once it became apparent I’d have made the switch (and made the flight attendant force the family to switch with me).
I can sort of understand why the OP was hesitant to act up until they bit back…or was that meant as a joke?
There are parents out there who threaten to sue or say you assaulted their child if you touch them in any way while defending yourself from the child’s unruly behavior.
We have traveled a lot with little children. Whenever our seats are split up, we, the family, trade our best assigned seat(s) with another passenger, so that we can sit together with the least amount of inconvenience to other passengers. Flight attendants have always been helpful in asking other passengers to trade, and usually passengers are willing to comply if the seat is an improvement. Also, if a passenger sees that they will have to sit next to a lone child, they either get a look of compassion that desires to help or an “Uh, oh, I’d do ANYTHING rather than sit next to a child who isn’t mine!”