Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Airplane Travel and Children

I try not to care too much about what other people think when I am disciplining my children in public. After all, these people don't have to live with the child.  But, how I respond to my children's trantrums or whiny pleas will help mold their future interactions with me.  I realize that from a stranger's perspective minimizing the noise by giving into the children's demands seems like an obvious problem solver.  However, for that stranger, it is the solution to their noise problem - not the solution to minimizing future tantrums.  Moms know that giving in will only make the next go-around that much harder to not cave into.

There was only one time in recent memory that I was remotely tempted to give into my 2 year old child's demands in order to minimze noise, and that was on an airplane.  Senario:  BoopaLoop wants to drop everything she has onto the floor of the plane.  I don't want to continue to pick up items dropped on the floor since I have to unbuckle my seat belt to do so.  I tell my daughter to stop dropping the items, or I won't give them back to her. BoopaLoop defiantly drops one last item, and I unbuckle myself to pick up the item and put said item away in the carry-on bag.  My daughter begins to whine for the item, and I remind her of the consequences of her actions, and I end the discussion by going back to my book.

Of course in my head, I am praying that she will quietly accept this result and discover the joys of napping. Instead, BoopaLoop goes from whining to crying to howling.  Now, what do I do?

I am certain most people on the plane were thinking, "For the love of all that is holy, please give her whatever she wants to keep her quiet!"  The reason I am certain of this is because we boarded the 7:20 AM flight out of LAX, and most people around me were trying to sleep. But, what I am thinking is that I can't continue to play the drop/pick-up game since the "Weat Seat Belts" sign is on, and I want my children to obey that sign, so I have to show my compliance with it.  I can't just give her back the item, or I'll be in the same situation again in 1 minute, and her cries will be even louder when I take it away again.  Children learn quickly that if something works once, try it again with more intensity and it will work again. Proof that history repeats itself.

I considered just giving her the item again and then ignoring her when she inevitably drops it, but I know her requests for me to pick up the item will grow in "shrill-ish" quality until I either pick up the item or threaten her with an even bigger consequence, which would create an even bigger scene.

So, I decided to let her cry for about 30 seconds (which seemed like an ETERNITY) before telling her that if she calmed down and played with the item nicely, I'll let her have it back. But, I emphasized that this was her last chance. If she dropped the item again, I will take it away for good. Well, I don't know why this worked, but it did. She immediately calmed down, I praised her for doing so, I gave her back the item with a stern reminder of what happens if she drops it again, and she took it happily without further incident.

And an airplance full of people signed with relief... while her mother shook with it.

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