You’ve just settled into your narrow airplane seat when a baby starts screaming right behind you. You put in your earphones and hope for the best, silently blaming the baby, the parents, and the designers of cramped airplanes.
We've all been there. Some have proposed banning babies from flights, saying their uncontrollable screams are unfair to other passengers. Others, including Richard Branson, have proposed a "kid's class" or a "family section." But does that help parents or punish them?
Today, fewer adults are traveling with children. In 2012, 26 percent of domestic leisure travelers traveled with children under the age of 18, while in 2008, 31 percent of adults had kids in tow, the US Travel Association reported.
Maybe parents are responding to the pressure to minimize their kids’ outbursts – a factor that can’t always be controlled. In December, the Mirror shared one approach to flying with a new baby: giving out “goodie bags,” including earplugs, to passengers seated nearby.
In response, Time's Karol Markowicz wrote,“The idea that parents must apologize for any noise their child makes in public has gone too far. An airplane is not an opera, and there can be no expectation of silence.... The real problem in American life today is that we treat children as something we must hide away until adulthood."
She added, "If we never take our children to restaurants or on flights, or expect a bad reaction when we do, how will they grow up to be the kind of fellow diner or flier we all wish to see?” The important thing is that parents are caring for their children to the best of their ability, she says.
But that might make for a rough flight for the parents.
“The other people on the plane do not have to be subjected to your child crying. It is absolutely not something that they should be expected to endure. They can’t leave,” Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist specializing in parenting issues, told CNN. “So if you’re flying, it means that you may have to get out of your seat and walk around, pace the airplane and make sure your child has a pacifier and a bottle. You may be tired at the end of the trip, it may not be a great flight for you, but that’s your job as a parent.”
If nothing else, Dr. Bartell added, it will help build compassion among the other passengers. "If other people see you trying, even if you're not succeeding, they will feel at least you're ... doing your best to stop it. And they'll have some sympathy for you," she said.