[h=3]Baby Behavior in the News: Toddler Tantrums on Planes[/h]
[LEFT]Yesterday morning on MSNBC, we noticed a segment that had aired on The Today Show about a family who was told to leave a flight after their 2-year-old threw a tantrum when she was being strapped into her seat. Apparently, she wanted to be held by her mother rather than sit in her own seat. The family had been traveling for quite awhile and toddler had missed her nap. While the details of what happened on the plane were not provided, it is likely that she was screaming and fighting while the crew were preparing for take-off and it had taken the mother some time to get the child strapped into her seat. The airline said that they had told the family to leave the plane because they had failed to comply with crew member instructions. An online poll among Today Show viewers indicated that 71% of those responding to the survey agreed with the airline's actions. As you might expect, the comments on the story are, on the whole, harsh and unsupportive of the family.
The fact that this was considered national (though morning) news is a good indicator of how unusual something like this is. Not that the toddler had the tantrum but the fact that the tantrum got her family removed from a plane. This story provides another illustration of the distorted views of parenting and childhood that have become so common (at least in the media). The comments and the results of the poll made it clear that people who responded thought that lack of discipline was the problem and that the parents should have had more control over the situation. Of course, we have a different point of view. Let's look at some pertinent facts.
The toddler involved is 2 years old. A 2-year-old has very little control over their emotions and if she gets overtired, overstimulated, or frightened, she is likely to have a tantrum. While some tantrums can be short and relatively low-key, others can get completely out of hand before the child settles down and all the parents can do is protect the child and others. Many people believe that very young children and toddlers can control their emotions if they only try but their brains are not yet capable of dealing with strong emotions. It is not a matter of choice or discipline, its related to brain maturation. If the child had been 4 or 5, the expectation would have been different. We encourage you to read our series on tantrums (see the links below) to learn more about the research in this area.
The toddler had missed her nap. Given that the parents couldn't ask the airline to schedule the plane according to their toddler's routine, it is not surprising that the child was overtired and stressed. Traveling can be overwhelming for babies and overstimulation can lead to a lot of tears and difficult behavior. Parents can do a lot to reduce but not eliminate overstimulation while traveling (see the links below) and sometimes difficult behavior will result. Most of the time tantrums are short and self-limited when parents recognize what is happening.
The parents did not have options typically available for dealing with tantrums. In a restaurant, most parents would take a fussy baby or toddler outside or at least hold them in their laps to limit stimulation or distract them. Getting ready for take-off, these options were not open to the parents but the 2-year-old had no way to know that. The 2-year-old had an expectation that her mother would hold her when she was distressed. At 2, children are not capable of understanding that a plane is different than a restaurant or any other place away from home.[/LEFT]
There is a different article about the incident. Agree or disagree with the airlines decision, and why?