“Your kids are so well behaved…”

I heard that magical phrase 6 times on 2 flights last week… I should be proud.  I guess part of me is, but part of me is troubled. (those are not my children in the photo)

I heard that phrase from other parents, from older people, flight attendants, and even a retired army general.

I just smiled and gently said, “Yes, they are wonderful kids!”

My ego’s response was “Yes, you know it, we are awesome parents!”, but then I started to think about WHY we kept hearing that exact phrase…

What exactly is the benchmark for good behaviour?

How bad are everyone else’s kids?  How squirelly and unruly are your kids?

In our case, we didn’t have screaming, crying, big blowouts, and no one got cut.

I think our kids behaved pretty normally, what one would typically expect from a 7, 5, and 4 year old – a few scraps over arm rests, window seats, and somebody “breathing on me”, but generally all was quiet.

Wait!  Was that it?  Were they labelled ‘well-behaved’ because they were quiet and didn’t disrupt other passengers?  Seen and not heard?

If there was ever a test for good behaviour and self-regulation in children, it is a trip to Disneyworld – the busiest place on Earth.   You got to deal with many variables – heat, flights, hunger, thirst, too many strangers, close quarters, fatigue, and family.

I made our first trip to Florida last year to visit my family with my 2 children.  As a single dad, I fancy myself pretty damn competent but was amazed at how much help I was offered.  People would say, “Wow you are brave!” “Don’t you have any help?”  I would politely smile and say, “We are having a ball!”

It was almost comical and pathetic how much help I was offered.  I did eventually take offense when my children were offered healthy snacks from a stranger (who I shazamed back into her seat with my pre-cut apple slices.)

On behalf of my fellow dads, we can do this.  It’s actually pretty easy.   You just need the bare essentials — food, water, bathroom breaks, and oh yeah, a few IPADS with headphones don’t hurt.  If idle hands are the devils workshop then when kids are bored, bad decisions will result and kids will not be “well behaved”.

On the trip this year, I had lots of help from my new ‘partner’ (can you say ‘girlfriend’ when you are over 40?), and she is a teacher… but we also 3 kids, 3 flights, 3 busy airports, and 15 hours of travel.

If anyone was on the edge of a meltdown it was me.  I almost wigged out a few times during the various delays and line-ups, while the kids were surprisingly calm… There were no Clark Griswold moments from vacation.    No one got lost in 3 crazy airports (including Chicago’s O’Hare and LAX) or MagicKingdom, no one had any ‘accidents’ as we visited more bathrooms than rides, and every one had a blast.

So what is my point?  Dads can do it (that’s always my point) but what is the benchmark for good behaviour?

4 quick questions to ponder regarding good behaviour in your children…

1. How do you define good behaviour?

2. What do our children need to do or not do to be ‘judged by strangers’ as well behaved?

3. Is your child’s behaviour or misbehaviour really a direct extension of your parenting skills or parenting effectiveness?

4. What do you value in regards to your kids behaviour?   The people on the plane valued ‘seen and not heard’, but I value respect, politeness, and kindness.  What do you value?

By reading your children’s moods, offering choices, setting out expectations, and reminding your children of what we value, good behaviour should result…  do you agree?

PS.. Any “Kids on a plane” stories to share??

Until next time…

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