Q: We were just seated on a plane near a family with three totally out-of-control kids. The parents (and flight attendants) did nothing to quiet them down. What should I have done?
A: This is tough one because sometimes there is not a lot you can do. Try to remember how difficult it can be to travel with children and approach the situation the way you would want to be treated if it were you having similar trouble.
First, try to move to seats further away from the noisy children, if any are available. If not, turn to the person with standing to address the situation, you could ask a flight attendant–ideally, the head attendant—to speak to the offending parents. Take a stroll down the aisle so you can approach an attendant discreetly and explain the problem. The crewmember can then offer the parents their assistance, and also request that they try to keep their kids calm. They could explain that, for safety reasons, the kids need to stay seated and buckled up, keep their voices lowered and not kick the seat in front. They could also address any other complaints you might have.
You could also speak to the parents directly, if you can do so calmly. For instance, you could broach the topic in a non-confrontational, sympathetic way, by saying, “ I remember how challenging it was to travel when our kids were little! Is there anything I can do to help? Do you have any games for them to play?’’ Or, if one of the kids is kicking your seat back, say, “Excuse me, but my seat is being kicked.” or maybe, would you ask your child not to keep kicking the back of my seat. I know it’s a tight space, but it’s very distracting. Thanks.’’ Most likely, the parent will apologize and put a stop to the behavior.
If, despite your and the crew’s entreaties, the parents and their children just don’t cooperate, there’s not much you can do—except, perhaps, to remember to pack some ear plugs on your next trip.