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“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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  • Chad Miller Apr 5, 2013 Reply

    Very well put, Jeff. I definitely agree with you in your wrap up question.
    I’d add that often a parent’s disposition will often dictate the behavior of the child.
    Glad you had a blast on your trip!

    • Jeff Apr 7, 2013 Reply

      Hey Chad! Thanks for the feedback — always love your thoughts… i am torn when my kids have dirty happy faces… do I insist on washing their face so other parents don’t judge me as a slobby dad who doesn’t care?
      Who am I washing their face for? Not them… they are happy.. just those that look upon them… but then, who would want to see a happy dirty face of a child… the dilemma continues…
      Can’t wait for 2014 Dad summit…

    • Jeff Apr 7, 2013 Reply

      Shelley Wiles Brodeur comment – via FACEBOOK…

      Interesting perspective Jeff. I think there are some kids who haven’t been properly trained for certain situations and parents who either don’t see it or don’t care. We’ve travelled a lot with our kids and over time I’ve become better at preparing them and us for our flights or time at the attractions. I know when the kids are complimented for their good behaviour, I do feel proud and I make sure the kids hear about the compliment. I’d much rather their good behaviour be noticed and complimented by strangers than how cute they are.

      • Jeff Apr 7, 2013 Reply

        Hey Shelley!

        Awesome to hear from you! Thanks for sharing — yes, I believe and agree with you — we need to prepare our kids for success! Then we are less surprised when it happens!

  • Greg Withnail Apr 18, 2013 Reply

    “The people on the plane valued ‘seen and not heard’, but I value respect, politeness, and kindness.”
    Isn’t being quiet when sharing a plane with others an example of respect, politeness and kindness? I’d apply that to adults as well as kids.
    (And stupid-loud car stereos as well as armrest squabbles, lol)

    • Jeff Apr 20, 2013 Reply

      Hey Greg from the UK,
      Great to hear from you — thanks for chiming in! Interesting point – yes, I guess those attributes are all wrapped in all of us being well behaved!
      I look forward to hearing more from you!

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