Controlling Kids on Aeroplanes
Travelling with crying children can be as painful for parents as it is for fellow passengers. When your kid is the one throwing a tantrum, trying to coax them to stop crying and, even better, FALL ASLEEP, seems like it would take A MIRACLE.
The good news is that most people will generally try to understand the situation, and often, those adults who outwardly display their dissatisfaction come off looking worse than the child throwing the tantrum.
If you’re expecting the worst, it's a good idea to be friendly and apologetic to your cabin neighbours and flight attendants even before your journey starts - this can win you some sympathy points that you might want to cash in later on during the flight.
Pick the Right Flight
First thing you should try to do before travelling is to make sure that you pick the right flight. If you are travelling with an infant who tends to wake up crying all night, pick a morning flight. He or she will cry anyway but at least it won't stress those passengers who are asleep and it also won't stress you out too much either, given that you don't have to feel bad that you are the cause of waking the entire cabin up (well technically it's not you that’s waking them up, but it’s still your baby).
If your child is slightly older and sleeps normally at night, taking a night flight will be a wise choice as he or she will be able to sleep through most of it.
Pick the Right Seat
If picking the flight time isn't an option, then at least for older children try to pick a window seat so that they can look out of the window.
During air travel is possibly the only time that you can (and sometimes should) break your own parental rules. Bring an iPad, games, snacks, and everything else the kids aren't usually allowed, or things that are usually only allowed with restrictions. The sheer surprise that you're letting them loose might be enough to keep them quiet. See it as an incentive for your child when travelling on a plane. Apart from electronic devices and snacks, other things you might also take on board with you include storybooks, colouring books, and games. These can work as your backup. Some may call it bribery and manipulation - others call it 'Incentivised Parenting'.
If your child is especially young, tantrums might be a sign of something else that isn't overtly obvious. Your child might be trying to communicate that they feel uncomfortable, or that something is 'up'. They could have blocked ears or painful sinuses because of the changes in air pressure. They might feel bloated, or gassy, or they might be suffering from dehydration or dryness. All of these are very uncomfortable even for adults, so knowing how to prevent these conditions can eliminate unwanted behaviour before it gets worse.
To avoid blocked and painful ears, have a bottle ready or get ready to breastfeed so that as soon as you are taking off you can feed them. Drinking, sucking, and swallowing can help clear their ears. If your child is too old for bottles, give them some lollipops instead. Do some research on the Valsalva Manoeuvre, and learn how to do it both for yourself, and also with a version that is fit for younger children. This could help to soothe inner ear pain and blockages.
If all else fails, and you feel that the situation is beyond control, then step back and control yourself. That's just as important - don't let the situation get the better of you. You are fighting with an unpredictable human with limited abilities to communicate what's going on. That human is also your child. The more frustrated you get, the greater the likelihood is of stressing out yourself, your child, and everyone else around you. Keep calm and act as if you have everything under control. You've got this.