Hell is not other people, as the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously claimed. In fact, hell is other people’s children.

Especially when you’re imprisoned with them for hours on a plane, while the kids wail, shriek, yell and thrash their way around the claustrophobic confines of the cabin.

In the absence of industrial-grade ear-plugs, there’s absolutely nothing you can do – except grit your teeth, exchange pained looks with other passengers also held hostage by the little brats, and perhaps utter the odd expletive under your breath when the noise reaches jack-hammer levels. There’s no escape. You’re stuck with them until the plane lands.

On a recent flight abroad, I witnessed two children, who I’d guess to be about four and six, create absolute havoc.

The younger one continually jumped, shouted and stamped along the aisle, bouncing off people who were trying to sleep – no chance – while the older child repeatedly screamed at the top of her voice because she wanted to get off the plane.

It seemed extraordinary that such a small person could produce a roar louder than the engine of a Boeing 737, but this one did. The parents looked on wearily as if they were helpless bystanders, making barely any attempt to restrain their kids or deal with their awful behaviour.

This kind of scenario is not unusual. In his bestselling book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos, the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson describes seeing a three-year-old boy trailing his parents through a crowded airport. Just like the child I encountered, this boy was “screaming violently at five-second intervals – and, more importantly, he was doing it voluntarily… he was irritating his parents and hundreds of other people to get attention”.

Peterson’s verdict? “More thoughtful parents would not have let someone they truly cared for become the object of a crowd’s contempt.”

Ouch – but it’s true.

Look, I know that parents of young children often get a rough ride, bombarded with unsolicited advice from all sides, and blamed for everything from rising obesity levels to internet addiction.

What’s more, some children have genuine behavioural issues, diagnosed medical conditions which can cause them to act up.

And maybe I have less tolerance for shrieking youngsters now that my own children are grown up.

But here’s the unspoken problem: a heck of a lot of parents simply won’t say no to their kids. And it’s causing an epidemic of disgraceful behaviour.

These parents treat their offspring like miniature adults, pint-sized kings and queens, rather than the children they are. They spend their time massaging the kids’ tyrannical little egos, deferring pathetically to their every fleeting wish, never allowing them to experience frustration or difficulty, and refusing to discipline them in case it hurts the little diddums’ feelings.

As the writer Cosmo Landesman recently observed, “once children were expected to fit themselves around the needs of grown-ups; now it’s the other way around”.

Why? Guilt might have something to do with it. If you only see your children for a short period every day because of work commitments, you might be reluctant to spend any of that quality time laying down the law.

Jordan Peterson thinks that modern parents are “simply paralysed by the fear that they will no longer be liked or even loved by their children if they chastise them for any reason”. This abandonment of responsibility has severe consequences, since parents have a vital role as the “arbiters of society”, who must teach the adults of the future how to behave and interact with one another.

The worst of it is that these spoilt kids aren’t happy, even as they run riot.

The six-year-old screaming with rage on the plane was a picture of tear-streaked misery. She looked completely bewildered, desperate and confused because nobody was taking the situation in hand and dealing with it for her. She was being allowed to run the show, when what she clearly needed, in order to feel safe and secure, was an adult, preferably one of her parents, to step in and take charge.

When the plane finally landed, I was never so glad to get off a flight. My ears, still ringing, were grateful too. But after we joined the lengthy, slow-moving queue at the car rental desk, I heard the now-familiar shriek once more. Yes, the delightful family were waiting to hire a car too.

Maybe one day, someone will be kind enough to teach that little girl that screaming when you don’t get your own way won’t get you very far in life.

via Belfast Telegraph

4 Comments to: Why Are Today’s Children Getting More and More Out of Control?

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    Lori Zinn

    October 21st, 2018

    “Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.” Bible – Proverbs 22:6.
    “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”Bible: Deuteronomy 6:5-9.
    If we want our children to live right, first we need to consistently and continually give them a good example to follow – we are their role models. And right from their first days we need to talk naturally to them about the way to live. We have an awesome responsibility to teach and train them, from the the beginning of their lives.
    The Bible also says that the sins of the fathers (parents) will be visited upon their children for the following generations. This is saying that when we go off track, we automatically train our children to do the same, and this direction will be followed even further by the generations after them – see the Proverbs 22:6 reference. And this is exactly what we are seeing in our society today. The ‘sins’ of the parents are clearly being visited upon our children and children’s children. This will continue until the cycle is broken by parents aware of the problems and making a deliberate effort to change directions.
    We see governments taking more and more control of our children, and making an equally bad job of it; worse often as the children have lost family, the basis of society. They are taking over what is NOT their responsibility. It is clearly the parent’s responsibility to teach and train their offspring, which we automatically do by the way we as parents live our daily lives.

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    February 28th, 2022

    I am one that supports children in church services with their parents to have worship modeled but understand the rampant problem referenced. But the sound of no children is worse. This is part of how to “train them up”.

  3. Avatar

    David Dean

    March 2nd, 2022

    “More thoughtful parents would not have let someone they truly cared for become the object of a crowd’s contempt.” And the meat inside this nut is that the parents are not thoughtful, having little to no idea of what they are in the process of creating.

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    March 2nd, 2022

    I’ve lived in 4 different countries with my kids and as an adult have personally interacted with scores of little children from dozens of different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. The truth is this: 3-year-olds are universal jerks while traveling, and yes, even 4- and 6-year-olds have difficulty behaving on flights at times. The difference is that in other countries and cultures, adults understand what normal child behavior looks like, accept it, and even **gasp** HELP entertain the children instead of throwing rude looks and snarky comments. The US is the only country I’ve been to where I get pre-emptive looks of dread and sighs of exasperation the moment my kids step foot in the cabin. My snappy retort to rude passengers who dare to comment on the occasional brief outburst of my usually well-behaved children is that I only take advice about my children’s behavior from people who can prove that they themselves never trantrumed at the age of 3. It’s curious that no one’s ever been able to demonstrate this, don’t you think?


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