Have you ever traveled by plane, frustrated by someone’s loud children? Or perhaps you’ve been the parent stressed out with the rambunctious ones?

Recently I took a trip across the USA to visit one of my adult children. From the back of the plane we all heard:

  • Whining, demanding, fighting, name calling
  • “Shhhhhh!” loudly, over the noise of her kids
  • “Stop that. Put that down. Don’t hit her,” from the frazzled mom.
  • Threats. “If you don’t quit it, I’m going to…”
  • Frenzied promises. “If you be a good girl, I’ll get you a …”
  • Frantic attempts to divert. “Pick a number from 1-10. I have it in my head.”

Passengers were irritated.

The children were out of control.

And the mom… bless her exhausted heart. She was at her wits’ end.

Had she known the value of “training ahead,” prior to the plane ride, she would have experienced a relaxing flight... and so would all of the passengers on the back half of the plane. In fact, her kids would have been content, respectful little humans aware of others around them. The experience could have looked much different… if only a little prep work was done ahead of time.

“Training Ahead” is really about teaching kids to be respectful. 

This means preparing them before the situation occurs so that they understand the new setting, expectations, and how to behave within those dynamics.

When RESPECT is the guiding principle for behavior, self-monitoring takes place. This means when kids are properly taught, a specific list of do’s and don’ts is not needed. Kids are empowered to make wise choices, even in your absence, in scenarios you might not have even thought to prep them on. This is because their perspective becomes others-focused not self-focused.

Eight steps to prepare kids for air travel (and beyond):

1) Gather the kids together to “train ahead.” With all eyes focused on you, inform and prepare kids on the upcoming venture. Keep the tone casual.  Guide the reasoning for behavior around an awareness of others and being respectful to them.

2) Describe the upcoming, new situation. This gives clear expectations, eases fears, and provides an understanding of their role in making this a smooth process

  • Explain ticket counter, curbside/tipping, bag weighing, who will keep the tickets, waiting in airport…
  • Goal: to see how their behavior can be annoying or a blessing; to see beyond self; and see ways to “lighten the load” of you, siblings, and others while traveling

3) Describe the people/possible reasons for travel. This helps establish an awareness and heart for others and see beneath the exterior.

  • first time getting away in ten years (quiet time together with no kids), perhaps a family member died (sad), to see a wayward child (heavy-hearted), saved $ for years to take this trip, someone’s first time flying (scared), serving our country (thank them)
  • Goal: to see beyond self; to be aware that their kindness can be an encouragement to others

4) Give scenarios and guide their responses. This could include role playing for younger kids.

  • Goal: for their answers to be based on respect.
  • Should you put your feet on the chair in front of you? Why not?
  • What are things that could happen as you carry your bag and backpack on the plane? (knock people in the shoulders or face)
  • Using the restroom prior to boarding. And what to do if restroom needed while in flight. (say pardon me, etc)
  • How should you play games with your siblings? (quietly to respect others)
    • How do you win and lose well? (say “good game” quietly)
  • How can you “lighten the load” of a mom of small children? (offer to put her bag overhead, etc)

5) Role-play potential correction needed. You see potential negative situation and you calmly redirect behavior.

  • Goal: To understand quiet, respectful correction by parent (or sibling) and right responses with no attention drawn.
  • Methods: a quick glance with direct eye contact, nodding of the head, a gentle finger to the lips, or a soft touch on their shoulder or leg. No words even need be spoken.
  • No need for “SHHHHHH…!,” threats, empty promises, diversions, or frantic parenting.

6) Discuss/role play people skills. This is an ongoing, key component of parenting for confident, selfless kids.

  • Goal: To know that good people skills simply means showing interest in the other person.
  • Replying to flight attendant’s “What would you like to drink” with good eye contact, a smile, and a complete answer.
  • Talking with passengers next to them. Small talk. Asking good questions. Replying with more than a “yeh.”
  • Noticing when someone doesn’t want to be talked to.

7) Invite their input for activities to take on the plane. Allow (guided) independence. Let them have say.

  • Goal: independent thinking and quiet activity rather than relying on parent to be decision maker, to keep them busy, or to be their source of entertainment.
  • book, coloring book/crayons, cards, games,
  • Ipad, Ipod, earbuds
  • One mom told me mosiac tiles kept her daughter and her busy for their entire six hour flight.

8) Discuss how to react to someone else’s loud kids.

  • Goal: to see situations and right responses through a biblical perspective.
  • Although you’ve taught your own kids how to behave, others might not have. Maybe they’ve never even heard this notion of training ahead. Be patient and long suffering. These are fruits of the Spirit.
  • Teach your kids to extend grace – not to look through a prideful or judgmental lens.
  • Don’t stare, roll your eyes, complain, or see yourself as better.
  • Realize you simply don’t know the whole story – the kids’ homelife, their past, their current pressures.
  • Better is to teach your kids to look for ways to lighten the mom’s load, notice ways to aid the kids, and to have a mindset of being a blessing or peacemaker vs adding pressure by drawing attention to the commotion.

Training ahead is an ongoing tool in parenting. This method of parenting will produce others-focused kids who know how to base behavior on respecting others.

Rhonda happytraveling ellis

P.S. Training ahead applies to everything, really. It’s one of the most significant training tips I recommend to raise kids with character who are others-focused. You can read other specific examples I share of training ahead for church behaviorhigh chair behaviorinterruptingrestaurant behaviorpreparing for specific situations, keeping the goal in mind, and even evaluating social skills.

P.S.S. Check out this VIDEO where I give lots of practical examples of  TRAINING AHEAD.


  1. Nancy Campbell

    Excellent! We have used these principles for years with great reward. I am impressed with how well you have articulated the scenarios and methodology.

    Well done.

    Sharing to Facebook.

    With kindest regards,
    Mrs. Nancy Campbell

    • Rhonda

      Hi Nancy, thanks for your kind words and for sharing with your friends, too. I feel like I know you already from seeing your posts that show hospitality, love, and elegance.

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