Upon further reflection, I decided to blur the face of the child who ran wild on my recent flight. Allow me to explain why.
Yesterday, I wrote about a poorly-behaved child on my SriLankan flight from Colombo to Kulala Lumpur. It evoked some fascinating comments, to put it mildly. Readers seemed to be evenly split, with some defending my use of the unfiltered images while others condemning me for doing so.
It was not the discussion itself, or any one comment, that changed my mind. Honestly, I still believe that no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy onboard a commercial aircraft and certainly not anyone who disturbs other passengers. And quite candidly, I would have no objection to someone posting a picture of my son and complaining about the disturbance he made on our recent flight from Zurich to San Francisco. Sure, I would be annoyed. But this notion of privacy is foreign to me and foreign to the law, with limited exceptions. My annoyance would stem from pride, not any objection to the picture itself.
I was fascinated at how passionate some of you became about the issue of the showing the child’s face. The idea that I would scar the child for life or induce him to commit suicide in the years to come seemed quite far-fetched and still does. I made clear in my post to say that I did not blame the child…that blame fell squarely on his parents or guardians.
But as passions became so extreme (you should see some of the deleted comments or personal email I received over this issue), I determined that the use of the word of “demon” and the inclusion of the child’s face simply was not constructive.
The Photos Became A Distraction
I did not want to turn my story into a referendum over whether it is fair game to use a child’s photo. That was a tertiary issue, not the central issue. Thus by leaving the picture, the conversation drifted in a direction I did not want to take it.
Upon consultation with others whom I trust, it also was impressed upon me that this child may suffer from autism. The way he snickered at flight attendants and artfully dodged them makes me think that was not the case, but his pattern of behavior cannot foreclose that possibility. Again, his picture became a distraction.
Finally, I realized I was not being constructive. What a great moment this would have been for me to focus on how to deal with situations like this or offer tips for parents who find themselves in a similar position (after all, I have a precious little monster of my own).
Instead, I treated the incident as a spectator sport. Some of you criticized my anger, but trust me…I wasn’t angry at all. I was highly amused, noting at the very outset that this was going to be a great story to draw traffic into the blog. Indeed it was. And perhaps that is even worse than anger…
Certainly, I was not in a position of authority to discipline or even counsel the child. But let me offer this advice to the child’s parents, whether he is autistic or not:
- Firmly, but lovingly explain to your child why you are disciplining him
- Be consistent
- Follow through on promised consequences
- Tell him you love him, over and over
- Apologize if you ever act out of anger, not love (parents are only human too)
I think the flight attendants and parents should have done more to control this child. But I also think, even when there is no excuse for poor behavior, we need to show patience and mercy. Especially on a plane. For me, mercy would have been shown in just blurring the pictures from the outset and not using language meant to stoke the flames of passion. Maybe next time, I’ll handle the issue in a more adult-like way.