How to Keep Your Kids Feet on the Ground When You’re Flying Private
What comes to mind when you see a selfie of a kid on a private plane?
It’s a question we at XO ask ourselves. After all, we’re fortunate to fly some of the world’s most prosperous travelers — and, at times, that includes some of the world’s luckiest children. However, while flying on private jets with kids can show them, firsthand, the extraordinary experiences that hard work and savvy know-how can bring.
It also increases the risk of — gasp — spoiling them.
It’s something every parent thinks a lot about – well beyond the luxury of private flying. But there’s no doubt that flying alone with your family at 30,000 feet amplifies that risk. But is it unavoidable? Is it even possible to keep your kids grounded when you fly private?
Thankfully, the answer is yes, according to Dr. Frederic Kass, the Executive Vice Chair of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry. “Flying private, per se, is not necessarily a ticket to spoiling your kids,” he says. (No pun intended.) Sure, it can be risky, he explains, but the fact of the matter is that if you’re flying private with your children, you’re most likely traveling to do something together, whether it be a far-off vacation or an action-packed, laughter-filled weekend getaway—a bonding experience in a world where family time is at a premium.
“So what people are doing is they are buying an experience together, which is actually the foundation of what healthy child-rearing is about — doing things together as a family,” says Kass. And, since flying private bestow the priceless gift of time, the flexibility and convenience of a private jet flight can actually enable successful families to have more of it.
But it’s more complex than that. “Flying private is one piece of a whole myriad of things that these families have access to that most people don't,” says Kass. So, keep in mind that the basic tenets of raising un-spoiled kids in-flight extend to other areas of privilege, too.
The Truth? Some Frustration is a Good Thing For Kids.
Kass reminds us that one of the benefits of flying private is avoiding the misery of long security lines, frustrating delays, orthopedically-challenging seating arrangements, and what passes for food. “Being able to fly private is a great thing — it's convenient, it's more fun, there's a lot of pleasure associated with it, and you're avoiding what a lot of other people have to deal with,” he says.
But avoiding the pain of flying doesn’t mean parents should smooth the road entirely. “If you're raising your kids and the totality of their experience is they never have to experience any of the frustrations that less-wealthy people do, then yes, that's going to be an issue,” says Kass. Part of successful maturation is learning how to handle frustration, he says, so children should be exposed to it in different areas of their lives. And parents should be purposeful about not act as full-time frustration first responders.
"Every time your kid has a problem, you have to resist the temptation to rush in to solve it, even though money and connections mean you'll be able to solve it more readily than a less well-to-do family: says Kass. Even if you know the best private dance teacher or the dean of your city’s top school, that doesn’t mean you should carve an “easy” way through life for them. This will also help build empathy for those less fortunate.
The other side of this is the art of saying no to kids, even — in fact, especially — when it’s not particularly pleasant. “Doing this takes a lot of time and energy,” says Kass. It’s also an emotional investment.” Say your kid is having a temper tantrum — who enjoys saying no, if they're yelling at you or making a scene? It's difficult,” he adds. While the easiest thing to do is to cave and give your child what they want, that kind of parenting doesn’t set them up for long-term success (especially in wealthy families who have the ability to say “yes” to everything).
Yes, flying with XO is a seamless, hassle-free experience — but to avoid that going to your children’s heads (and creating a potentially toxic set of expectations), their entire lives shouldn’t look that way.
Be an Example of R-E-S-P-E-C-T
As Aretha Franklin famously crooned, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Your kids will learn what it means to you by watching your behavior. It is simple. If you act entitled while on a private jet (or in any scenario, for that matter), you can fully expect your kids to act the same, no matter how much you tell them to be respectful of others.
Start with the pilot and flight attendant on your XO flight. “How do you, as parents, relate to these people that basically are working for them? Do you treat them with respect, like human beings, versus ignoring them or talking down to them?” says Kass. You have to be the living example of grateful, respectful interactions — otherwise, your kids will get the message that it’s OK to act like they own the world.
Cultivate Awareness That, Well, Most People Don’t Fly Private. And Never Will.
Private aviation is undeniably an exclusive business and a luxury that is afforded only to the select few. It’s essential that your children understand this — and while you don’t have to stick them in a middle seat on a commercial flight to make your point, you should actively and consistently convey that flying private isn’t part of most people’s travel experiences, and that your financial situation isn’t equal to everyone’s, for that matter. Kids are by nature insular, self-absorbed people – particularly young ones – who don’t spend a lot of time considering others. So take the opportunity to make flying private a trigger for teaching empathy.
A parallel conversation to have is about a subject that is often avoided: Money.
“It's important, even if kids don’t have much interest, to talk only about money — where it comes from, how you acquired it, how it doesn't grow on trees, how [yours] required discipline and hard work,” says Kass. “It’s [also] important for them to be aware of the money that different people may have.” Kids need to understand that some people have more means than others, and that for many, getting by each day is a struggle. “[It’s key to] build empathy for others,” he adds.
You can do this by reading books to them with different characters, introducing them to movies and TV shows with characters who live under economic stress, or just talking about others' situations. Discuss the news — which is filled with stories about the “wealth gap” — with your kids. Kass adds, “there's no need to feel guilty about it, but you do need to acknowledge the reality.”
This awareness becomes the foundation of gratitude, which needs to be fostered. Again, children pick up on their parents’ behavior, so if you display awareness, empathy, and gratitude, they’re more likely to as well.
Flying Private With Kids = Quality Family Time Opportunities
As long as you take the right steps to avoid spoiling the you-know-what out of kids (both in-flight and otherwise), taking a private jet flight with them is actually an opportunity to bond, listen, and build lasting memories. (That is, assuming you haven’t just handed them off to a nanny or let them spend hours in front of the latest and greatest iPad, which basically defeats the point, he advises.)
“In terms of what wealthy people do, if you're flying as a family with your kids to experience things together, that's actually a big plus,” says Kass.
The bottom line: Well-off parents should practice intentional parenting and be acutely conscious of the very real risks of spoiling children (rather than encouraging them to think that all of life is as gloriously friction-free as private flying).
In short, even though you’re taking off on a private jet, you can make sure your kids land in the right place. With our new XO mobile app, you too are “spoiled” and immediately connected to three blissfully convenient ways to fly private.
- Private Charter — If you want an entire plane to yourself, it can be yours in moments. XO offers whole aircraft private charter flights across the globe, with the option to sell extra seats to fellow flyers.
- Seats on Private Jets — Travelers who don't need a whole aircraft can book individual seats on existing shared flights or create their own crowdfunded flights on private jets.
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