CarolLines: Agreements

A 747 filled to capacity pulled onto the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare. And stopped. For four hours. Delayed by unseen storm clouds. All 372 passengers sat perfectly still.

All except for Brody, the three-year-old sitting directly behind me.

“Brody, stop it!” cried his mother as he kicked my seat. “Brody, don’t push that button. Brody, give me those earphones. Now!!

I slid my pillow against the window and tried to sleep. I had just spent the week hugging 1,200 coaches at a convention. Hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re hungry and tired and catching a cold. Maybe I could dream myself home into bed.

“Brody, NO!!”

Before I could move my head, Brody yanked down my window shade and caught my hair. I eased the shade up and glanced at my seatmate, who was shaking his head.

Normally — being the patient, child-loving air traveler I am — I would have glared at the mother and groused the whole flight. But something magical had happened at the boarding gate.

While waiting an eternity in line, I felt a soft tiny hand take hold of mine. I looked down to see a cherry-cheeked baby in a stroller. Michael, I discovered.

“Hi Michael.” I stooped down to return his smile. “He sure is friendly,” I said to his mom. “Babies don’t normally take to me.”

“And he doesn’t normally take to strangers,” she replied. “I’ve never seen him do anything like this.”

For the next few minutes, I chatted with Michael and he burbled back. Then the gate agent called my row.

“Gotta go now, Michael. Bye-bye,” I said, waving.  To which he reached out his little right hand and gave mine a firm shake, just like a miniature businessman.

Now here I was sitting  in front of Brody, who was kicking and yelling and yanking the window shade down and up, up and down. What could I do? I decided to don my coaching cap.

Standing and leaning over the seat, I smiled at this red-haired kickboxer. “Hi, are you Brody?”


“Brody, I’m wondering if we might make a little agreement.” He looked at me, waiting — curiosity interrupting his pattern.

“We can either leave the window shade up, or we can leave it down. Your choice,” I said, smiling. ” So, would you like to leave the window shade up?”

“Noooooooooooooooo!!!” he wailed.

“OK, then you’d like to leave it down, right?”


“Great,” I said. “Now we have an agreement. We’re going to leave the window shade down for the rest of the flight. I’m counting on you to keep your agreement, OK?”


It took another five hours for us to get home. Brody and I settled in for a nap. Both of our window shades stayed in place the whole flight.

After landing, I turned around as his mother lifted Brody up from his seat. “Thank you for keeping your agreement, Brody,” I said.

He looked at his mother and chirped with pride, “I kept my agweement!”

Children, like adults, can respond to coaching. The next time a little one won’t behave as you’d like, take a big person’s approach. Make an agreement. Discover what the little one wants, state what you want, and negotiate the difference. Then hold your “client” accountable in a clear, measurable, and respectful way.

Do what little Michael did with me at the gate. Shake on it.