Should You Give Your Subway Seat to a Kid?

This wonderful azkftbshtn
  by Stephanie Fairyington states it baldly: Why have we decided that adults should give their seats to children, rather than vice versa? On the blog CityLab, she writes of a recent New York City subway trip with her friend:

[We] were on a Brooklyn-bound D train when a family boarded with their son, who looked about six. The mother kept staring and rolling her eyes at us for not giving up our seats to her child. She testily said aloud: “Don’t worry, sweetheart, someone will get off soon and you can have a seat.” Huh? Really? The kid looked hearty and healthy to me—and very pleased to be standing on his own two hoofs. When someone nearby finally got up, the woman rushed her son over to the empty seat as though he desperately needed it.

As a parent myself, I understand how wearying motherhood can be—especially on a crowded train. And it’s true that a person’s disability or need for a seat may not be visible to the naked eye. But, generally, I think giving up one’s seat to a kid old enough to stand on his or her own is a bad message and a symptom of a culture of parenting in America that enfeebles kids.

….Underlying the unspoken pressure to surrender our seats to youths is the belittling belief that they are limited and delicate. But when we treat them that way, we’re not giving them enough credit—or enough room to grow.

I agree: There’s a certain assumption of child fragility that is inaccurate and insulting.

So I emailed a bit with Stephanie, who told me the article is generating a ton of blowback. Naturally!  Anytime anyone questions any aspect of parenting, it starts a civil (or uncivil) war. But I like the fact she is questioning a social norm.

I also wonder when and why seating priorities changed — or was this perhaps always the way it worked? Anyone with historical knowledge, weigh in!

And meantime, let me thank anyone, young or old, who gets up to give someone else a seat. May there be no holding lights ahead on your journeys large and small. – L.


Caution: Disgruntlement ahead.


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72 Responses to Should You Give Your Subway Seat to a Kid?

  1. Dienne July 10, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    For me it would depend on how crowded the train is and what the kid has available to hold onto. The straps are too high for six-year-olds to reach, so if a kid is stuck in the middle of the train and can’t reach the straps, I’d let him/her have my seat.

    I’d also probably try to note whether it was the beginning or end of a trip for them and how much they had been walking. I remember being a younger kid and walking a lot was really hard and made me really crabby. Kids are designed more for short, intensive bursts of activity, not long, sustained activity. If it seems like the kid has been walking a lot and is really beat, I’d offer my seat.

    And finally I’d pay attention to how able the family was to stick together, especially if the kids are pretty young (less than about eight). I remember when my kids were younger I didn’t want to be too far away from them if the train was crowded because they weren’t experienced train riders and didn’t necessarily know when to get off and I didn’t want to have to push through the crowd to get them. Now that they’re older I can just holler or gesture and they get it.

  2. Kenny Felder July 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    When I was a kid (1970s) I was definitely expected to offer *my* seat to older folks.

  3. MikeInVirginia July 10, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    I’m not a helicopter parent (I wouldn’t follow this site if I was), but this one might fall into the category of obvious safety issue. I know the metro trains where I live have a horrible safety record, and the trains jerk to sudden stops along the route all of the time. As a healthy adult who is capable of standing and holding on to the rail overhead, I always stand so that anyone else who feels they need it can have the seat. But I would I make my children sit for the sole reason that they cannot reach the overhead railing to hold on.

    This isn’t an overreaction about something unlikely that *might* happen. Children standing on a moving train is particularly dangerous. Even when clinging to an adult, I’ve seen children go flying when the train jerks to a sudden stop. Its happened to my own children when seats were unavailable for them. So I’d put this one into the category of seat belts and car seats. A reasonable precaution for a reasonable risk.

  4. Jennifer Griffin July 10, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    I went to a meeting once for a group of volunteers ages middle school to grandparents. There were not enough seats for all of us, and as the meeting was called to order the middle schoolers rushed to the chairs. I called them out on it, saying “hey! If you’re younger than 18, sit on the floor! ” None of them complained or talked back and while I got some looks from the other adults in the room, no one said anything. But, the adults got the seats!

  5. Dave Boyes July 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Lenore, did riders give their seats to your children when they rode the Subway?

  6. Brooks July 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    I think it’s dependent on the kid. I don’t live in a subway city, but I take a lot of airport trains. Frequently, mom and dad have their hands full with stuff (cause all young American parents carry 150000% too much stuff), and I’ve caught more than my fair share if little kids during acceleration or braking.

  7. Dean July 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    No subway, but on a recent car trip, I noticed my friends’ toddler didn’t want to sit, so ended standing between Mamá and her seatbelt. Probably something else for do-gooders to rant about.

  8. Nicole July 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    I’m not sure if this is related to free range/coddling kids…tend to agree with a few comments as to whether it’s a scary thing for a little kid. I would for sure have my kid stand if it was a smooth ride and he’d been on the public transportation before – and I would not do that weird passive aggressive voice 🙂 but we don’t have many trains in CA and I took him to Boston where you can get flung around, and if you’re too short or there’s no room to hold on it’s quite a ride.

  9. mer July 10, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    The comments bringing up the safety issue, while valid, are changing the parameters of the original story.

    “…The mother kept staring and rolling her eyes at us for not giving up our seats to her child. She testily said aloud: “Don’t worry, sweetheart, someone will get off soon and you can have a seat.” …”

    Nothing about the mother saying, “make sure you hold on tight to the bars” and bringing up it as a safety issue.

  10. Isabelle July 10, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    As I rule of thumb, I always leave my seat to children alone going to or coming home from school (yes, in Montreal, young kids ride the bus and subway alone). Just the weight of their backpacks make my back hurt. Otherwise, no way! I’m 50.. I need the seat more than they do. 😉

    That does not, of course, apply to teens and children tall and strong enough to hold the straps or the bars. I do, obviously, expect a teen to offer me his or her seat!

    Also, I never understood why young kids today need a seat to themselves. When I take the bus or the subway with my grandchild, who’s 3 and a half, he sits on my knees. Unfortunately, we’re the only ones doing that anymore ;-(

  11. Michael Blackwood July 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    Adults should sit. Kids can stand. If mom wants them in her lap that’s fine. Kids need to learn to hang on. “Sudden stops that send kids flying” would be much more dangerous for standing adults. Also, adults sitting on the seats along the sides protect the children standing in the middle in case a meteor crashes through the earth and hits the side of the subway car. Adults become buffers in such cases. Parents who stand so their children can sit are teaching a horrible lesson about one’s place in society. Young people getting out of college want to buy homes the same size as their parents as a starter home. They want the same level of affluence and the positions in work that their parents have disregarding the parents’ journey. When such isn’t offered they tend to stay at home until such opportunity affords itself and too many parents encourage them.

  12. James Pollock July 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    This may be specific to NYC subways.

    Locally, we have a “subway” (in the sense that exactly one station in the whole system is underground).

    There are alternating periods… during rush hour, the cars are packed and there’s not much jockeying around… you can offer a seat to someone who happens to be standing right there, but that’s it. During off-peak hours, there’s enough seats that anyone who wants one can have one.

    So, there are seating areas that are right near the doors, which are officially (and socially) preferred for infirm riders… whether because of disability, age, or whatever reason. The seats can fold up to make room for wheelchairs, and they’re right by the doors so that people in them don’t have to work their way through the (crowded or not) cars. I have seen people offer seats so that a family group can all sit together, but that’s a different dynamic than the one discussed above.

  13. Sochii July 10, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    If he needed to sit that bad, he could’ve sat on her lap.

  14. Serena Milan July 10, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    My boys are 12 and 17 and for as long as I remember, they offer their seats to anyone on a bus or subway older than them.

  15. Anna July 10, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    It seems to me it depends on age. An 8 or 10-year-old can certainly stand, and it would be polite for them to do so to let an older person sit.

    A 3 or 4-year-old, on the other hand, likely doesn’t have the coordination and experience of the laws of physics and the ways of subway trains to do what it takes to keep good balance during acceleration and deceleration. Kids aren’t terribly good at anticipating actions and reactions, the way you need to when you stand on a subway train. My son’s 5, and I’m not sure he’s there yet. He’d likely go flying when the train braked. Though I suppose big-city kids might develop the skills earlier.

  16. Ravana July 10, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    If she was so concerned about her kid not having a seat SHE or her mate could have stood up.

    Anyhoo.. I was raised (back in the dark ages) that a kid ALWAYS gave up his or her seat to an adult. Didn’t matter if the adult was 21 or 91, if it was an adult you jumped up and offered your seat. If you were small enough to fit on Mom or Dad’s lap you could move there so the adult could have the seat. If you were too big for that and the bus/train was crowded enough that you feared trampling you stood between your parent’s legs.

  17. librarian July 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    As many other commenters already said, it really depends on the age/height of a kid and the situation in a particular subway car. I usually give up a place for kids that look under five, especially if they seem cranky. I would also offer my seat to a somewhat older kid if there is nothing available for them to hold on to, or if their face is right on the level of other people’s shoulder bags/backpacks (getting hit in the face by one of those – especially if the wearer is not used to navigating crowded spaces – is a very real and unpleasant possibility for a little person). In all other cases – and especially once their height gets closer to 5 feet – THEY should be giving up their spaces for adults.

  18. hineata July 10, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    When we visit Singapore and Malaysia, it’s normal for children to be sat down in buses and trains while their parents stand, and other adulls will stand for them too. I believe it is for safety. On the other hand, though, teenagers and young adults seem to regularly give up their seats for the rest of us (now old fogies ☺) so there is that compensation.

    Over here it seems to vary. I have seen some people stand for children, other parents squash thir children into the space in front of them, and others who make their children stand up right beside them so they can hang on to them. Buses especially jerk when stopping and starting, and the train’s not the best either.

  19. HKQ451 July 10, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    I offer my seat to kids who look like they need it, just I offer my seat to older folks who look like they need it. My own kids are 8 now, they can just about safely stand on their own on the trams in our city. They are a lot less capable than most adults under 60 though. They can’t grip the bars so well (they’re much wider compared to their small hands so their grip is more precarious), straps are not within their reach and they don’t have the weight to hold them to the floor in the same way when the ride gets rickety. Also, when the tram is crowded, adults just don’t see them and they get sent flying by someone banging into them, so the experience is less comfortable for them. So while I generally agree with kids giving up their seats etc. to adults in a meeting or something, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to prioritise kids when the circumstances disadvantage them, but it’s not the end of the world if they have to stand and get a bit banged around.

    I suspect the change in thinking has been driven largely by the introduction of laws on car seats. Suddenly child safety is made into a factor for parents when it wasn’t so much before – children on laps, or in the trunk of the car so adults can sit more comfortably, etc. They become more aware of the dangers of children being thrown around in a moving vehicle and they start to apply that thinking to situations other than cars.

  20. HKQ451 July 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    “Adults should sit. Kids can stand. If mom wants them in her lap that’s fine.”

    Not sure why it has to be mom with a kid on the lap but still, as a mom, I’d much rather stand and have my kid in the seat than sit with them on my lap on a bus or tram. I just didn’t find that comfortable.

  21. JulieH July 10, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

    On an unrelated/related topic – File it under, “low risk” or “who would have thunk it” to increase y’alls situational awareness:

    Something to keep an eye on, regardless of age, is sitting in a seat next to any hand rails or luggage racks that may happen to be at the height of your head…especially if unpadded. (Usually seats that face the middle of the vehicle.)

    I rode on an airport shuttle one time in the seat next to the luggage rack. Driver accelerated hard and then quickly stopped hard. I conked my head on that bar just right (wrong?) and suffered a bad head injury.

  22. Aliza Burton July 10, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    I remember, probably way back in the ’60 & 70’s there was a poster on the NYC subways that said, “little enough to ride for free, little enough to ride your knee”. When i was in my 20’s, I also knew enough to give my seat up to someone older or needed the seat more than me.

  23. Mya Greene July 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

    I usually only give up my seat if it looks like someone obviously needs it ( disabled, carrying a lot of stuff, etc. ) I had heard of people giving up their seat to a frail elderly person, but growing up, I wasn’t taught any strict rules about it. Age by itself doesn’t say a whole lot in this situation. I’d say its more about size and general appearence of health.

  24. test July 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    “The mother kept staring and rolling her eyes at us for not giving up our seats to her child. She testily said aloud: “Don’t worry, sweetheart, someone will get off soon and you can have a seat.” ”

    Or maybe mom did not cared about her personally at all and did not meant to single them out of the whole train.

    And tomorrow we will make fun of feminists you take “you play like a girl” as insult, how ridiculous they are. If complaining about strange man hitting on you is dumb and learn to live in real life (I partially agree), then surely free range parents may handle eye roll and at worst one passive aggressive remark which might not even be targeted at them and easily could be meant for the child only.

    On the second thought someone simply needed to meet the deadline quickly and this essay got the job done.

  25. BMS July 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    If the kid is in unstable toddler mode, I offer the seat. If the train is really crowded so that the parent is having trouble keeping the kid from falling over, I offer the seat. If I sense that I could really make a stressed out mom’s day better by giving her little one a seat, I offer the seat. Mom or Dad trying to stand with an infant in arms and a toddler clinging to their knees? Give the parent a seat to do with what they will. I tend to cut it off at preschool age or so, but generally, I want to make other commuting parents’ lives easier. I did a lot of travel by train with two kids under two. It is really tough sometimes for short kids to find something to hold on to. It is more annoying to have them falling all over than it is to give them someplace to sit.

    Often, the kids just want to be able to look out the windows (we have above ground trolleys as well as subways). I’m cool with that. But if the kid is happy standing, and can hold on, let ’em. And as soon as they are able to stand and hold on, they can move for someone else who needs the seat more.

  26. test July 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

    “Adults should sit. Kids can stand. If mom wants them in her lap that’s fine.”

    I strongly prefer standing while the kid is sitting. It is more comfortable then having the child on lap.

    “Parents who stand so their children can sit are teaching a horrible lesson about one’s place in society.”

    I am not going to do something less comfortable just so I teach someone about his lower status. Advantage of higher status is that you get to do as they find more comfortable. If moms/dads are higher status, it is natural to do what they find pleasing.

    “Young people getting out of college want to buy homes the same size as their parents as a starter home.”

    Young people out of college don’t buy homes at all. When they have money they prefer to live in walkable cities, but practically speaking they share tiny rooms wherever the jobs are.

    “They want the same level of affluence and the positions in work that their parents have disregarding the parents’ journey. ”

    Parents generation happened to have cheaper college and much better economy to start at. Moreover, coming from less wealthy part of the world, living with parents is what you do to save money. Living alone is what you do when you are rich and spoiled.

  27. Jessica July 10, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    I question the “a ton of blowback” thing. I went to the article, and all of the “top” (i.e., highest rated, most likes, popular) comments were of the “You go girl! Damn kids anyway!” variety.

  28. Aimee July 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    Not a subway story but a seat story: this past Christmas was at my mother-in-law’s house. We are a VERY LARGE FAMILY and because she has downsized, she has a house that is the right size for her, but was full to bursting (in a nice way) that day It was open-present time, and my son and about 4 of his teen cousins (athletes all) had commandeered the one sofa, while MANY adults were sitting on the floor or standing. I took the initiative and told the kids, “Ok, time to scram and let the older folks sit on the couch” (like, their grandmother, older aunts & uncles, etc) They didn’t budge. I pushed the issue…. time to get up and vacate out of politeness! Still barely budged. Not a single adult in the room backed me up. None of these kids’ parents. In fact, one of my brothers-in-law all but told me to drop it. I couldn’t believe how rude they were allowing their teenagers to be! My son knew I meant business and moved (and then the other cousins tagged along), but I was astonished at the whole scene.

  29. Suzanne July 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    I don’t live near a subway so I’m not speaking from experience but one comment talks about kids being too short to reach the rail which makes it unsafe for them to stand compared to an able-bodied adult. If a child could reasonably hold on well enough to avoid falling then they should stand. If they can’t reach then adults should give up their seat for them.

  30. Robin July 10, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    The other (bad) thing this encourages is the belief in the child that s/he is entitled to the seat over any need for an adult to have it. This is not a lesson that is going to benefit a child in the long run.

  31. Tony Burns July 10, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    A couple of years ago on the Toronto subway a boy about 4 and his father got on the car I was on. The father asked the boy to sit down to which he got the reply “No Daddy. I want to hold on tight.” Riding the subway was an adventure and he was going to enjoy it.

  32. Christy July 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

    It does seem a little precious and over-the-top for the mom to be so concerned about a healthy, developmentally typical 6yo finding a seat. My 3yo stands on our lightrail train all the time if it’s crowded–she might be a little annoying sometimes (“please stand up, don’t sit on the floor of the train…”) but she’s perfectly capable with reminders. But at the same time, I think a lot of times a parent will give their young child an available seat and stand themselves because it’s just easier to keep them still that way. And that’s fine, not necessarily some big statement about whose comfort is important. Like so many things, it comes down to the individuals and the tone. Is mom making the kid sit because it’s her rule? Or because little Skylar is such a delicate darling, he simply must have a seat?

  33. Dan July 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    I’m not that old but when I was a kid you were expected to offer your seat to any adult who got on if there were none left!

    In fact according to the terms and conditions of the bus company by paying half fare you weren’t actually entitled to a seat unless there were ones not required by passengers who had paid full fare! Younger kids were naturally expected to sit on the lap of whichever adult they were with and older kids would stand

  34. elysium July 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    I’d say that it depends on the age of the kid. If they’re young enough to potentially be in a stroller or being carried, they may not be that steady on their feet and would be safer (and less annoying) in a seat. A six-year-old is fine, I wouldn’t give my seat up for a kid that age. My three-year-old is borderline, she’d probably want to stand but I’d need to be very close to make sure she got off with me and also make sure that she held on tightly. (Our city has subway cars with places to hold on where she could reach.) If there were no seats, we’d manage just fine. I’d never eyeroll at anyone. Sheesh.

  35. John B. July 10, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    In an article I read last year (Can’t remember the news site), it said that children today do not have the strength or endurance their parents had at the same age. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me the way we coddle kids nowadays.

    Heck when I was 10-years-old I used to caddy for my dad and it was tough keeping up with him! Anytime I’d complain about getting tired or winded, my dad and the 3 other adults in his foursome used to say to me, “C’mon John, you’re a young fella, you shouldn’t be getting tired like that”! Looking back, I think they were right.

    A young child who goes outside and plays on a regular basis, should have much more stamina than an average 50-year-old adult who doesn’t exercise that much. Especially if the adult is significantly overweight.

  36. NY Mom July 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    Historical knowledge weigh in:

    I was 4 years old and my brother was 3. We were standing with our mom on a crowded train traveling between St. Louis and Kansas City, several hundred miles.
    The year was 1944. The Second World War was raging. The mid-west was poorly fed and children suffered from vitamin deficiencies and worse. We were going to live with relatives after my father was drafted into the service.
    The train was packed with uniformed men who were legally entitled to the seats.
    My little brother was exhausted and wailing. A soldier offered him a lap and played with him for the next four hours. I was in agony. My mother was in high heels, as was expected of women in those days. We stood the entire way. We had no choice. We had no voice.

  37. Anna July 10, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    “A soldier offered him a lap and played with him for the next four hours. I was in agony. My mother was in high heels, as was expected of women in those days. We stood the entire way. We had no choice. We had no voice.”

    Wow! I would have thought any red-blooded guy in those days – let alone a soldier – would have given a woman his seat. Is that just a myth?

  38. Heather July 10, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    I see nothing in the story about the child’s mum having a seat to give up. So commentators bringing that up should remember that the kid may not have been able to sit on mum’s knee.

    I travel by train often with my son (in the UK, London). He loves trains, but he will barrel through others for a seat, and I have to haul him back if he’s taking it from someone who needs it. Aged 6, he would 100% dive across an aisle when a seat came up, much as described here, and I would chase him to ensure he followed Tube etiquette. (He’s better now).

    He has whined about not having a seat at that age, when tired, and I have told him that he could have a seat when someone else was finished with it. Someone who heard me and not him could easily think I was aiming that comment at them. He *has* been offered seats by people who heard him, and recognised he was tired. Especially when it’s busy, he sometimes actually wants a seat so he can see out. It’s scary in the middle when your head is at bag height and you only have mum to hold onto.

    This particular kid does not sound like he particularly wanted a seat, so I doubt that the mum needed to rush him to a seat for those reasons, but maybe she feared that he’d start playing around and swinging on the poles, which is the other end of child misbehaviour on trains, and much easier to prevent if they are seated.

    My point is that the kid should have been getting messages about holding on, and letting others have seats where they needed them, but also that the mum may have known their kid and been corraling him or managing him in some way that outsiders would not recognise. We should let her do that too


  39. James Pollock July 10, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

    As an adult male person, I generally just stand, regardless of seat availability..
    Wrangling children on the train is challenging enough without having other people mentally judging whether you or your kid(s) “deserve” a seat more. I choose not to take part in a ongoing recalculation of who deserves to sit and who doesn’t…
    Will my opinion change if I get infirm enough to need to sit? Or if I reach a point where I can’t drive myself most of the places I want to go? Maybe. I’m not there yet, and I think I’ve got a ways to go yet before I get there.

    In terms of annoyance, I’m FAR more annoyed when, having arrived early at the movie theater to get the exact seat I want, and thus enduring all the advertising the theater wants to throw at me while I wait for the show I’ve paid way too much for to start, someone shows up right at the last minute and actually expects me to move because there aren’t 4 seats together any more, and they REALLY want to sit with their friends so they can talk.

  40. Backroads July 10, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

    I have zero experience with public transportation. I agree with the general rule being in not coddling. Yet I once read a blog on not obsessing over catching someone in a bad day.

  41. David (Dhewco) July 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    I’m probably opening myself up to criticism, but I’m going to say no…unless I know the child. In a world where, as a single, middle-aged childless white man….I can’t so much as smile at a kid without risking a helicopter parent freaking out thinking I want to perv…..I ignore kids as much as possible. It’s sad, I love making kids laugh and smile..but I love my freedom more.

  42. David (Dhewco) July 10, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    Oh, for an edit button, similar to James…if it starts out as uncrowded I’ll sit, however if it’s already crowded I’ll stand, even if there’s a seat.

  43. Dienne July 10, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    “Why have we decided that adults should give their seats to children, rather than vice versa?”

    I guess I have to ask why it should necessarily be vice versa either? Barring need, I think whoever got the seat first gets it until they’re done. I don’t think a 30 year old should give up their seat to a ten year old, but on the other hand, I don’t think a ten year old should have to give up their seat to a 30 year old. Both should give up their seat to a significantly older person, a person with a disability, or a parent wrangling very young children. But barring those circumstances, neither a ten year old nor a 30 year old typically need it more than the other, so first come, first served. Children are not “lesser” beings who are obligated to yield to their “superiors”.

  44. Catherine July 10, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

    When I was growing up, children gave up their seats to older adults, a quaint custom that I imparted to my son and daughter. That an adult would give up a seat to a child was unheard of. Kids who were too young/tired to stand sat in their parents’ laps.

  45. KarenElissa July 10, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    I used to take my preschool class (3, 4, and 5 year olds) on the bus down to the park. Often people would stand up and let the kids sit, and I did appreciate that, especially when it was one of the longer benches where I could cram 4 or 5 kids and keep them together easier. But there were times where many of them had to stand and the kids actually liked that. I think it was the novelty as none of them were frequent users of public transportation. And even the 3 year olds managed it well, with occasional reminders to hold on tight.

    So ya, an average 6 year old should be able to stand reasonably well. Would I have rejected an offer of a seat for a kid that old, no, but I wouldn’t have expected it either, and certainly wouldn’t have been huffy about no one offering the kid a seat.

  46. Puzzled July 10, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    I don’t have many thoughts on this topic, but I have noticed something on a similar topic. Often I’ll get onto a crowded train and stand. Over time, the train empties out, and the people who are standing can sit. However, what’s fascinating is that there seems to be a pecking order for the best seats – those who are sitting get to upgrade to a better seat and/or get their own seat before the standing people can sit down. This seems to be respected by the standing people, and expected by the sitting people.

  47. meg July 10, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

    “Mom or Dad trying to stand with an infant in arms and a toddler clinging to their knees? Give the parent a seat to do with what they will.”

    Seven-years-ago-me thanks you very much. 🙂

    I always appreciated it when my children were small & people offered us a seat on the subway/streetcar/bus. I had two under two and wrangling them on public transit was not easy, and that sort of thing made my day.

    They are 7 and 8 now, and people still offer them a seat. They’ve been (politely) declining for a few years now. When he was about 4 my son decided that even if he had a seat, he wanted to stand up, and that was pretty much that. If they are sitting and the train gets crowded they usually offer up their seats to others. I think they think it makes them Very Grown Up to stand.

  48. Theresa Hall July 10, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

    Anna maybe your soldier had a disability which meant he needs to sit down instead giving up his seat. There are invisible disabilities which affect hundreds of people including veterans. Maybe you should the not judging game. It goes like this you decide whatever someone else is doing isn’t your business and go on with your life.

  49. James July 10, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

    “Parents who stand so their children can sit are teaching a horrible lesson about one’s place in society.”

    This is an incredibly dangerous line of thinking. “One’s place in society”? What does that even MEAN? I mean, literally–what does this mean? There have been so many iterations of this same theme throughout history that it’s impossible to even tell. Does the color of one’s skin determine one’s place in society? The cast one is born into? One’s prowess on the battlefield? One’s prowess in the financial future’s market?

    This kind of thinking is what leads to abuse. “That kid had it coming–he didn’t know his place.” “She mouthed off to me; she should know better than to step out of line.” The reasoning is the same, even if some are able to hold it in check better than others.

    Of course, there’s an irony here. In some societies (including our own in the past) men stood up for women because we thought them weaker. It’s now seen as an insult.


    “Wow! I would have thought any red-blooded guy in those days – let alone a soldier – would have given a woman his seat. Is that just a myth?”

    Depends on the area. Depends on circumstances. Where I grew up men gave their seats to women. But there were exceptions. A man being celebrated (birthdays, anniversaries, religious events, birth of a child, etc) could sit, even if it meant a woman had to stand. A man (and woman) in their own home was NEVER made to stand (except when the wife told the husband to get off his rump, which was just good clean fun for the rest of us!). And of course if the men were working outside all day they got to sit, mostly because no one wanted to haul them to the hospital if they passed out from dehydration.

    I can see the soldier getting the seat, since in WWII they were respected. He was probably something of a local celebrity–someone fighting for freedom, a hero come home. The fact that it stuck out in memory tends to indicate that it wasn’t a common event. Though it could be a local thing–social norms are different in different areas. Where I grew up, women sat because they were considered weaker (or because they said men could stand and no sane person argues with the woman cooking their dinner). In other cultures–particularly Mediterranean cultures–men sit because they’re considered more important than women. It all depends.

  50. James Pollock July 11, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    It’s possible that the WWII soldier(s) described above were under orders not to give up their seats.
    The country was at war, and the priority was to recruit, outfit, equip, and train men to assure our victory in the war. A number of hardships were imposed at home in support of the war effort… food and other resource rationing, travel restrictions, depriving an entire ethnic population any sort of civil rights. And, of course, the draft.

  51. Dana July 11, 2017 at 3:14 am #

    In fact I’ve encouraged my son to give up his seat for others, particularly elderly. While there are certainly some kids with disabilities, for the most part, children are the heartiest among us, and the less likely to have aches and pains in their joints! 🙂

  52. Anne July 11, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    I completely concur with this article. I live on the Q train and use it most days with my 6 and 10 year olds. I don’t think any adult should get up and give either of them a seat (no matter how much they whine – and they do 🙁 ). Worst case scenario, I let them sit on their bags (and make sure they stand up at the stop so they are not in the way). I did accept a seat yesterday for my son because a man pointed out that he’d fallen asleep sitting on my bag (and he was totally exhausted). I think politeness and concern for others should drive our behavior. If a toddler is flying around the car because they are too little to hold on – offer them a seat, if a mom is trying to get her 3 children home and they are crying from tiredness – offer a seat to make her day a little easier, if a person looks exhausted – offer a seat etc.

  53. Eric S July 11, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    “But, generally, I think giving up one’s seat to a kid old enough to stand on his or her own is a bad message and a symptom of a culture of parenting in America that enfeebles kids.”

    Exactly. Just more proof that a lot of today’s parents are enablers. Whether they realize that’s a bad thing or not, they are still doing it. Probably because some of these parents are first millennials, who were probably brought up the same way.

    I’ve given up my seat to mothers with toddlers, and infants. But kids who are very capable of standing on their own, they can stand on their own. Personally, I think these mothers (and it’s usually mothers that I see doing this), are just too lazy and/or tired to hold on to their child. And having them sit down would make it “easier” for them. But if they had taught their kids proper, the child can easily hold on to a rail, and stand on his own without the mother holding on to him. Parents just seem to prefer making things harder for themselves these days. And then complain that other people are “inconsiderate” for not catering to her needs as a mother. lol

  54. Eric S July 11, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    @James: “…someone shows up right at the last minute and actually expects me to move because there aren’t 4 seats together any more, and they REALLY want to sit with their friends so they can talk.”

    Lol! One of my movie theater pet peeves as well. I just don’t move. Why? You made the effort to get there at an opportune time and get the seat you want/paid for. Just because people are too insecure to sit away from their group, is no one’s problem but their own. They should get their earlier next time so they can get the seats they want. Or pay a little extra and get reserved seating. Too many entitled people these days.

    @Anna: I agree. Depends on circumstance. But whenever I take public transit, it’s usually because the mother doesn’t want to hold on to the child while standing. And they don’t allow their 6+ year old child to hold onto the rail on their own. Whether it’s because they don’t trust their child to do what they can do just fine, or they don’t want their child to catch and “germs” by holding onto something other them. These are no reason for me to give up my seat. Especially when I’m tired coming home from work myself.

  55. James Pollock July 11, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    “whenever I take public transit, it’s usually because the mother doesn’t want to hold on to the child while standing.”

    That’s an amusing non-sequitur.
    Whenever I take public transit, it’s because I don’t want to deal with parking near the destination. In the suburbs, where parking is free and plentiful, I drive. In the city, it depends.

    When I’ve been at work all day and I’m tired and would like to sit down… well, so have 99% of the other people on the train. I’ll sit down when I get home.

  56. JulieH July 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    @James Pollock – It had me chuckling…

  57. Carla July 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    If an adult came into the room and all the seats were taken, my Dad would always say, “Pull up a kid and sit down!” That was our cue to vacate the couch or chair and let the adult sit. None of us complained because even WE knew it was easier for us to sit on the floor and anyway it meant we had seats closer to the TV!

  58. test July 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    @Eric S God forbid mother would do the thing that is easier for her the way she likes it. That either lazy or stupid. You sit because you are tired, which is cool, but when she does what she finds easiest she is lazy which is apparently something different entirely.

    I would point out that nobody asked anybody to stand in original story. There was one eye roll that could easily not be targeted at the writer and once sentence toward the kid about “somebody will leave the train then you will sit”. That is it. There was nothing easier then ignoring it and moving (or sitting) on your way.

    No one complained about others being inconsiderate, except people here and article author who just cant get over the above possible mini micro aggression.

  59. Puzzled July 11, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    It’s possible this interaction was read all wrong. If the child was complaining, the parent’s annoyed tone could be in response, and the comment could have been a way of telling the child that there are no seats. Hustling over to an empty seat could be a way to get the kid to stop whining.

  60. Puzzled July 11, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    @James: “…someone shows up right at the last minute and actually expects me to move because there aren’t 4 seats together any more, and they REALLY want to sit with their friends so they can talk.”

    Meh. I’m not going to move to the front row, or the back row, or next to the couple making out (well, depends on my mood), or, at my incredible local theater, to one of the few “ordinary” movie seats instead of the plush, overstuffed chairs (seriously). But move to a reasonable seat with a view? Sure.

    Now, the woman who wanted me to give up my exit row seat on Southwest, because she allegedly didn’t trust me (former firefighter, current paramedic, former Chief of an EMS agency engaged in various special operations…) but actually just wanted the room (and, as I learned during the flight, to dance on the armrests) – no.

  61. Anna July 11, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    @Theresa Hall: “Anna maybe your soldier had a disability which meant he needs to sit down instead giving up his seat. There are invisible disabilities which affect hundreds of people including veterans. Maybe you should the not judging game. It goes like this you decide whatever someone else is doing isn’t your business and go on with your life.”

    That wasn’t my story (or my judgment) but NY Mom’s story from 1944. Which is why I was surprised, since the custom then – at least in the Anglosphere – would have favored men giving women their seats, as a point of manliness.

  62. katie July 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    No, this wasn’t a thing historically. In fact, I do have a memory as a kid of my grandma scolding me for not giving up my seat on the NYC bus to an elderly woman. Still, the subway lady is far better, than the idiots who drive their kids around (or pay to have them driven around) in pointless oversized SUVs, especially in an urban area like NYC. And it’s also possible, though most likely not the case, the kid had a disability. I feel like I once had some non obvious foot injury and could have used a seat. Also first trimester pregnancy. I don’t like to assume the kid didn’t need the seat if we don’t know for sure he didn’t.

  63. aebhel July 11, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    It seems to me that manners would dictate that a seat be given up to anyone who clearly needs it more, be they elderly, heavily pregnant, disabled, heavily encumbered, or too small to steady themselves easily, and for all other able-bodied people it ought to be ‘first come, first served.’ But this entire discussion makes me very glad that I don’t have to deal with public transportation, especially while carting a small child around; it sounds like a nightmare.

  64. Christof July 11, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    I’m surprised I’m in such a small minority here… If a 15-year-old boy or girl would give up a seat for me (being in my 40ties) I would feel offended. I’d obviously use my manners to not show my feelings and politely decline. Is seriously nobody seeing this as a discrimination based on age? Of course, back in the days kids were expected to vacant a seat. But so where women to follow a husband’s orders.

    I’ve been on many trains and buses in many countries and cities. I can’t remember a single one where not at least some of the seats near the door were not marked as “please give up seat for a needed person”. Naturally, if you are sitting there and someone who obviously can’t stand safely for the duration of the trip, you offer the seat. If it’s not obvious and you are asked, you give up the seat. If the conditions of carriage state the free or reduced fares do not get you a seat, you give up your seat on this fare when asked. But that’s for a person in need, someone to weak to stand, someone with one leg, a pregnant women with young kids, someone in a wheelchair if you are on a fold-down seat in the wheelchair area. .

    But other then that I’m sorry. You can politely ask for a favor. If politely asked, I and my kids will be happy to give up a seat. If the ride is unexpectedly bumpy, I’ll happy to give up my seat to a person in need. But don’t demand a seat or passively aggressive expect one on a regular ride on the basis of your gender, race, age, or whatever.

  65. Another Katie July 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    I only ride public transit in major cities when traveling, but I’ve always heard that you offer to give up your seat to the elderly, the disabled, and obviously-pregnant women – beyond that the seats are first come/first served. It would never occur to me to offer to give up my seat to an apparently healthy, able-bodied school age child who can presumably hold on to something (even his parent).

  66. eldo July 11, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

    I no longer give up my seat on public transit unless someone asks. There was an incident a few years ago where I attempted to give up my seat to a woman I though was pregnant only to have her scream at me “Having a vagina is not a disability!” For a kid, I might give up my seat if the kid is wobbly.

  67. HM July 12, 2017 at 6:20 am #

    Look, the New York Subway is kind of shitty and rides are far from smooth. If you are not holding on tight, chances are you lose your balance every time the train comes to a stop and takes off. When the train is crowded, it’s difficult to find a spot next to a bar, and when you are a tiny person, such as a child, this becomes even trickier. There are a lot of people on the subway who have good reasons to want to sit – disabled folks, the elderly, pregnant women/women with babies in carriers, people coming home from long shifts at work, etc, and yes, children. The mom in the story sounds a bit obnoxious, mostly because everyone taking the subway on a regular basis knows that sometimes you kind of have to suck it up, but I have no problem with children under ten sitting because it’s safer. Frankly, I have a much bigger issue with healthy middle-aged men taking up three seats by themselves because they can’t keep their legs together.

  68. SKL July 12, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    Interesting that this comes up now. The other day we were in a foreign country and my kids and I sat in available seats on a hop-on/hop-off bus. Some more people got on and I felt their eyes on us, and wondered if they thought my kids should get up and let the adults sit. These were not elderly or disabled adults, and my kids were really tired from a lot of traveling, so I did not make my kids get up. But I would have for an adult (or child) who looked like they needed to sit.

    I do think today’s kids (or many of them) somehow think they are less physically fit than adults. But, considering how my kids act, it could be because ever fewer of their movements are their own choice. My kids will act like they are DYING if I ask them to walk for an outing of my choosing, but they will run sprints to get where THEY want to go. Funny how that works. 😛

  69. SKL July 12, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    Good point about whether it’s safe for short people to stand. Why they design some trains with nothing for short people to hold onto, I don’t know, but that is a legitimate consideration. We have been on some forms of transit where standing while short is just dumb. 🙂 Sometimes my kids did it anyway, because sometimes kids are dumb. 🙂

  70. TheGreenMiles July 12, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    The clear answer here is that children should be urged to stand even if the car is empty, to build character.

    But seriously, normally-abled kids never *need* to sit.

  71. Baby-paramedic July 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    In one of the cities I frequent the rules state anyone on a student ticket has to give up their seat for a full paying customer.
    It always seemed silly to me, as an adult I have more chance of staying upright than a child (the particular line I travel on is notorious for sending the unwary flying). If nothing else the average adult can reach the handrails.

  72. Shobit Gupta July 14, 2017 at 8:41 am #

    For me, it totally would depend upon a situation like how much place is crowded!