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How young is too young to travel?

Children benefit from seeing how different people live around the world

CNN News Wire | 4/2/2014, 10:36 a.m.

The child was screaming and out of control as he and his mother boarded the aircraft.

That much psychologist and parenting expert Kevin Leman remembers well.

It could have been another tantrum-filled flight from hell. But Leman says a quick-thinking flight attendant could see what was about to unfold. She got the captain's attention and he ordered the family off the aircraft before they could get to their seats.

"The parent was incapable of controlling the kid, and nothing was going to help in that kind of situation," says Leman, the author of several parenting books, including "Parenting Your Powerful Child," and father of five grown children.

Leman, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, and travels constantly for speaking engagements, says he sees a child acting out on his flight at least once a week. If you don't set limits on the ground, he says, you won't be able to set them inside a narrow metal tube at 35,000 feet.

"The parent you are in the ground is the parent you're going to be on the airplane," says Leman. "Do you have a game plan? If you do, you're going to have a kid who will sit in an airplane, entertain himself and not be a pain to other customers on the plane."

Haunted by experiences and tales of children behaving badly in flight, many travelers have pretty strong -- and sometimes visceral -- feelings about sharing space with young globetrotters. And what are the wee ones really getting out of such travel? Aren't their parents going to suffer for bringing them long after the earsplitting cries leave the confines of the airplane?

Can young children benefit from travel?

Traveling parents tell CNN those meltdown moments do not represent the entirety of their experiences. Navigating airport security and learning about different cultures practically since birth, many well-traveled children have better airplane manners and more frequent flier miles than some adults.

"I think my daughter benefits from seeing there's a world beyond Baltimore and that there are all different types of people," says aviation blogger Benet Wilson, who's taken her 8-year-old daughter on airplanes since she was 10 days old.

Almira Coronado of Daly City, California, agrees. "Traveling enables people to be more open-minded, you get out of your comfort zone, experience unique things, meet different people, hear/speak a different language," writes Coronado, owner of a travel agency. "It broadens the mind."

By taking their daughter to foreign countries since she was just a few months old, Coronado and her husband see Michelle, now age 7, developing a more global point of view. "She'll have a better appreciation of what makes each place and each people unique."

When can a child fly?

We know some of you will not bend on wanting child-free flights, resorts and lives. You remain convinced that kids will never be bearable as fellow travelers. That's OK.

But you should know that there's just no blanket rule for when a child is old enough to be on the move. Sorry, baby haters. Some children are easygoing and can travel well at any age, and others are more temperamental and cannot.