Dear Kid Whisperer,
I’m curious if you have any tips for preventing/combating meltdowns while traveling this summer? I’m thinking about on-location strategies for the airport, beach, or family outings when dealing with my 6 year old. Thanks for all the wisdom! – Callie, Newark, Ohio
Two weeks ago I showed you how to home train your kid to not have temper tantrums before you ever leave for vacation (see link to previous article at bottom).
If you have gone through that training and allowed your kid to suffer the consequences of throwing tantrums, he will be far less likely to exhibit the meltdown behavior.
However, it could still happen and testing will become more likely on vacation, at least at first, because your kid may will want to find out if you are able to hold him accountable in a new environment. Kids can be like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park: always checking the electric fence for weaknesses.
So he may “test the fence” in the airport or at the beach or in the Rainforest Cafe. Remember, just like during the home training, you are absolutely, positively NOT going to try to stop a tantrum (because you can’t). We are actually going to hope for a tantrum. That way, we can put into motion our air-tight plan that will teach him through our actions, not our words, that tantrums won’t get him what he wants–whether that is a Mickey Mouse doll or an angry, fun-to-watch parent– or both.
This is how I would deal with your little raptor on vacation:
Kid: Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Kid Whisperer: Oh, boy. Feel free to stay with us as long as you are being pleasant.
Kid: I HATE THIS FAMILY AND I WANT ALL OF SEA WORLD TO KNOW IT!!!!!!!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, boy.
Kid Whisperer gently leads or carries Kid to a spot away from the family where the family can still see Kid but where the family is far enough away to be able to have plausible deniability of ownership of the kid.
Kid Whisperer (As he walks away from Kid): Come back with us as soon as you can be pleasant. We want you to be with us!!!
If Kid comes back while having a tantrum, Kid Whisperer takes him right back to his original spot. If he comes back calmly, he gets to stay.
If Kid loses it completely for an extended period of time, and Kid Whisperer thinks that he is about to be asked to leave by Orlando’s finest, Kid Whisperer smiles, picks up Kid and walks to an off-location escape area such as the rental car or the hotel room.
While transporting Kid, Kid Whisperer only says the words “oh, boy” while wearing a smile. If in the car, Kid is gently and firmly put into the car seat. If Kid is able to unstrap himself, Kid Whisperer calmly holds the buckle in place without saying anything and without frowning. If in the hotel room, Kid can have a tantrum while Kid Whisperer reads a book. In either case, and if logistically possible, Kid can go back to the family activity as soon as he is being pleasant.
If you have kids who have not been properly home trained to be pleasant, especially if they are too big to be carried, then don’t take them on big vacations that involve going to airports or paying $100 for a theme park ticket. These kids are not ready for public. Train them at home until they are!