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
You are welcome! These are great and timely questions. So many people worry about what to do with belligerent kids on vacation. My first thought is to never try to “prevent” or “combat” meltdowns for the same reason you don’t try to prevent or combat a volcano.
Because you can’t.
It is literally impossible to stop a kid from having a temper tantrum, and trying to do so is giving the kid the attention he is seeking in the first place.
So don’t try.
Instead, I’m going to give you two steps to a happy vacation. The first will involve home meltdown training, the second will involve vacation meltdown training and will be a part of my next column.
Step #1: Home Training
Kid: This will not stand! I demand satisfaction! I am going to turn blue! Aaaaahhhhggg! (Kid holds his breath, kicks and screams).
Kid Whisperer: Oh, boy. (Kid Whisperer walks away immediately and goes to another room to watch the NBA playoffs.)
After ten seconds of melting down privately, Kid decides to come into the TV room where Kid Whisperer is attempting to enjoy himself.
Kid: HOW DARE YOU!!! I DO NOT CONSENT TO THIS NONSENSE!!!!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, boy.
Kid Whisperer carries Kid to his room, only repeating the words “Oh, boy” calmly and with sadness. He gently puts Kid in his safe, TV-less, computer-less room.
Kid Whisperer: Come back and be with me as soon as you can be calm. I want you to be with me.
Kid Whisperer goes back to watch the game.
Kid runs out of his room while screaming. Kid Whisperer picks kid up and puts Kid back in his room. He repeats this as many times as he feels like doing it. Once Kid Whisperer has grown tired, he says the following.
Kid Whisperer: This is really sad. I’m too tired to keep picking you up. I’m going to be locking the door now from the outside. As soon as I hear calm silence from the other side of the door, I’ll unlock your room and you can be with me and watch the game. Just know that this is serious stuff. We’ll be talking about it sometime later. I love you.
Kid Whisperer locks the door from the outside as Kid goes ballistic. Kid Whisperer watches the rest of the game. Being a Cavs fan, Kid Whisperer regrets this decision. Kid eventually calms down, Kid Whisperer unlocks the door and Kid rejoins the household.
The next day, at a convenient time:
Kid Whisperer: I guess we need to talk about yesterday. I am still really sad about it. I am sad because I am afraid that you are going to have one of those meltdowns the next time you don’t get your way, and that next time might be when we are in public, and that would be really embarrassing for me and our entire family. So here’s the deal. You can leave the house when you have proven to me with your actions that you won’t embarrass our family in public.
Kid: How long will that take?
Kid Whisperer: That is all up to you.
Kid: What if I don’t show you that I can be in public before we go to Florida in three weeks?
Kid Whisperer: I talked to Uncle Tim. You are going to stay inside of his house while we are in Florida if you can’t show us before then, but I doubt it will come to that. I have faith in you!
Stay tuned for another post for strategies about how to deal with meltdowns while on vacation!