I don’t know about you, but it seems that when we are on vacation, even at the happiest place on earth, my kids tend to push the boundaries and see what they can try to get away with. On our 4th day at Disney, Sam announced that he didn’t want to go to the Magic Kingdom. Instead he wanted to go home. My husband and I were incredulous, but if you take a step back, it’s not a crazy request coming from a three year old!
Since we travel everywhere with the kids, they have learned from a young age how to ride in a car or on a plane. They know about hotels and restaurants and the behaviors we expect from them while we are out and about. However, even the most well behaved child can have a melt down in the middle of the most magical vacation. Sadly we witnessed more than a few parents screaming that their crying kids, and I have to admit that I can understand it. When you spend a lot of money on vacation, you have an expectation that comes with that – and your child throwing a temper tantrum doesn’t really fit in to the *perfect* vacation idea.
Therein lies the dilemma – what do you do? Do you let your child get away with bad behavior and move on, or do you address the behavior in the middle of your trip and hope it goes smoothly? While I can’t answer that question for you, I can offer some steps that have helped us over the last 8 years as we have traveled with kids:
- First, determine what the issue really is. It’s easy to assume that your child is throwing a temper tantrum just to make noise, but generally there is a reason behind it. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are they hungry?
- Carry snacks to head off the hungry crankies. I always tuck a snack bag in the diaper bag and have plenty of snacks on hand. Often times on vacation we’ve found that our kids generally eat a big breakfast and dinner, and then they snack through the day. Having yogurt, cut up veggies and fruit, and granola bars ensure they are eating healthy, and they can eat when they need to.
- Are they over tired?
- This was a big one with Little Man. We solved the problem by bringing a portable noise machine, a blanket and a pacifier. After we had lunch, one of the adults would put him in the stroller with the back down, give him his blanket and pacifier and then would walk to a quiet area and just stroll. He was asleep quickly and even though it wasn’t his usual 3 hour nap, even 45 minutes-1 hour was better than nothing! With Sweet Pea I put her in the Ergo and bounced and walked her. It was the only way she could sleep while we were at the parks, but it was great because she was so much happier when she woke up!
- Are they over stimulated?
- Being in a new place can be hard on anyone, including adults! For Bella and Little Man it doesn’t take much to overwhelm or over stimulate them. Be mindful of what they can handle (noise, crowds, heat, etc) and plan accordingly. If you can, remove them from the area and try to find a quiet place. If they need a lovey, bring that as well. Bella went everywhere with her Anna doll for almost 2 years, and it was well worth it!
- Are they scared?
- Think about how you would feel if you were someone unfamiliar and everyone is taller than you! You have no control over where you are, where you are going or what you are doing. Lots of time toddlers and kids tantrum simply because they don’t think you are listening. Take a moment and listen to them, reassure them and then move on.
- Are they hungry?
- Do they want everything in sight? Disney (as well as most places) have the gift store idea down. Almost every ride exits through a gift store and it can be very hard on a child to constantly be told *no* when they see kids getting toys all around them. Here’s some tips to curb the *gimmies*:
- Give them a prepaid gift card and allow them to purchase their souvenirs. Make sure they understand that when the card runs out, they are done.
- Depending on your budget, allow them a set number of souvenirs and then stick with it. All kids are going to ask over and over, but if they have a concrete idea of what they are allowed it’s easier for them to understand.
- Take a picture of the requested item, or write it down on a list. Then, at the end of your stay have the kids go back through and pick 1 or 2 items that they really want and have a special shopping day to celebrate the end of vacation.
- Are they throwing a tantrum just to scream? Remove the child from your party and take them over to a quiet area. Don’t yell or try to talk to them – wait until they are done and then calmly explain why the behavior is not acceptable and what the consequences will be. Bella did this twice at Animal Kingdom, and Sophie did it at Hollywood Studios. All three times I pulled them over to a quiet area and had Ken go on with the kids and my MIL. Once they had calmed down and could talk we discussed what was going on and why that behavior is unacceptable.
- Have reasonable consequences to behaviors. Just like at home you have to have a realistic consequence, not over the top.
- Above all, PLEASE DON’T SCREAM AT YOUR CHILD. Please. It doesn’t help the situation, and it never ends well.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you as your plan your next vacation! Just a reminder – if your child does melt down, they won’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last. Take a deep breathe, resist the urge to yell at them that they are on vacation so why can’t they be happy and stay calm.