Managing Temper Tantrums on the Road
Unless you’re raising V.I.C.I. from “Small Wonder“, temper tantrums likely are a fact of your current life as a parent. And since kids generally aren’t discriminating about where and when they have these meltdowns, I’m guessing you probably have had to deal with a spaz-out or two on a family vacation.
We’ve got a soon-to-be 4-year-old in our midst, which means we certainly have grappled with our fair share. No matter what the circumstances, they’re never fun. For any of us.
I spent the better part of our last trip paying close attention to what triggered L’s tantrums, and how our reactions exacerbated or alleviated the situation overall. Then, when we got home, I phoned a few child psychologists (and our pediatrician) for some insight.
Based upon this research, here are four tips for dealing with tantrums the next time you’re away.
- Be (as) flexible (as possible). The last thing you want to do in a foreign place is schlep around a child who’s going to kick and scream every step of the way. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to keep the schedule relatively fluid—that way you have the ability to wait out a temper tantrum should one occur.
- Fend off exhaustion. Many temper tantrums are triggered by tiredness; this means they are more likely to happen toward the end of the day. Pre-empt major meltdowns with family walks and other activities when exhaustion seems imminent. Post-dinner/pre-bed dance parties almost always work. Sunset-watching sessions are good, too.
- Deflect, deflect, deflect. One of the most classic ways to end a tantrum is to distract your child from the things that have set him or her off. Travel makes this easy, since new sights and sounds and smells abound. Seize upon stuff that’s free and public: Musicians! Flowers! A fountain! This way you’re not going over budget to keep your kids happy.
- Avoid punishment. While “time-outs” might help your kids calm down at home, on vacation, with unfamiliar surroundings and shared hotel rooms, this form of discipline may not be as effective (and, in public places, can impact other people’s trips, too). Instead, try “time-ins” during which you calmly talk your child back to normalcy.
There probably are six or seven other items I could add to this list, but these should give you enough of a foundation upon which to build.
The most important thing to remember: Be patient. Temper tantrums are inevitable. Just because you’re on a family vacation doesn’t mean your children are going to stop being children. The quicker you move past them, the more willing you are to take these episodes in stride, the more pleasant your overall family travel will be.
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