At this time of year our thoughts always turn to summer outings with the family. While vacations are great, most families spend much more time on weekend camping trips, a day to the museum, or an afternoon at the amusement park. If the kid’s behavior is respectful and appropriate, such daytrips are a source of pleasure and enjoyment.
On the other hand, if your kids are whining, complaining and unhappy, your efforts to create a wonderful experience will only end in frustration, disappointment, and, at times, anger. However, there is a simple formula to create consistently pleasurable and enjoyable daytrips.
As with all parenting practices, the real power comes from your repeated willingness to establish situations where children can learn how healthy behavior serves them...as well as the rest of the family. This implies the need for practice and you’ll notice that this is built into my plan.
1. Empower everyone in the family. Do this by giving everyone a voice in the types of daytrips the family will take. Try to make sure that each child’s interests are kept in mind as decisions are made.
2. Ultimately, Mom and dad are the decision makers. After getting the input, let your kids know that you will ultimately decide about when and where the family will go. You would not imply that the kids are the decision makers—that will get you in trouble.
3. We only travel in peace. Let the kids know in advance that the car will only move, when there is no fighting, bickering, complaining, arguing, whining, hitting, or anything that distracts the driver. Instead, the car will immediately stop. When the kids do start fighting, pull over, without saying a word, and sit until everyone is quiet. At that point, let the kids know it will be five minutes before you begin. At the end of five minutes of silence, renew the journey...but only if the car is peaceful.
4. You don’t always get what you want. Without repeated lectures, have this simple conversation with the kids—one time and one time only. Remind them that sometimes they’ll get what they want and sometimes they will not. Sometimes you’ll go where they want to go and sometimes you will not. Sometimes they will get to eat what they want and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will get home when they want and sometimes they will not. This is reality. Get over it.
5. We only play in peace. Finally, explain to the kids that regardless of whether or not they are happy on a particular daytrip, it will likely be better that they keep their unhappiness to themselves. Remember: you don’t always get what you want. Let them know that any complaining, whining, fighting, arguing, or difficult behavior will result in an immediate timeout. Regardless of where you’re at, or what the circumstances are, simply walk that child to a quiet area (which sometimes may be back to the car) and sit with them until they are completely calm and quiet and then have a five-minute time out. Do not talk with them. Do not rationalize with them, and do not explain this again, because you explained it all before you left. Notice a common theme in this plan. You have informed the kids clearly about your expectations and limits on their behavior. However, you don’t repeat this over and over and you don’t negotiate and argue with the kids. Instead, you become parents of action rather than words.
Keep this focus throughout the summer, and your daytrips will quickly become glorious. While you might anticipate the first couple of trips will be a bit tough, you’ll see how quickly kids learn. It’s truly amazing how quickly and easily they begin to adapt when you allow the consequences of their choices to teach limits on their behavior. Just remember: no nagging, reminding, or warning. Ignore all the little stuff, but when it’s time to take action, do so! Let your actions teach where your words have failed.
Please email me with your comments and successes as Drcale@TerrificParenting.com. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful day tripping summer.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His Web site, www.TerrificParenting.com
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