Travel, Tantrums and the Terrible Twos
How to survive a clash of wills with cranky kids
Most toddlers’ favorite word is “no.” Inevitable conflicts arise between parent and child due to a clash of wills – you trying to maintain safety and order, your toddler trying to push boundaries in a quest for independence.
Add in the stresses and changes that come with a family holiday, and you have a perfect recipe for a full-blown (and very public) emotional tug-of-war. It’s challenging enough to handle tantrums at home, but it’s even more stressful to deal with these outbursts in a busy airport, hotel lobby or tourist attraction.
As a parent, you need to maintain some sense of discipline when you’re on the road, but be prepared to relax the rules a bit when you’re on holiday.
First and foremost, don’t feed the tantrum by paying it much attention. Once you determine that your enraged toddler is safe from harm, calmly leave the room, turn your back or invoke a timeout. Reacting with anger or trying to lecture or discipline the child during a tantrum will only prolong the outburst. If you need to quell the spectacle when you’re out in public, go to a restroom, your car, a quiet corner or step outside and hug your child until the episode subsides.
Easier said than done, but tantrum prevention is your best strategy whether you’re at home or away. Pick your battles wisely and your twos won’t be so terrible. Here are some pointers:
- Know what is non-negotiable and what you can let slide. Set reasonable limits but allow plenty of opportunity for your child to explore and be expressive.
- Offer some choices that give your toddler a sense input and control over their day (pick a book, snack or toy from a choice of two). Present only age-appropriate toys and set tasks your little one can achieve to instill a sense of pride, competence and accomplishment.
- Take the time to praise and reward good behavior rather than just focusing on bad behavior.
- be extra-attentive to your child’s mood radar and try to anticipate needs before they become cranky demands. Kids this age aren’t big on delayed gratification. Keep a steady supply of drinks and snacks on hand to quell hunger pangs and dehydration in an instant.
- Look for signs of fatigue and try to switch gears to a calming activity before your toddler gets too wired.
- Try to stick to a regular nap, meal and bedtime schedule as much as possible – kids crave the predictability and familiarity of routine.
- Have an arsenal of toys, games, songs, distractions, little projects and chores to keep your child occupied and stave off boredom, which is the gateway to whining, outbursts and tantrums.
- Above all, keep a sense of humor about you.