There are only a few weeks left of summer, and many of us want to make the best of it. And that makes sense, of course. For many of us, these weeks include efforts to squeeze in a day trip here or there. Whether it’s walking the streets of Saratoga, a trip to Lake George or just a visit to the local pool, we all look forward to these closing family times without the stress of pressured schedules and daily demands.

However, for some, the summer has started to take a toll. The vacations were not as relaxing as we thought, the kids were whining and complaining along the way and big, expensive excursions were underappreciated. In short, summer can bring more demand upon our parenting skills than we realized, when planning outings for the family to enjoy.

So, before summer ends, let’s look at how we can create the best times possible for our family (and ourselves).

Let’s Take the Summer Fun Test!

How much pleasure will you (likely) have? How easeful will these last few weeks be, when on a family outing. Ask yourself a few simple questions and notice if you are in the ‘often’ category…or the ‘seldom’ category!

1: “How often does it feel like I am working harder at my children’s happiness …than they are?”

2: “How often do child behaviors (e.g., whining, crying, tantrums, complaints, upsets, etc.) get in the way of enjoying a family outing?”

3: How often are you dancing around your child’s upsets, and go out of your way to avoid a meltdown?

4: How often are you intervening in sibling disputes, that frustrate and annoy you?

The more your answers fall to the ‘often’ side, then the more likely you need to master my Three Strike Rule. Even if you just struggle with occasional tantrums or meltdowns, the Three Strike Rule is still a useful tool!

Your Secret Parenting Weapon: The Three Strike Rule

The Three Strike Rule gives you an amazing formula that supports and strengthens your role as a parent, honors your child’s inherent capacity to learn, and ultimately respects everyone’s right to enjoy fun outings and family vacations.

The “Three Strike Rule” will apply to all outings, whether down the street, across town or across the country. Explain these guidelines clearly so the kids are clear that you mean business. Here’s how it goes: Define the limits of behavior you will allow in public. Be clear and specific. Then let them know they will get three strikes every time you go out in public.

1. Strike One: The first time a child is out of control, you simply take a break that requires quiet. Let them know, “Strike One.” We are going to take a break for 5 minutes.” Walk to a bench, or the car or any area distant to the ‘fun.’ They can return to the fun only after five minutes of quiet, with no complaints or whining. This is a critical piece: You must wait as long as it takes to get your five minutes of silence and calm sitting. Then, return to the fun. Don’t respond to questions or comments, just have a timer sitting in front of you that you keep resetting. (If two parents, then one can deal exclusively with the challenging moment while the other parent goes forward with siblings, if possible.)

2. Strike Two: If there is a second incident, repeat the five-minute break by letting them know this is “Strike Two.” Again, remove the child acting out from the fun and find a calm spot. You then wait again for five minutes of silence. After this, resume life! However, upon completion, remind them that they have one strike left before it all ends.

3. Strike Three: If there is a third incident, where the limits are violated, announce: “Strike three: We’re out of here!” Wherever you are, or whatever you are doing, pack it up and head home. There will be BIG drama, but just ignore it.

Now, if this is predictable that your children will test you, and you have several children, perhaps you can be prepared to divide and conquer…if one child is more predictably the culprit for negativity. Upon hitting three strikes with the acting-out child, one parent can take that child home while the rest of the family enjoys the day!

You then return home. Yes, you will lose some money. Yes, the day will appear a disaster. But in reality, it is not! Why? Because once you do this once or twice, you will never get past strike one again. (Also, make sure that the kids get home with little access to everything they enjoy.

Remember: Allow them to have their drama, and just stick to your guns on the consequences. The magic is not in the threat of the third strike. The magic is in the experience of feeling the effects of the third strike! Trust in the teaching that comes from this simple formula, and your can find more fun and joy in all your outings!