On a flight to Florida, I sat beside a seven-year-old child who was traveling with his mother to Disney World. We were on a flight for about two and a half hours. It became clear that this was a child who was working hard to do his best to please his mom. Yet his mom did not recognize his efforts.
In fact, her responses were like many parents who travel with their children. She was actually using her parenting power to make things worse…rather than making things better.
The focus of this article is on key mistakes that undermine peaceful traveling with kids.
Please keep in mind, that these same principles apply to your travels from home to school, as well as from home to Disney World.
The Three Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make!
1. Don’t invest energy in what you don’t want!
When sitting on this flight, it became clear that mom was very concerned about her son behaving properly. Her intentions were very positive, as she wanted to make certain that her son was not disturbing me.
To catch her son to respect boundaries, she became a constant nag. For every minute action that violated her expectations of him, she corrected him. Here are a few examples of what she said:
- Put your feet down.
- Lean over this way.
- Sit up straight.
- Stop staring.
- Why don’t you look this way?
- Sit still.
- Stop asking me that.
- Why do you have to do that all the time?
- Listen to me!
- Will you please just sit still?
- And the list goes on.
The key point here is to notice what this well-intentioned mom was doing. She continued relentlessly to point out all of the mistakes made by her son. As a consequence, there were few opportunities for her son to feel as if he was “doing it right.”
And yet, there were many, many moments when he was “doing it right.” He was respectful, usually well-behaved, and very inquisitive. He listened to her requests. And he did so happily.
So, many “moments” were actually wonderful, but these were ignored. Instead, his mistakes were magnified by the constant attention put in that direction.
This is a critical mistake – with escalating negative consequences as time goes on. It happened on this flight, and I observed the gradual learning process that produced more and more behavior that got Mom’s attention.
This same process happens every day on the way to school, or on the way to the soccer field. As the kids start to make noise, parents often consistently teach kids that this mild behavior will get their attention and energy. This is a critical mistake because kids will gravitate toward behavior that parents consistently invest in.
Whatever gets your repeated attention and energy…it must grow!
2. Traveling ill-prepared.
Kids tend to get grumpy when they are either tired, hungry, or bored. It would be a mistake not to anticipate these kinds of typical struggles. All three of these issues can be addressed with a bit of careful planning. Thus it would appear foolish to travel without having healthy snacks, a pillow to help kids be comfortable, and a pile of entertainment.
One or two books for a two-hour flight are just not going to cut it. It is always better to address problems through prevention, than trying to deal with them after the fact. Plan ahead. Have some extra snacks. Bring along a new book or game.
Bottom Line: Be prepared.
3. Traveling With Your Own Unhappiness.
Oh, this is a tough one. But we all know what this is about.
We had to stay late at work to get caught up on everything before we leave. After that, we had to get all the laundry completed, get the packing done, and take care of all the last-minute preparations. We arrive late at the airport. The lines are long. We are traveling on four hours of sleep, and we are not happy.
And yet, when we bark at our kids, we expect them to remain joyful and compliant. They are supposed to just “brush it off”, even though we may be the ultimate grump.
When traveling, I would strongly encourage you to do everything you can to be prepared to get a good night’s sleep. Be focused on what you enjoy, and exude gratitude in your interactions with your traveling companions. Take it all lightly. Smile and model ways to find happiness.
Your children will pick up on this, and you will naturally get more engaging and joyful children. Not always of course! But it certainly increases the chances of a pleasant trip.
BUT THAT’S NOT THE WHOLE STORY
There are three essential strategies that you need to consistently utilize, that will teach your children to travel comfortably and easily. Doing this before the “big day” is essential. So, consider putting the following principles into use daily, and you will find that the sibling squabbling, the acting out, the fidgety boring complaints all fade away while traveling across town or cross-country.
Read about the key strategies that will help you travel in peace…whether across town or the country! CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT TRAVELING IN PEACE