Friday, January 28, 2011

Avoiding Tantrums and Time Outs in Disney

Here's Hayley loving Pluto - I figured since it is her
tantrum I discuss, I would post a pic that shows
how sweet she really is!
Just because Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth, it doesn’t mean it makes things magically disappear, meaning certain behaviors like tantrums. They happen, even to the best of children. Sometimes it is in the middle of Fantasyland, where you just may get a lot of sympathetic looks from people who know what it feels like, or it may be in the middle of World Showcase where there seem to be far fewer strollers and even fewer of those sympathetic looks. I would like to keep the talk of tantrums to just children, but let’s face it, we’ve all seen the adult tantrums too. They may not include the stomping of the feet or screaming at the top of the lungs, but they happen.

When traveling to Disney, it can be overwhelming to the best of us. You know your children better than anyone and you know when they are running out of steam. As soon as my children start to fade, we know it is time to make our way back to the resort for a nap or to find a comfortable bench and have a snack. Sometimes just a little break is all we need to regroup. I know if I push my children beyond their limits, I will definitely have some cranky kids on my hands. Now my kids in general are really well behaved. We can take them anywhere without issue. But on our last trip to Disney my three year old had a tantrum of all tantrums. I literally have never seen her like this in my life! I was completely embarrassed and really shocked. I kept with our normal routine at home, which is to give a time out.

Now we were in Mickey’s Toontown Fair, which was packed with parents, strollers, and of course children. I found a spot close to the train station and was able to get her in a spot to sit. Luckily there was some Disney magic at work, and though she was still screaming at the top of her lungs (my face bright red and I think possibly sweating at this point from the embarrassment), she sat for her three minutes. When it was all done, we had a little chat and she said, “Mommy, I am too tired to play anymore.” We were several days into our vacation and we knew she needed a break. We took the next day to play in the sands along the beach at the Caribbean Beach resort and just relax. The next day, she was back to her normal self and ready to go ride Cinderella’s Royal Carousel, which we were able to do three times in a row. So my advice would be to watch for signs from your children and react before it gets to a teary-eyed, screaming tantrum and even though you are on vacation, you still need those clear expectations and consequences for behaviors. I had never witnessed this behavior from Hayley before and haven’t since. But I was glad we already had the timeout routine in place and she knew what it meant. It made it very easy to put it to work in the parks.

My husband and brother just before meeting the
distressed father mentioned!
Now, you need to also keep an eye on the adults in your group for those warning signs of when they have had enough. We would think that they would know better and speak up, but sometimes they are just too far in. I’ve witnessed several of these in the parks and I see them, or some version of them, every trip. There is always the parent desperately gripping the park map yelling at their kids about how much the vacation cost and they’re going to like it. I have also witnessed a woman battering her husband with her purse in the Splash Mountain log at the bottom of the hill because he tricked her into riding (not sure how she missed the large mountain on her way to the queue area). But my most memorable moment is of a man with his wife and three teenage daughters. As we stood in World Showcase, my husband and brother were each holding one of those tall beers from the beer cart outside of the Rose and Crown pub. This father came running up to us, points to the beer and says, “I need to know where you got that or I just may not survive this vacation!” The mother and three daughters all stood with scowls on their faces and their arms crossed. Now I am not sure who was pushing who to their limits, but clearly this family had reached theirs.

So when vacationing in WDW, remember to keep an eye on your group. Watch for the signs of overdoing it. Take a break, have a snack or get a drink, and enjoy the time in the parks with your friends or your family. Keep those tantrums to a minimum but have routines in place should they happen to make an appearance.

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