“Have you tried this remarkably simple way of setting limits when you travel with your kids? (Or, any place really!)
You literally don’t have to say a word.
It’s true…not a word”
Travelling with kids, even if they’re older and more independent, is not always easy. Recently, I gave a talk to a few great parents about setting limits and I had this idea to also share with you an example of what setting limits kindly yet firmly looks like. Wonderful and supportive Elle Kwan embraced my story and turned it into a full-blown article. Thank you, Elle! You can read the article on the Hand in Hand website or below:
Travel, kids,it’s difficult…
While there’s definitely the promise of new and exciting times when you travel with your kids, there’s potential for behavioral bumps all along the way.
- Whining and tiredness.
- En-route potty accidents
- Unexpected hunger
- Long hours in cramped spaces
- Delays and lateness
- And then the iPad dies…
Just the perfect recipe for a meltdown…
We’re parents! Of course, we don’t have it together!
There’s just so much potential for your kids to annoy each other.
And so much pressure on parents to look like we all have it together.
And realistically, it’s totally the least likely time that we should be expected to handle things calmly. After all, travel frazzles us too!
Unless, of course, you remember this remarkably simple and effective way to set a silent limit.
It will save your sanity
It will save your kids from killing each other
It will save face in front of judgy onlookers
This mom’s way to set a silent limit is genius
Mom of three Raluca Dobre saw a behavioral storm brewing on a long and exhausting trip she took with her family recently.
“My oldest son, who is eight years old, kept nagging his younger brother, who’s six,” she says.
But since the family was so busy changing flights and going through security checks, she felt she couldn’t properly address the situation.
So, Raluca did what most of us would do – she played for time.
Separating solved the issue until she could set a limit
“All I could do was separate them as best as I could and rush them through,” she says.
Still, her older son seemed unable to get calm on his own, and his behavior kept moving off-track. She knew she needed to set a limit for it to stop.
The perfect opportunity to set that limit came when they boarded a bus. Their family were the only passengers.
Her oldest son refused to sit down. He was running up and down the bus. And, at one point, he tugged his brother’s shirt aggressively.
So, Raluca did was what most of us wouldn’t do.
- She didn’t scream and yell at him to come to sit down.
- She didn’t promise him an ice-cream and a swim when they got there if he would sit down.
- She didn’t pull the candy out of her bag.
- She didn’t yank him and pull him to a seat.
She did this one remarkably, simple thing.
“At that point, I stood up, calmly took my oldest son in my arms and sat right back down to make sure we didn’t fall on the floor,” she says.
Her son started flailing. He tried to kick. At one point, he attempted to bite her. He was ANGRY!
But still, she didn’t lose it.
“I held him and protected myself, and I said nothing,” says Raluca.
“After a good few minutes of fierce struggle my son suddenly stopped screaming and relaxed.”
Soon the bus swerved up a street close their destination.
Notice the difference
Raluca cleared her son’s forehead of sweat, held him close and whispered: “I’m with you, but now we really need to get off the bus. Is it safe to let you go?”
She let him go.
“I looked at him kindly and asked him if he wanted to help with the luggage,” Raluca says.
And guess what?
By the time the bus pulled over and the family stepped off, her son was calm and willingly carrying their bags.
Way to kick jetlag to the curb…
Let the good times roll…
Try this remarkably simple way to set limits with kids when you travel for yourself
Here’s the breakdown of why this technique works…
1 – Watch. Off-track behavior shows you that your child is having a hard time. When you travel with kids tiredness, hunger, fear or even the break in routine affects them. Your kids don’t act up just to push your buttons.
2 – First response. You can move in and set the limit right then, or, if it’s too busy or crowded, you can do what Raluca did and wait on it. She made sure her boys were not hurting each other and couldn’t get too disruptive by keeping them physically apart. (We will say that if you can step in early, all the better. You’ll likely see less struggle)
3 – Set the limit. When you next see offtrack behavior, and you feel able, move in, and physically stop your child’s action.
4 – Keep close. Your physical closeness replaces the need for words.
5 – Say little. When the brain is in a meltdown state, it literally can’t respond to reason. If you do need to say something, keep it soft and supportive. “I’m here,” or “I see this is hard,” is fine. (The brain does respond to connection and closeness, that’s why touch can work where words don’t.) You can read more about why here.
6 – Keep safe. Another reason to say little is so you can focus on keeping yourself safe from your kid’s kicks, hits, or struggle to get free.
7 – Wait. The struggle that happens is all of that bad feeling your child feels resolving. Running up and down the bus or taunting a sibling or refusing to walk are all ways that kid’s (misguided) attempt to get these feelings out. Right now, you are the channel. When the feelings are gone, your child will return to a calm state.
8 – Let go. It’s good to check and see if your child is ready to let go. If Raluca’s son had said no, she would have had time to figure out what he needed. Could he have replaced the youngest kid in the stroller? Could she have carried him off the bus first.
9 – Keep light. Once the episode has passed, the behavior will too. You won’t need to lecture.
10 – Reflect. Were there things you could have changed about the trip or the schedule to make things easier on you all? There are some ideas here. If so, write them somewhere so you remember them next time.
What do you think of this way to set a silent limit when you travel? Is it something you would try?