The Three Parenting Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Trip to Disney World

By Dr Randy Cale

Over the years in working with thousands of families, I regularly speak with parents who abort their trip to Disney World and return home early due to frustrations and disappointments with their children’s behavior.  Many times, it’s a child’s repeated temper tantrums that are the cause.  While leaving Disney may sound extreme, it’s actually more common than you might imagine.

After all, how many days of whining and tantrums could you take?  How many days of constant negotiation and screaming battles would wear you out?  And what’s worse…many of you feel helpless in these situations.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Pay close attention to these three mistakes, and you have a good sense about how to stay out of trouble on your trip to Disney World.

Mistake Number 1: You’re working too hard to make them happy.

Okay I know this sounds weird.  But I also understand that you want your kids to have a great time.  You don’t want the tantrums.  You don’t want the meltdowns.  You don’t even want the constant whining and complaining.

Here’s the secret: It’s your job to create opportunities for happiness.  It’s not your job to guarantee their happiness.  They have to do their share!

All that you can do is expose them to a wonderful experience full of great opportunities for laughter and fun, and let them learn to accommodate long lines, disagreements with their siblings, and the need to get out of the sunshine before they get burned to death.

In these moments of unhappiness, allow them to have their moment.  You don’t have to rescue them from it.  In fact, they need to learn how to rescue themselves from this.  This is a critical life lesson.

Mistake number 2: You fail to establish clear expectations for behavior.

Well in advance of Disney World, your kids need to understand what your expectations are in terms of their behavior in public.  Let them know what is “acceptable public behavior” and that they will be welcome to enjoy outings to various parks, recreational areas and even Disney World when their behavior is in line with “acceptable public behavior.”

It is essential to define clearly where the “line is at” (so that everyone knows what is acceptable and unacceptable).  Thus, no arguments or discussions later about this topic…especially in the moment of a tempter tantrum or a meltdown.

This might be different for different families, and so it’s important to specify this for your kids.  Yet this isn’t enough!  Yes I need to make sure you are aware of mistake number three.

Mistake number 3: You try to teach limits on behavior with your words, and not with consequences.

This is a common mistake we all make.  We start to see our kids moving toward inappropriate behavior, or perhaps they’re getting out of control, and you begin to remind them or lecture them or scorn them.  As the day wears on, we find ourselves getting more and more of this.  If you happen to have a child who is somewhat difficult or challenging, you know that this can escalate into a situation that quickly grows out of control.

You avoid this mess by turning toward consequences, and not words.  As you set your expectations with kids, let them know what the consequence will be for their failure to honor a particular limit.

For example, if you explain to the boys that any form of pushing or hitting means there will be a non-negotiable consequence:  “You boys will both do a time out on the bench with five minutes of complete silence before we will do anything else.”  Mom, Dad…you then you have to honor this.  They need to know where the line is at.  You teach this through the consequence.  Not the threatened consequence.

And…you need to be the one to implement the consequence.

For more information about traveling peacefully and joyfully with no temper tantrums and no whining and no meltdowns, visit my parenting website at   My name is Randy L. Cale, Ph.D., and I am the author of this material and the developer of The Tantrum Fixer, a step-by-step parenting solution that stops tantrums in less than a week.

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