Q: Our two girls, ages 3 and 2, are very well behaved, so my husband and I decided to treat them to a memorable vacation at Disney World. As soon as we got through the gates, the girls became possessed by demons, and it turned out to be the most nightmarish four days we have ever had. It started in the hotel room. One night they did not sleep until 2:30 am. We had tantrum after tantrum. Now, my entire extended family wants to hold a reunion there this coming holiday season. Is there a discipline plan that will prevent another Disney Disaster?
A: This is a joke letter, right? If it’s not, then you hereby win one of my coveted Rosemond’s Awfully Ludicrous Parenting Honors — a RALPH. Four days at Dizzy World with a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old? What were you thinking? And what’s this about treating them to a ”memorable vacation?” The older one may retain some vague memories of this psychedelic experience, but the 2-year-old had forgotten it within a week. My recommendation, based on personal experience: Don’t take a child to Dizzy World until he’s at least 6, and even then not if he’s the least bit hard to handle in public places.
Preparing a child for this rite of passage is a science in and of itself: First, you teach him to stay with you in stores, to not bolt like a Jack Russell terrier toward the first interesting thing he sees. Then take him to the zoo, maybe even a petting zoo. If he gets too excited about petting the animals, leave, wait a week or two, then try again. When he has learned to stay calm at the petting zoo, take him to a small amusement park, one that’s no more than an hour’s drive from your house and where admission is less than a month’s wages.
You get the idea. Start at the bottom of the entertainment chain and work your way up. Starting at the top with two preschool children is, well, nuts.
As for this planned reunion, I’d suggest that you and your children get deathly ill at the last minute. Then when everyone else comes back complaining of how awful their youngsters were, you can say, “Really? When we went last summer, the kids were perfect little darlings! We had a wonderful time.”
John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Contact him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 E. 86th St., Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240, or at www.rosemond.com.