Dads on the Go

When your kids lose their minds in public and what to do so you don’t lose yours

Disneyworld–the place where dreams come true.  Where families go to make the best memories of their lives.  Where kids beam with joy, parents nudge each other because they know they are the most awesome parents on the planet in their kid’s eyes for taking them there.  Until about 2pm. When dad’s have spent every last Disney Dollar, and moms have ridden one time too many on the tea cups. It’s past the kids’ nap time, and they are over stimulated by sights, sounds, smells of the most magical place on earth.

Strolling through Adventurland with our own family, giving my husband the nudge because of our awesomeness as parents, I witnessed something I will never forget. A family of four was coming toward us.  The 3 year old boy in their wagon was sobbing hysterically and out of control. His sister was rocking back and forth covering her ears from the noise.  Their poor mother had every hair out of place and what looked like melted chocolate ice cream down her white shirt. The dad lagged behind the family with a scowl on his face. The mom yelled something like, “He just wants his shoes!” The dad literally whipped the boy’s shoes at the mom, just missing her ankles. My 8 year old daughter and I stood with our mouths wide open, not believing what we just saw.

I can only imagine what could have happened in that Dad’s day to push him to the point of whipping his 3 year olds son’s shoes at his wife in a public place. No dad would do that. I am sure they laugh about it today—at least I hope so.

The Iron Will

In our family, we know what it is like to be pushed to that point. Our kids are at an age now that they normally don’t melt down in public places, but believe me, we’ve been there, done that.

As soon as Whitney could walk, she was ready to take on and explore the whole world. Whitney wanted to run like a wild stallion–free.  We would find ourselves in situations where we had to intervene quickly before she brought damage to herself or others. Whitney found our interventions insulting to her new independence.   She tried to outsmart us with her clever red-headed, chubby cheeked style, and developed a couple escape strategies that many parents might identify with.

The Runaway In this technique, when the child sees that a parent is coming to secure control in any fashion, they run like the wind, it makes no difference what direction, in the highway, in front of cars, into walls, just away from the parent.  They’d much rather be run over by a semi than hold the parents hand.

The Stop and Drop. Here the child stops all motion and flings all of their weight toward the ground in hopes of breaking the grasp of the parent.  Face down, kicking and screaming usually follow the drop, then stiffening up like a board to make it all the more difficult for them to be scooped up off the ground.

And the most clever of all moves,

The Runaway and Stop and Drop Combo, in which the child first stops, then drops, then runs toward moving traffic and away from their parent’s grasp at a high rate of speed.

This backfired on Whitney one time.  She saw her daddy coming to grab her hand and before he could secure his grasp, she arched her back and flung all of her weight toward the cement sidewalk.  The first part of her body to make contact was the back of her head.  Wham!  Being moved with compassion, as she was lying on the sidewalk wailing, he said, “What did you do that for?”


Our family friend and child psychologist Ron Craker shared a handy acronym with us to help us outsmart the chubby cheeked red-headed defense maneuvers.

He explained it this way:

In golf, par is when you’re doing more than just getting by, you’re actually doing well.  Golf can be a frustrating sport when things aren’t going our way.  Many of us feel that way about parenting – frustrated and at our wits end.  We can give up golf, but we cannot give up on parenting.

There are two ways to look at PAR.  The first pathway to PAR is the pathway of perfect common sense.  This is default mode in parenting. It feels like the path of perfect common sense, the path of conventional wisdom, the “natural” path, the “what-else-would-you?” path of dealing with kid’s bad behavior.  Here’s how it works.

P:  Predict.  We can predict what problems will set us off. “When we’re at the store I just know he’s going to…”

A:  Anger. We get angry even though we can predict the problem.  Even though we know it’s coming – we still get angry.

R: React.  We’re left reacting – we’re on the defense rather than the offense. This is when shoes start flying around.

We’ve all been on that pathway.    We need to make a course correction, get off the pathway of perfect common sense and get on the road less traveled.

P: Predict and Prepare

If we can predict the problem behavior, we can prepare for it.  We can create a plan that moves us toward the specific outcome we are shooting for.  We know our kids need a nap at 1pm. They will start to melt down after that. Predict the melt down, leave the situation and plan for a nap.

A:  Adapt

We can adapt to the degree to which we are prepared.  The rest of Disney can wait. Your sanity is worth it.

R: Respond and Renew

Respond: We can respond to the situation in a calm manner instead of react in anger, because we have thought about it ahead of time and prepared for it.

Renew: We sometimes fill every second of our day with activity that we forget about energy management.  Parenting is tiring! Maybe it’s time for a restful vacation away from noise, crowds (and flying shoes).

I wrote this article for the June issue of Michiana Family Man magazine, appearing in newsstands all over Michiana this month. Pick up a copy if you have a chance.  Lots of great articles for men and Daddy’s!

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