So how can you maintain discipline with the kids while you’re on vacation?
You’re typically going to feel constrained because you’re in a public area and the usual measures – loss of toys or privileges, room confinement, corporal punishment, whatever – aren’t available. What can you do to maintain order?
First, remember that while you’re on vacation, you probably need to exercise even greater patience than at home. If you’re travelling, the bedtimes are probably shot to hell and the activity has the motors revved to the point of burnout; the kids are going to be more tired than usual and their ability to control themselves is going to suffer.
Bearing that in mind, you might consider a three count warning with the punishment being a one minute timeout – or longer if the kid’s older – at the front of the park on arrival.
What’s a three count warning? Simply put, you’re putting the kid on notice and providing them with an opportunity to control themselves before the third count causes the correction. How does it work? When you go somewhere, tell the child up front that when you find them misbehaving, you’ll start to count to three. When the child hears ‘one’, it’s the signal that he needs to stop. If he doesn’t, then you’ll count ‘two’. If the child hasn’t stopped after the ‘two’ count, then you’ll count ‘three’ and the correction will occur.
We’ve used the count system for years and it does work. The beauty with the timeout on entering the vacation spot is that the first several minutes there are typically spent orienting yourselves; the child can sit in a timeout at a specified spot while you figure things out, and then you can move on to the first activity with the correction out of the way. And the kid has learned that there is a consequence without realizing that he’d probably be hanging out at the same spot anyway.
So the correction is immediate, consistent and enforceable. It might not work on all occasions but it can take care of a number of them.