Child Safety and Travel: Establishing Rules and Boundaries

Travis reaching out for Katienne's hand while walking through the ancient ruins of Philippi. She didn't want to hold his hand, but she needed to so he could steady her.
Travis reaching out for Katienne’s hand while walking through the ancient ruins of Philippi. She didn’t want to hold his hand, but she needed to so he could steady her.

Welcome back to the Child Safety and Travel series!! Today we are going to talk about enforcing rules and boundaries when you are on a trip. You know you are excited *winky smiley face*

It is so important for you to establish rules and boundaries with your children before you are traveling. Why? Well when you are traveling, everything is a bit out of your normal routine, and if your children can, they will exploit that in order to get their way. It’s not because they are mini criminals bent on destruction, but they are kids, and they tend to push as far as they can to get what they want. As parents one of our main jobs is to teach them what is right. You don’t have to teach a child how to manipulate or act selfishly, they already know. You know what I’m talking about right? And if you have one of those children that does everything you want them to do, please don’t rub it in the rest of our faces. I know that on occasion, those children do exist. I don’t have any in my family.

The first step to establishing rules and boundaries is figuring out what those rules and boundaries are. You need to set aside time in your schedule to sit down with your pen, paper, and spouse (if you have one) in order to write down the things that are important to you as a guardian. In regards to travel, the main priorities are going to involve safety. For example your short list might look something like this:

Hold a parent’s hand at all times.

-Do not run off at any time.

-If you get lost, look for someone wearing a uniform or another mother with kids.

You get the idea. The hard part is you need to establish your rules and boundaries far ahead of time, that way you have time to practice implementing them.

The thing about travel that naturally conflicts with keeping rules and boundaries is the setting. You are in new places constantly, you want your children to behave, and you have to factor fatigue into the equation because exhausted children are less likely to respond to your instructions. That is why it is so important to practice, practice, practice these behaviors with your children.

It takes seven days of adding something new into your routine for it become a habit. And you want your children to be in the habit of listening to your requests and demands. You may not be able to practice holding hands through the airport before your trip, but you can practice at the grocery store, on the way to school, or at the mall. You may not be able to practice telling your child to lower their voice on an airplane before your actual trip, but you can practice inside voices anywhere you are inside. The main thing you want is a positive response from your children, meaning that in general they listen. A lot of parents get into bargaining, which can be dangerous on a constant basis. In other words, “Well Kati, if you eat your dinner, you can have ice cream.” Have I done that before? Yes! Kati is such a picky eater! But if I bargained with Kati all the time, she would hold out for ice cream at every meal. That is not what I want, so I am careful to pick and choose times for bargaining. Sometimes on long trips I use bargaining. My goal in that short time is not to create perfectly behaved children (actually, that is never my goal, I am trying to create well-rounded individuals that respect others), my goal instead is to survive the trip without irritating my fellow travelers more than necessary or letting my children walk all over me.

If you want your children to obey and respect you, there have to be consequences when they do not listen. This is something that is never fun for the child or parent, but it is needed. A lot of times when we are traveling, a consequence for disobeying is a serious talking to, discussing why the rules are there in the first place. Obviously that is not our only consequence for the kids when we are at home. I’m not going to say which consequences are proper for your family or individual children, but make sure you pick something and stay consistent. Consistency in delivering consequences for disobedience is the only thing that will teach your children to obey your rules and boundaries when you are out in a strange new place. It will also help you avoid living with a rebellious teenager later (or at least that’s what I’m told by friends with older children).

I also want to add a note that Travis and I choose not to discipline our children when they are over tired. There is no productive way to do so other than to remove them from the situation, but that isn’t always possible. At that point, we do our best to distract them.

The last thing I am going to share is from personal experience. Always try to explain why your rules and boundaries exist. As a child, my parents often forgot to explain why the rules were there in the first place and I resented following them. But the rules were there to protect me! Your rules are there to protect your children. You know more about life than they do, and you want the best for them. Don’t forget to tell them that. A conversation with your child explaining rules should look something like this, “I understand that you wanted to run over to the luggage conveyer belt because it looks fun Nicky, but you have to hold Mommy’s hand so I know where you are and can protect you. Plus you have to be careful around moving things like conveyer belts because they can be dangerous. Now let’s walk over there together. Did I mention how much I love holding your hand? I love you so much!”

So here we go one more time, how to establish and enforce rules:

-Make a list of the rules and boundaries that are the most important to you.

-Practice these rules and boundaries in your every day life with your children.

-Explain why the rules are in place.

-Enforce the rules by creating consequences for disobedience.

and last but definitely not least…

-Do everything in love! Your kids will respond in a much more positive way if you do everything based on your love for them, and communicate that love often.

Happy travels and happy parenting!!


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