10 Tips for Handling Tantrums on Vacation

Ounce of Prevention: Offer Choices

Toddlers' needs aren't limited to food and sleep. This developmental phase includes the need to have some control over their own lives (complete lack of judgment notwithstanding). Consistently dragging your kid along on a predetermined route can set up a tantrum powder keg. Offering some simple choices, on the other hand, can release the have-to-do-it tension and reduce tantrum potential.

You can't exactly let a 4-year-old decide between renting a car and taking cabs, but there are lots of smaller decisions you can leave to a toddler. Which restaurant you go to for lunch, for instance, is a pretty benign determination. You can also offer choices between the Children's Museum and the zoo, which order you do activities in, the pool or the beach, an ice cream shop or candy store.

This can also include a preventive bribe with choice of pay-off. As long as you determine the terms and offer the bribe before the tantrum happens (as in, "Sit quietly during lunch and we'll get a treat afterwards!" or, "Think about whether you want a lollipop or a scoop of ice cream!"), you're still in charge. Any choice can give a child a sense of control and reduce the risk of a "You're not the boss of me" freak-out.

Up next: When the freak-out does occur, remember whom you're dealing with.