How to be Happy in the Happiest Place on Earth

Let me tell you something about “the happiest place on earth”.

(But first, I must admit that I am kind of addicted to Disney. Not the overpriced paraphernalia, the place. Disneyland, Disney World, we can’t seem to stay away. I have three children five and under who poop their pants and scream at strangers, and I still can’t get enough of these magical, public places.)

I was sitting with sleeping Junie at the Magic Kingdom on our first day at the parks, observing other parents. It was quickly obvious that despite Disney’s mantra, most parents of small/medium/large children aren’t particularly happy. Eveywhere I looked I saw kids complaining and parents scolding. One parent in particular caught my attention (since she was located about a foot and a half away from me).

She had two children, about eight and ten in age, who were just being kids. Translation: they wanted everything, were hopped up on sugar, and couldn’t stop arguing with each other/hugging each other. This poor mom was beyond frazzled. At first I watched her with empathy, but after a moment I couldn’t help stopping myself and taking a more objective approach.

She was yelling at them, telling them that they were horrible and ruining the day for everyone because they were pouting. She was so angry, she finally hauled off and slapped her son.

This was the point where I realized something crucial: I could be this mother. Potentially, if I am not careful, I could let my children and their public display of childrenness seriously impair my judgment. It made me think, how would I handle this? How will I handle this?

From this fantastic learning experience (at some poor woman’s expense) came a little game we’ve been playing with Harrison all week. He’s five. He wants everything and isn’t afraid to pull out the big tears and massive pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants. Normally, a small dose of this behavior sends me into fits of irritable rage. A few hours at Disneyworld and he was in poutation overdrive.

But after seeing this mom reacting sadly and badly to her kids being kids, I quickly thought up a new strategy.

And it has saved Harrison’s (and my) life.

The second he starts to cry or pout, we celebrate. We have been very clear about the fact that we do NOT want to see him happy, no sirree. Tears? Fits? Pouting? Yee-haw! This little charade every time he starts with the waterworks has made it impossible for the kid to keep the grin off his face the entire week.

And I have to say, our stress level is non-existent with him because of it. I am actually enjoying being a parent (to Harrison).

Now if only Rex would stop pooping his pants.


  1. I think you just need to cheer for him every time he poops his pants.

  2. Brilliant. I usually just tell my kid that he can have something from Disneyland once a year (we have annual passes) and if he bugs me the rest of the year, I won’t bring him with me when I go. I’m a bad mother so he totally knows I’ll back the threat up.

  3. I’m so happy to hear that reverse psychology also works on small, innocent children.

  4. haha this is a great idea. When my little girl falls down and is about to start to cry, we always cheer “YAYYYY!!!” And then she smiles instead of having a meltdown. Nice to know it works with tantrums too

  5. Wish this worked on a cheeky, moody 11-year-old girl . . . 🙂

  6. Great advice. So wise, you are.

    Disneyland is the best! I’m addicted to Disney too! I love that magical world, even when my kids are pooping their pants. So fun to hear about it.

  7. I am totally going to try this! thanks!

  8. Glad you’re having fun. I’ve never been to DisneyWorld. Or Florida for that matter. How do you rate it against Disneyland?

  9. I love doing that…once my kids get upset and start pouting I look at them straight in the eye and say “YES, I LOVE UNHAPPY KIDS!! DON’T YOU SMILE, BECAUSE I HATE SMILING CHILDREN, JUST DON’T DO IT…SMILES DRIVE ME CUH-RAZY!!” and usually that turns them right around.

  10. Very wise counsel. Glad you had so much fun. Can’t wait to read about the plane ride. I had some doosies myself, but none without a diaper bag.

  11. That reminds me of a conversation between my son and his daddy when he was, coincidentally, also 5, and we were at Sea World, San Antonio where he wanted to buy every stuffed animal and snack we walked past.
    Dad: “You just want EVERYTHING!”
    Son: “No, dad, I just want one thing at a time”

  12. Actually the cheering thing might work for Rex and the pants pooping too, given his reaction to the potty parade.

  13. awesome

  14. I just have this image of you and your husband (it’s fuzzy since I’m not 100% clear on what you guys look like) high fiving each other in glee and satisfaction anytime Harrison starts to get upset. And it makes me laugh:)