We’ve all been “there.” You plan a nice outing for your kids, they don’t listen (they never listen), they stress you out, and you end up losing your cool. Suddenly, you’re the mean mom. Well, just in time for all of the holiday road trips and gatherings you’re about to undertake with your rambunctious brood, one TikTok mom is going viral for her advice on breaking out of this pattern. The solution, she says, is “pregaming your kids.” And, nope, it has nothing to do with alcohol.
You guys have to start pregaming your kids, and if you don’t know what that means, I’m gonna show you how I do it,” starts Destiny Bennett, the matriarch of the Bennett Gang, a family of five (mom, dad, and three boys) who travel full-time, mixing school, life, and adventure all day every day.
“Tell me if this has happened to you,” she continues, describing a highly relatable scenario. “You try to do something nice for your kids, nobody is listening, it’s pure chaos, and now you have to yell at everybody. And now you’re the mean mom.”
Enter pregaming, a parenting strategy in which you set clear expectations before you end up in the thick of it. Honestly, it’s kind of genius.
In the comment section, Bennett reveals her husband pointed out to her that “pregaming” can have a different meaning. “[He] told me ‘when we pre-gamed, it meant we got drunk [before] going out,’” she told one commenter, laughing, “I’m like, well, hopefully the parents understand.”
But don’t worry; Bennett’s got your back with the steps for her version of pregaming kids.
1. Gather in a calm setting.
Mom starts by calling a “group meeting” and makes sure everyone is listening, first and foremost. Pro tip: If you wait until you’re in the car and almost to your destination, you have a “captive audience.” Sitting in the parking lot before unloading is also a great time and place to call your meeting. You can always quickly reiterate rules once you reach the door to Grandma’s house (or wherever else you’re going).
2. Lead with empathy and voice concerns.
During her group meeting, Bennett makes sure she’s not just leading a safety briefing or spouting off a bunch of rules that make the trip seem like no fun.
She adds in her captions that she makes sure not to make threats and to “lead with empathy. Help them remember that Mama is human and has feelings, too.” To help create empathy, she shares her concerns and emotional state (nervous and overstimulated). She starts by opening herself up emotionally and explaining to her kids that this particular trip makes her nervous — and why.
3. Set clear rules and boundaries.
Because Mom wants the trip to be fun for everyone (but also safe and relatively drama-free), she sets clear boundaries and rules. In taking the kids to the beach, for example, she asks the kids to stay close together when wading into the ocean. She also sets a boundary for how far or deep they can go out. There are simple instructions attached that can apply to practically any situation: “You may not cross that boundary.”
4. Explain expectations and appropriate consequences.
“You guys each get one warning,” she tells her kiddos. “If, after that one warning, you cross the boundary again, you’re going to have to sit out for some time.”
As you probably already know, choosing consequences in the midst of a stressful moment is a recipe for disaster. That’s how you end up lugging home three heartbroken kids 15 minutes into your outing. In that initial few seconds, yes, you wanted to go home. But halfway through the drive home, you’ll regret that your day turned out that way. If you decide on and voice appropriate consequences ahead of rule-breaking, it gives you something more reasonable and less reactive to fall back on quickly during your stressed-out moment.
5. End with our goals for the outing, event, or trip.
“I want you guys to have fun and for Mommy not to get stressed and overstimulated,” Bennett tells her family. Reiterating why they took the outing solidifies with her kids that she’s trying to have fun with them while also gently reminding them of her own emotional concerns.
Whether it’s a family gathering, a park trip, or a visit to the beach, things can quickly spiral out of control under the “wrong” circumstances. Looking back, days later, you can think of a million little things you would have changed. You didn’t set boundaries. You didn’t bring enough snacks. You showed up too close to snack time. You cut the trip short as punishment and regretted it immediately, but you didn’t want to go back on your punishment.
It’s so easy for moms, or default parents, to be put in a place of playing bad cop and party pooper all day. The truth is that our kids want us to have fun, too. They have fun when we’re having fun, so reminding them what you need for an enjoyable trip should help them think twice before stepping out of bounds.