I just spent a great day at a theme park with my kids. The day went so well because we all expressed our expectations before taking the trip. Everyone knew the focus, mission, and plan before entering the park. This lesson was learned the hard way; that story remains one of the most infamous in our family history. We can laugh about it now, but at the time it was nothing short of disastrous for us all.

In 2003 we went to King’s Island Theme Park with the families of our life-group from Heritage Christian Church. These families still tell the story of the day the Eisel family suffered a very nasty and very public meltdown.  As a family, we had four totally different agendas: 3 year old daughter wanted to play on the playground, 6 year old son wanted nothing to do with rides, pregnant wife wanted to sit,  and husband wanted to ride. In hindsight it is obvious that the theme park was not the best place for our family to spend the day. We could have made it work if we had discussed our desires and needs beforehand; however, we had set ourselves up for failure.

The screaming, crying and yelling that ensued could have been prevented with a little communication. I’m sure that would have been appreciated by the other families we were with, the staff of the park and hotel and the other people driving back from Cincinnati. We learned that day to communicate our desires, plan for the success of everyone, and not measure our family’s needs based on other families.

This time around we looked at a map of the park and made a plan. We asked every person what two things they would like to do most. We designated specific rest stops and times. Then we all agreed to be flexible enough to deviate from the plan for the needs of others. This gave us as chance to talk about selfish desires and compromise as a way to love others. We also talked about how this time we would leave the screaming and yelling for the rides.

Parenting resources we like: Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande and The 10 Best Decisions Every Parent Can Make by Bill and Pam Farrel

Parenting Tip: List goals verbally or in writing before any family outing. Compromise is easier for all when expectations and limitations are talked about before hand.


  1. Nice stuff, Cind. Love the resources…love your family! Hey, I wonder if your blog should have “Parent” in the title somehow??

  2. I also use this “set expectations” rule for weekends w/in-laws, outings w/”his” friends or “my” friends, the upcoming busy work week, etc. It helps our marriage tremendously when we communicate our expectations in what can often be stressful situations.

  3. I think that setting expectations works with simple everyday things as well. Just as was mentioned in the FREEZE post (posted June 18) this helps set the time up for success. I have also found that practicing this with smaller things, like a trip to the store, makes the larger events easier.

    We are going to Kings Island this Tuesday and the kids are already talking about what things everyone would like to do. They WANT to get our plan made! However, this year we are throwing the Grandparents into the trip. The boys are planning on getting the Grandparents to-dos while we are driving to the park! I love that they are learning to love and serve others.

    A little time for preparation before hand sets the stage for a successful and fun family time! Good Stuff!!

  4. LoVe,LOVE,lOve the part about “not measuring our families needs based on other families” oh, so true, but VERY hard to learn.