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The battle I chose to lose: candy vs. road trip

"Pick your battles" is often shared as parenting advice.  As parents, it forces us to weigh pros and cons, it forces us to consider the lesser of two evils.  We probably do it every day, multiple times a day.  Sure, why not let them eat cake for breakfast!

Along those lines, I wanted to share my most recent decision.  We were on a family road trip over the long weekend, and we had already exhausted our toddler travel tips & tricks.  Well, what now?  Our toddler scanned our snack bag and found the bag of gummi bears.  I didn't hesitate much to hand over the whole bag, open up, and let him could consume it all while watching a video on one of our smart phones.

I felt bad.  A litle.  It was a little uncharacteristic of me to give a big bag of candy and plug the kid in.  Even my husband looked back at me, surprised and almost alarmed.  But, *shrugging shoulders*, it was the battle I chose to loose so that we could finish our 2+ hours remaining in the drive.  I am sure I'm not the only mama out there who has made a similar choice, to give in to requests that would normally be uncharacteristic.  I can envision many scenarios, many circumastances, that lend to "caving in" on an issue.  I would love to hear yours.  What are the circumastances where you choose to lose?  Or, perhaps, you refuse to lose?


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You are definitely not the only one. Road trips are tough on little kids. I'd rather give some treats and play a movie than have them complain or cry the whole trip. I try not to resort to fast food every time we have a longer drive but sometimes I will allow it.

Definately a fan of treats on a road trip! Since it is such a rare event for our daughter to get candy, it's very exciting and interesting and keeps her happy for the long car rides. We also do the McDonald's (did I just admit to going to McDonald's?!?!) ice-cream cone for $1 when it gets real bad! She thinks that's all they have at McDonald's - is ice-cream!

In my house, I try to put it in terms of "special occasion." As in, "ooh, special occasion -- you get to eat gummi bears because we are on a road trip!"

I like to think that it teaches my kids that, while routine and expectations are good, sometimes you have to adjust to the circumstances. Sometimes that means reining it in (like not jumping off the couch in grandma's house, which I let them do at home), and sometimes it means loosening up a bit.

We always buy candy or a treat at the airport for the cross country trips. At each stop. It's a loooong trip, and you can't really bring nutritious meals on the plane (no stove or refrigeration!). So it's pizza and m&m's for the most part. And a movie on the laptop (usually to keep ME occupied!).It's also a special occasion for me to have malted milk balls, which I tend to crave the moment I walk into the airport!

There's a certain kind of fairness there -- if we're driving a full day, it's not my *toddler's* choice to sit in her carseat for hours. Paying/bribing/whatever can be a way of acknowledging, "Hey, this is a thing *I* really want you to do, and I know you don't want to. Since it's my deal, not yours, I'll compensate you for it."

Hmm, this is so interesting to me. I guess I'm in the camp of, "We didn't have videos to stare at during long road trips/travel when I was a kid, and we all survived--and even learned to enjoy it. What about the world around us? It's so interesting!" I'd be worried about the big fallout at the end of the trip, with a tired, sugar-loaded, screen-soaked kid on my hands--and the slippery slope of her expecting a movie (and me relying on how "easy" it makes things -- temporarily, until screen withdrawal kicks in) every time we get in the car. I want her to engage in the process of travel, the cool stuff to see, the conversations with new people, the sense of time and distance (for slightly older kids, I suppose). The "are we there yet?" question is important. And if she loads up on empty calories, she doesn't eat dinner, and won't sleep, so we all pay. We pack crackers, fruit, string cheese, homemade cookies, etc. On the other hand, I also survived without being buckled into a carseat, and I wouldn't go without a carseat because of that. And ice cream, sure. Why not? I'm a fan of Cheetos on the road, for myself. :) I do appreciate the idea of teaching "adjustment to circumstances." I suppose it just depends on your goal -- is it about the destination (make it painless by any means necessary), or the process (the travel is half of the experience)? I can see it both ways.

Amy, I am with you on the "no car videos" thing on short journeys. I have never been on a long journey with my 6 year old, and I will check back with you after than happens! But I can't stand seeing kids staring at the video in the back seat while driving to Safeway! Or Bend for that matter. But in an airplane, all bets are off. Nothing to look at but the back of your seat, and I'd rather not have my child KICKING the back of said seat for 6 hours! ;)

@Debby How do you know where they are going or the length of their trip or their circumstance? I have a relative with an autsistic child who will only ride in the car if the movie " Cars" is playing.

Treats, yes. Video in the car, no.

All the rest of us survived by the time honored car games, coloring books and staring at the window. Counting cows was fun, too.. though you loose your cows if you pass a cemetery.

It depends on the length of the trip. Anything less than 2-3 hours doesn't get videos. However, we took a long drive last summer that had us sitting in the car for the better part of three days there and three days back. We did take breaks and planned our drive around stopping at parks and things for the kids to run around. But, you bet we turned on the videos and noshed on some snacks. Three days is a long time in the car.

I will say to the mom who said nutritious meals are not possible on the run - I disagree entirely. I have one child with food restrictions, and we have to pack their food for the entire trip. It is possible to get a well rounded diet with shelf stable protein, fresh fruits and veggies - and we don't frequent fast food even on trips as a result. We do have more than our fair share of chips and jellybeans on the road though. But that's sort of a "this is a special occasion/not our norm" kind of thing...

As for choosing battles...I am a big believer in choosing carefully. I wouldn't push on something like a treat on vacation. I also try to let the kids figure things out on their own (i.e.: I am pretty open to whatever my kids want to wear as long as it's not completely inappropriate). I don't really battle over things like that. I do go to battle when it involves safety, but that's pretty much it.

My kids watch videos on car trips (even shorter ones) for MY sanity. Both of my girls love to talk and narrate the world around them, and each and every observation has to be acknowledged by mom or dad. Their inquisitive, observant natures can be wonderful, like when walking to the bus or around the neighborhood. But when I'm driving, it's distracting and exhausting. With videos (and headphones), I get to listen to npr! I get a little "me" time at a moment when I can't give my full attention anyway, and when we arrive at our destination I'm more ready to engage.

Amy, I'm with you. Treats in the car on long trips, for sure (although not candy). But not videos, even if we had the technology. Back in the day we played the license plate game and we liked it, dagnabbit!

As the mother who is about to send her first to college I have to say that some of you could use some perspective and that you need to choose your battles more carefully. Being a control freak just doesn't work. Your kids will hide, lie and sneak.

A, of course you are correct that not all moms are on their way to Safeway. Normally I can tell because they are my neighbors or I see them pulling into Safeway. Of course there are always exceptions. I just wonder what people who rely on the DVDs in the car did before this was an option, like, for example, when we were kids.

All kids are different. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. I hate judgmental parents...we're all doing our best. I work in child protective services. It puts a perspective on what's truly important vs little things that we're not going to remember when our kids are grown. Worrying about snacks on a trip is a luxury.

BTW, Debbie I think a lot of parents used to smack their kids while they drove. I know mine did. The low back seats made it easy so that when we got totally out of hand she could smack both of us without taking her eyes off the road. An informal poll of other adults found that my mom wasn't the only one.

Anon, I'm sorry your mom smacked you. Not all moms used car trips as an opportunity to smack their unruly kids, and they should not, no matter how many moms did it. Maybe we were the exceptions, but we took many long road trips to Canada when I was a kid, with three kids in the car and a father with undiagnosed panic disorder. It was miserable, I will give you that, but when we weren't playing license plate games or made-for-the-car board games, we acted like annoying siblings, or slept. Usually I threw up somewhere along the trip. But I still do not think that it would have been better to shut us up in front of a DVD for 5-9 hours just to get peace. I just can't believe that any of the people who are responding that I am being judging about this (where I have clearly stated that there are always exception) are the same moms that tease out how much screen time to give their kids between phone, hand-held games, tv, and computer in many other posts.

my kids have almost zero screen time day to day. my exception is on long trips. i'm happy to give them the relief of a DVD during cross-country flights or car rides that are more than a couple of hours long. there's always still plenty of time for license plate games and sibling rivalry. :)

my family took lots of long trips in the car when i was a kid and of course we didn't have video distractions. but we also didn't have 5-point restraint carseats. we were laying in each other's laps, and on that little shelf below the back windshield. we even made forts with blankets back there. even as an adult, if i had to sit as still as the kids do now in carseats, i'd be completely undone after several hours. videos take the edge off and we just consider them road trip treats. works for us.

Jojo - exactly! That is exactly it. Giant car trips are pretty much the only time we break out the screen, and it's to compensate for the total inability to move. That's just too hard on kids. We just try to choose the videos wisely.

LOL! You all just reminded me of a trip from Houston to Pensicola, FL that I made with a friend who had a 3 month old. She wanted to keep going and not have to stop to feed the baby, and I had to talk her out of putting the baby forward facing (she was a new, first time mom) and then I had to do car acrobatics to get that baby a bottle on demand for the next 10 hours! (we did make stops and held the baby, but you could never expect when baby would be hungry!).I imagine that if this was a trip we made in teh '70's, the baby would have been out of the car seat all together on mom's breast or lap with a bottle. It's nice that things have changed to be safer for the kids, huh?

We drive down to Sacramento several times a year to see family. Its a 10+ hour drive and we have 2 busy boys. One is now 5.5 and one is 2.5 The only way they survive the trip being strapped into carseats (don't get me wrong, I am happy they are safe and wouldn't want it any other way) is by watching a DVD or 2 and stopping at multiple reststops and by going to McD's playplace to play in the tube things and maybe even get a snack and use the restrooms.

I also pack pleanty of healthy foods, so we dont have to buy expensive crap food from fastfood places. But with that said, I do get "special" treats for the road, like candy and chips. It helps. Cheetos and skittles made our last trip so bearable. Don't get me wrong, I rationed them out ot make them last, but the boys were happy and contient and had minimal meltdowns on the road and when we got to our destination.

I think another winning idea was when we stopped at a gas station and there was a Dollar Tree across the way, I gave each kid $2 and for the rest of the 3 hour drive they were content.

We all do it. After all, where will you stick the kid for timeout if he's bad? You have to hear him scream in the car, after all, so why not just give in and punish him extra hard at home later when he does something bad, lol.

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