Travel with 3 Boys: Incentive to Behave


The problem: They fight!
It is not easy to corral 3 boys, which is frequently necessary when traveling. There are always waits for boardings, check-ins, subways, tables, and much more. And when the boys are corralled, they use tactics like a pinch or prod to annoy one another for entertainment, or for revenge from some slight the day before. Even a simple task of utilizing an elevator often becomes instant competition for first in, first to push the button, first to stand by mom, first to exit…you get the picture.

A parent could set up highly intricate rules to handle all possible altercations, such as: If a boy socks another in the arm above the elbow while riding an elevator going down without being provoked by a stealthy sneer or whispered derogatory term then that boy will…But that could get ridiculous and require an inordinate amount of parental hovering and intervention.

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The goal: Peace and Harmony
Better to help them learn to avoid or settle their own disputes. We learned from a kid-expert that it is the relationship between the boys that needs help. We need to instill pleasure in being civil towards each other, and remove the gratification of having provoked or hurt the other or caused parental scolding of the other. We need to treat the altercation as a whole, not try to figure out how one boy used a guffaw or hah-hah line to enrage the other, or how much the other’s swift kick really hurt.

When traveling though, it is usually impossible to separate the boys, impossible to enforce down-time to soften angry feelings, impossible to convene a powwow to discuss behavior, and impossible to remove privileges such as tv time without negatively affecting the rest of the family. Yet, after some brainstorming, we thought of one kid favorite, usually a treat granted only when traveling and eating out, that when taken away would affect only the guilty party(ies): Root Beer (or any soft drink beverage of some kind).

Our success: Consequences!
The rule: If two boys bother each other on purpose (accidental bumping or talking that happens to annoy an irritable someone doesn’t count) or in any way push, hit, or kick each other, then they both get only water with their next meal. Likewise, if one boy fails to cease any activity upon being requested to do so by a parent, that boy gets only water with his next meal. An added benefit for us: less expensive dinner bill.

On our last vacation, the altercations decreased substantially after one or two meals with water as the only beverage. The rule morphed into short warnings. I needed to only quietly utter, “water” or “root beer”, and the boys would settle themselves immediately, envisioning the misery of a restaurant meal without some refreshing, cold, bubbly drink.

Works like a charm.


Sandy Nielsen


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