My Kids Tried to Ruin Their Own Vacation With Bad Behavior But I Let Them Slide

Mom Moment 21

I knew it was going to go bad from the moment we were seated. The restaurant had a play area right next to our table, but instead of it being a welcome distraction for our boys while we waited for our food, they instantly started fighting over a wooden fire truck. We brought them back to the table, gave them a stern warning, and let them back out to play -- at which point they began fighting over a dinosaur.

An hour later my husband and I were back at the house, staring at each other in mute frustration. Our kids had acted up, fought constantly, refused to eat what they ordered, and generally behaved abominably while we'd tried to enjoy a family meal, and on any other night, we would have put them both to bed early without further discussion.

The problem was, we were on vacation. In a rented home in Sunriver, Oregon. And we'd planned to eat cupcakes, play games, and let our youngest son open one of his birthday presents a day early. So now what? What punishment fit the crime?

It's one of the most maddening things in the world when children tank their own long-anticipated, super-fun plans. Because it doesn't just suck for them, it sucks for everyone. My husband and I had shelled out a lot of cash for our family to spend a weekend together in the mountains in celebration of our son's fifth birthday, and everything had been going so well. We'd been sledding, had epic snowball fights, visited a museum, and savored hot chocolates in front of the fireplace.

Then, on our last night there, it all fell apart in that restaurant. I'm not exactly sure where we fall on the parental strictness scale, but I'll say this: we don't tolerate bullshit public behavior from our boys. Acting up at home gets you in trouble, but acting up in a public place is a guaranteed stint in the doghouse. Their combined brattiness had been serious enough to lose ALL privileges for the rest of the night, if not longer.  

Well, it normally would have been, anyway. When we got back to the house that night -- and sent the children downstairs to Sit and Think About What They'd Done -- my husband and I couldn't decide what to do. Should we carry out the threat we'd issued in the restaurant, which was that if they didn't shape up, no one was getting any presents, and as for cake, FORGET IT? We had to, right? What kind of message does it send to issue a threat you don't follow through on?

The problem was, we both felt so crappy about the evening going down in flames like that. Here we were on vacation, with this whole family-togetherness plan. The birthday boy had been falling over with excitement about being able to open a gift. His brother was equally giddy about making popcorn and playing a family game of bingo. The house was warm and cozy and I just wanted to do everything we'd been talking about doing. I didn't want to sit, angry and stewing, while the kids were banished to their rooms.

"I'll support whatever you want to do," my husband said.

"But I don't know WHAT to do!" I wailed.

And god, I really didn't. I couldn't parse the difference between what I believed was the right thing to do discipline-wise and my own selfish desire to avoid a unpleasant end to the evening.

So here's what I did: I made the boys clean. I made them unpack their suitcases and re-pack them, neatly. I made them sit at the kitchen table together while the 7-year-old wrote I'M SORRY 25 times down a piece of paper, and his brother dutifully attempted to scrawl the same. After about 20 minutes of ordering them around like a drill sergeant, we had a stern family discussion about behavior and expectations.

Then, we let it go. We did everything we'd planned. Popcorn, games, cupcakes, the gift -- all of it. We had a really, really great time. I have absolutely no idea if that was the right thing to do, the wrong thing to do, or if, in the long run, it really doesn't matter.

Here's my question for you: what do you do when you're faced with a similar situation? When kids have awesome plans, but they act badly enough to lose their privileges for those plans?


Image via Linda Sharps

boys, discipline

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nonmember avatar sarah

vacation or not i would follow though with my threats. otherwise your children will realize that they were empty threats.

lovem... lovemyson1224

I think you did the right thing.

Gypsy... GypsyMa76

While I agree with following through with threats, I think you did the right thing. I think I'll use that next time I have the same problem

nonmember avatar Amanda

I think you did the right thing.



Yes, you should follow through on threats

Yes, children need discipline. I like you don't tolerate any bullshit behavior especially when we are out in public like that.



However, this wasn't a typically situation. Sometimes it's better to pick your battles. I think you sound like a wonderful parent to me!

Angie... AngieHayes

I've had moments like this... I don't want anymore children, I am tired of their shit.

bella... bellacazzate

My lone child can't even walk yet, so I've yet to face anything like this; however, when I was little and my siblings and I were behaving horribly, my parents did pretty much exactly what you did. There were times when the threats were definitely followed through with (and we learned our lesson for that moment, but sometimes pushing the buttons was worth the risk of losing out on something else... things get boring! And we certainly acted out occasionally), but more often than not there were stern talkings to, extra chores, and the recognition of my dad being disappointed in us (even if he was faking and was just annoyed and wanted us away from him for the night) that usually taught us enough of a lesson. 

MsRkg MsRkg

Punishment is followed through every time no matter where we are or what the occasion is. If we're on vacation and my son acts up, he would get the same punishment as if he were home. Just because we are away from home and doing something fun doesn't mean he is allowed to break the rules and get away with bad behavior. The last thing I want is my child doubting me , my authority, and repercussion for bad behavior. As a result, I have a well behaved 8 year old, who after being punished several times already in his life , does his best to avoid getting in trouble with me. The last time I seriously punished him for something, I think he was 6.

eupeptic eupeptic

I'm a guy and I grew up with a brother who's 2 years younger than me. We'd argue over certain things and even get into physical fights now and then. (While fighting we both did not have the intent to cause injury to each other, we simply wanted to gain control over the other in order to resolve the conflict we had. Our parents obviously weren't happy with this and would step in when they were around to separate and discipline us... but that did not help us solve our conflict, it only caused us to be mad at our parents for controlling us as well as continue to be mad at each other for not having a mutually agreed upon resolution for our conflict. From the perspective of adults stopping an argument/fight seems to be a good thing, but from the child's perspective it often is not, and it likely results in the children hating or resenting their parents for controlling them [rather than showing them unconditional love], and wanting to get back at the other child because of the unresolved conflict.)

eupeptic eupeptic

What I'd suggest is instead of simply disciplining your kids (after you step in to help them resolve their argument) when they get into arguments with each other (in a manner that causes them to resent you and/or your husband rather than leads to a resolution that they can accept), focus more on teaching them how to resolve their conflicts on their own so they can learn how to make compromises and accept the desires of others. Ask each of them questions about what would make their brother happy, what would make them happy, what would make you happy, and what each of them wants to do to resolve their argument (such as finding something else to play with or do).


And always remember to focus on the positive (overall the vacation was a positive experience) rather than dwell on the negative. The happier you and your husband are the happier your kids will be (as kids enjoy having parents who are happy and loving rather than not so happy and controlling).

LuvMy... LuvMyDandD

Holy Moley @ Angie Hayes. Perhaps you didn't have enough patience to have any at all.

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