Quarterly installments on my Worst Mom Of The Year trophy

Last weekend we piled the kids into the car to visit some relatives we hadn’t seen in a while. It’s a rather long trip, but we took advantage of the long weekend to head out on Friday and return on Sunday.

My kiddos bicker. Constantly.

We weren’t even out of the driveway when my Patient Husband broke up a fight. Then he said, “I’m thinking of paying you guys a 25% bounty on your allowance if you’re quiet in the car.”

I said, “Actually — ”

Back in September, when we took two five hour plane trips, a friend suggested I bring a roll of quarters and pay the kids a quarter for every fifteen minutes they were quiet.

Coincidentally (by which I mean, “God looks out for fools, drunks, the United States of America, and me”) I’d driven the Kiddos to the mall the previous day for several coveted objects. One Kiddo had a gift card to spend, and the other two had saved their cash. Moreover, Kiddo#3, whose allowance is paid in quarters, had brought a plastic bag of coins to the mall, and then given it to me when I’d paid for the purchase with a credit card. I’d tossed the baggie onto my dresser, but just before leaving, I’d grabbed it, thinking, “Toll plazas.” Which has to have been a supernatural prompting, since we have an E-Z Pass.

I said, “We should make the goal posts closer together. A quarter for every half hour they’re quiet.”

The Kiddos embraced this idea with enthusiasm. I should add: quiet enthusiasm.

At $2 per hour we in the car, that meant $20 if everyone behaved perfectly. (I didn’t count rest stops into the half hours.) My sanity is well worth twenty dollars. My Patient Husband was Patiently Delighted with the plan, and we initiated it.

It worked. Like magic, it worked. Every half hour, someone would sing out, “It’s Quarter Time!” and out would come the bag of change.

“How was the trip?” asked their teachers on Monday.

The kids replied, “Mom’s into all this enrichment stuff. We just kept quiet and sat still.”

I’m the worst mom of the year. I bribed my children to keep quiet.

I don’t care.


  1. Jason Block

    One person’s bribe is another’s reward ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Regina W

    You’re awesome! I wish I could do this with my 2 year old for our Christmas trip. Oh well… Definitely filing this one away for the future.

  3. Illya

    “they were quiet, weren’t they? Enough said!”

  4. loriendil

    *thumbs up*

  5. Jane

    You guys are supposed to be lambasting me for instilling the wrong values in my kids, you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. cricketB

    If it instills the habit of quiet car trips, go for it. I bribe frequently. (Don’t tell them I keep their allowance low on purpose.) Once the habit is established, they forget to ask for the bribe.

    Would you write if it didn’t make you feel good?

  7. mike

    We use audio books – the reward is if they are quite they can hear the story. The three hours to the cottage are only interrupted by “how soon till the bathroom” when we are about 5 minutes from the donut shop.

    1. cricketB

      But you forget, Love, the bickering about which story which precedes the quiet.

  8. diinzumo

    To quote Bill Cosby: “Parents don’t want JUSTICE. They want QUIET!”

    Unless you were supposed to pull some Magical Parenting Technique out of your hat, bribes beat threats any day.

    1. philangelus

      I get the impression other parents’ kids don’t bicker the way ours do.

      1. cricketB

        Where did you get that impression? Certainly not from my family.

  9. loriendil

    Too funny, diinzumo – I was going to quote Cosby too, but decided on a meek thumbs up instead. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    My grandkids bicker horribly – I told them “not at my house” and equated it with nasty talk, and so punishable by having the mouth washed out with soap. Worked miracles. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (I do think part of it is it the whole grandma thing though cuz it didn’t work that well when *mine* were young.)

    1. philangelus

      I usually use Listerine on the mouth offenses (on a cotton ball; it’s supposed to go in the mouth, after all, but it tastes horrid) but if I did that for bickering, my kids would have the best breath on earth and we’d need to have it delivered like those trucks that bring the Poland Spring bottles to Manhattan office buildings.

      My mom can’t really get them to stop bickering either, for what it’s worth.

  10. Marie

    When I was seven, my sister three, and my brother an infant, we went on a camping trip. A never to be forgotten camping trip. Now my father’s idea of a camping trip is you set up your tent in a different county (or state) each night, sightseeing during the days, so seven campsites over seven nights wasn’t unusual. The memorable part was that it rained every night, starting before dinner and ending after breakfast. It rained several days too.

    My father taught us the game Hermit. “Hermits lived in the dessert. They spent their time praying to God. They were very holy and took vows to never talk. We’re going to pretend we’re hermits. The first person to say a word looses.”

    I always lost.

    1. philangelus

      Hahahaha!!! Yeah, that wouldn’t work in our family because the first thing that would happen would be one of my Kiddos saying, “Why can’t hermits talk? Do hermits not have mouths? Are they crabs? I saw a hermit crab once and it was painted to look like a football and it didn’t talk much but I don’t know because I didn’t get close enough to hear it–” and at the same time, another Kiddo would ahve been shouting, “You lost! YOU LOST! Loser! Loser-loser-loser — ” and I’d open the car door and exit onto the side of the freeway, even if we were going 65 mph.

  11. Lindsay

    We’re not lambasting you because you are a genius (and I’m now stockpiling change for my next trip with my two).
    Also you are teaching them values. Being good has rewards, be it spiritual or monetary!

  12. Ken Rolph

    I thought this was such a good idea I wanted to try it. I had to take the kids on a long trip to to see relatives to organise a Christmas event. I remembered how they used to bicker on these long trips. So as we started I turned around and said, “For each quarter hour you stay quiet and don’t bicker I’m going to give you 10c”.

    #1 son is a Professor of Law at Sydney University. He’s just in the middle of supervising renovations on the bathroom in his inner city flat. #1 daughter is a Forensic Science Officer attached to the Major Crime Squad. She’s just on maternity leave and will be producing our second grandkid in about 3 weeks.

    They were both very stressed. They can bicker at quite a high level, I recalled. But I didn’t have to worry. 20 minutes down the motorway I looked over and they had both fallen asleep. I managed to save all my money by never mentioning it again. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Jane

      Ken, I laughed so hard about this… I read it to my Patient Husband, and he laughed too. Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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