How Do We Teach Our Kids To Just Go Along For The Ride?

by Larry Stevens
Originally Published: 

When I was growing up, I remember doing anything my parents wanted us to do, no questions asked. My older brother and I would hop in the car and head out to wherever they wanted (or could afford) to take us.

Growing up in Southern California, I remember the “great” cuisines of Mike’s Pizza (pizza tasted like cardboard) or Chris & Pitts (place is exactly as it sounds) being two of the staples my parents would take us to on the rare nights they decided to take us out for dinner. Occasionally, they might splurge and take us to Sizzler, where we would indulge in the all-you-can-eat buffet.

For vacations, we wouldn’t go far, but we never, ever complained about where they would take us. We never dared complain for fear of any repercussions (not ever knowing, even to this day, what those might have been had we actually revolted). Our vacations were mainly car rides to various big vacation destinations within five hours of our house. If you’re remotely familiar with the United States’ West Coast, you would probably know these destinations: Las Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and Mexico (not the nice places like Cabo or Cozumel, but the vacation lite destinations like Baja and Tijuana). I’m a firm believer I wouldn’t remember any of my family vacations if we didn’t have pictures that documented we were actually there.

I promised myself that one day, when I had kids, my wife and I would never skimp on our vacations, restaurants or entertainment. Now that we have two children, one heading off to high school and another going into fourth grade, I’m realizing that all our big, fancy vacations and restaurants also come with a lot of headaches–headaches from the constant opinions and pushback from our children over the years. Instead of a sea of Yay! when we tell our kids about the amazing vacations we painstakingly plan, we are quizzed on the hotel, the activities and the amenities, and we always get a chorus of “Can we go somewhere else?”

Even as I’m writing this article while on vacation, I’m hearing the backlash from my kids in the hotel room. We planned an end-of-summer trip to Montreal, which is a lovely five-and-a-half hour drive from our house in Connecticut. The drive was surprisingly fine; however, at the midpoint, there were comments from the Peanut Gallery about how much faster it would’ve been if we had flown. I felt compelled to defend our decision to save time and money by driving, though inwardly, I was boiling with frustration. Fortunately, the excitement of being in a different country carried us across the border through to the hotel, which miraculously met with their approval. We’re now in the midst of an exciting trip in a foreign city, and my only thoughts are, “Can we all agree on one activity over the five days that we’ll be here in this exciting new city?” and “Can we get through one half-day without pushback or argument?”

The same holds true with restaurants and pretty much all other plans, from lunch to movies and beyond. Since growing up in California, I have moved to the East Coast and settled down in Southern Connecticut, just a short ride away from New York City—the mecca of incredible but incredibly expensive restaurants. Our children have been to their fair share of great restaurants in our town and in the Big Apple. By the time either of them had turned five, they had been to more five-star restaurants than I’d visited before graduating college. Again, I know they appreciate that we have introduced them to this incredible world of fine cuisine, but it still doesn’t stop them from arguing about which restaurant we should go to on any random night. And it still doesn’t stop the headaches.

I love that my kids have been introduced to so many incredible experiences and really love it. However, I can’t figure out how we can get them to just go along for the ride and realize that we, as parents, have the final word. Maybe the only way is to take them to Chris & Pitts the next time we visit LA. That’ll teach ’em.

This article was originally published on