Pack Poker Chips for a Peaceful Family Road Trip

With summer road trip season in full swing, what parent doesn’t need a good idea for keeping the peace in the car?

We took many lengthy road trips with our four closely spaced children and this little gem was a lifesaver. I wish that I could take credit for the simple genius behind this idea, but credit goes to parenting expert John Rosemond, whose books I devoured during our child-rearing years. 

His approach is strict, clear, and puts the adults in charge.

In other words, it is totally counter-cultural and it really works.

I’m eager to share the goodies with a new generation of parents.

So, here is how a stack of poker chips enabled our kids to control their behavior over long hours in the car.

At the start of each road trip, before we pulled out of the driveway, we showed the kids an index card on which were written three simple rules for behavior in the car.

Our rules were:
-No fighting
-No loud noises
-No interrupting adults

We gave each child three poker chips.

In a few sentences I laid out the plan.
“If you break one of these rules, I will take away a chip. If two of you are fighting, both of you will lose a chip. In order to do whatever fun activity is planned for the end of the day, you must have at least one chip left. Otherwise you will stay behind with me or dad while everyone else has fun.”

And with that, we hit the road.

To no one’s surprise, each child managed to lose a chip before we reached the highway. The kids usually forfeited their second chips moments later, and then….peace reigned for the next many hours. 

Every now and then I would catch them checking their pockets to make sure the remaining precious chip was still there.

That chip was their ticket to swimming at the hotel pool, a walk to the nearest ice cream shop, or whatever recreation was available wherever we happened to be.

The next morning, everyone got their three chips back when we hit the road again.

The system worked like a charm because it was simple and we enforced it without discussion, threats, or debate.

You break a rule, you lose a chip.

The kids knew we meant business.

In all of our many road trips, I think that there was only one time that a child had to stay behind with a parent because he or she blew through all of their chips.

The beauty of having such a clear system was that it actually freed all of us up to enjoy our time together because the kids’ behavior was under control.

We were all spared the misery of tiresome haranguing, threats, and arguing.

Our kids are grown and are now young parents themselves.

Today there are many delightful high-tech gadgets that will keep kids occupied for hours in the car.

But being occupied is not the same thing as learning self-discipline. 

The simple poker chip teaches kids an essential life lesson.

I can’t wait for the day when our out-of-town kids pull into the driveway, and a grandchild jumps out of the car, poker chip in hand, saying, “Nanny! I’ve still got my chip! Here it is! Let’s have some fun!”