Why do kids act like caged animals when they're cooped up in the car? Well, that's essentially what they are: wildly energetic, slightly primitive beings strapped into a tight spot with no means of escape. They're bored, they're antsy and they know how to torment their siblings: "She took my water bottle!" "He's kicking me!" "She's making that face again!" Read on to discover simple secrets for preventing World War III from breaking out in the backseat during family travel—and for restoring peace when it does.
Ask For Their Help
Before the fighting begins, talk to your kids about how they should behave in the car and why. Family psychiatrist Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (Amacom, 2009) recommends playing the safety card. Tell your kids: "I need your help. I love you too much to get into a car accident, but when you start screaming, I get distracted and it could affect my driving." Ask your kids to help devise some "car rules"—such as no yelling, no grabbing and keep your hands to yourself. Write the rules down and review them every time you get in the car. Thank them in advance for helping to keep the family safe on the road.
Keep Them Busy
Boredom is the usual culprit that leads to clobbering. Prevent the B-word by stocking up on car-friendly games, toys, puzzles and favorite CDs. Or encourage your kids to use their imaginations—tell stories, sing songs, play guessing games or challenge them to an on-the-road scavenger hunt, e.g., find the red cars, blue trucks or out-of-state license plates.
Car time can also be quality time when you ask the right questions: "What was the best thing about your day? What made you smile? What are you looking forward to tomorrow?" A good conversation can turn potential bickering into bonding if you're lucky.
Break It Up
When the warfare begins (and it's only a matter of time), pull over, stop the car and pretend to be busy: Make a grocery list, clean the fingerprints off your sunglasses, rearrange the CDs or organize the glove compartment. When your children ask what's going on, calmly tell them that you can't drive with all the noise (because "you love them too much to get into an accident" ...) and that you'll restart the car when they've quieted down. Do this enough times and "Do I need to pull over?" will become six very magical words.
Dangle a Carrot
Young kids might not get the safety issue yet, but they know a treat when they smell one. Reward good behavior in the car in a tangible way: Some parents write checkmarks on a chart and others put beans, buttons or pennies in a jar (add one for good behavior; take one out for bad behavior). At the end of the week, the kid with the most checkmarks or a full jar earns a small treat, whether it's a trip to the ice cream store, riding bikes in the park or going to that movie they really want to see. Yeah, it's bribery, but it conditions kids to play nice in the car. And they don't know that you probably would've forked over the ice cream anyway.report abuse