How do I get my kids to behave in the car?

Hal Runkel
Hal Runkel on behalf of ScreamFree
Marriage & Family Therapy
If your kids argue in the backseat while you're driving, get really, really calm, breath in, pull the car off the road, put it into a parking space, put it into park and just sit there. That's it. Just sit there. Eventually they're going to stop fighting and go, "Uh, mom?" Then you take a breath, and calmly say, "When you guys are calm, then we'll go." Sit there, and be willing to sit there. Be willing to miss whatever you were going to in order to teach the lesson that learning to calm yourselves down in order to figure out a conflict is more important than whatever event you have scheduled for today because it's one of the most crucial life lessons.
Lynne Kenney
One important aspect of your work is ensuring the safety and health of your family in your car. Just as you have created rules for home, do the same for the car and remind your children of the ‘company’ policies before heading out. Use the sentence, "When we are in the car we…" to clearly communicate your expectations.

Five things busy driving moms need to remember:

  1. Don’t tolerate fighting or yelling in the backseat: This not only gives you headache, but creates a huge distraction that causes your attention to be taken off the road. Tell your kids that whoever is able to play nicely and refrain from stirring the sibling pot will earn travel points to a fun local destination like the zoo or the children’s theatre. Praise your children when they are able to share or deal with conflict without any screaming or creating a scene in the car. To keep your crew happy, make sure they each have their favorite activities close at hand. 
  2. Use the “silence game” if the noise level gets too high: If the noise level becomes deafening fill their minds with thinking games then play the “silence game.” Whoever is silent the longest earns travel points to redeem at the local Super Pumper. Maintaining a calm family in the car is important for your overall safety.
  3. Reinforce your family values: Remind your kids of how you expect them to behave in the car and why. “In our car we..” When you pick up friends ask your children to educate them on what is appropriate and safe on the road behavior.
  4. Make your car a no phone zone: Texting and distractions lead to accidents and injuries. As hard as it is to put your phone in the trunk, do it. You might save a life.
  5. Feed the animals: Being cooped up in a car is boring. Cope with the blahs by bringing along healthy protein-filled snacks like rolled chicken tacos and string cheese. Full children are happy calm children.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.