We have all learned how dangerous and deadly distractions are while we are driving. What could be more distracting than fighting coming from the back seat?
Whether running errands around town or making a road trip trek across country, siblings are bound to fight in the back seat at some point. With a little preparation in advance (and some sound reducing headphones… just kidding), you may just be able to stop the bickering before the battles start.
‘Tis the season for being in the car, here are 6 tips to get the kids to stop fighting and get you started on a peaceful drive:
1. Bring snacks and water.
We all can get a little hangry but kids are less likely to be able to deal with a mood swing when feeling hungry or thirsty. And it seems like the hangries hit children quite all of a sudden. If you have squirt bottles of water and healthy dried fruit or snacks that you can just keep in the car for such hangry emergencies, you may assuage the backseat battle, especially if you can dole out the food at or before the first signs of a mood swing. Just be careful of foods that could be choking hazards for younger children.
2. Have a car safe activity on the ready.
Have you ever noticed boredom fosters the crazies in children? As car seat technicians, we teach that you shouldn’t have any thing in your car that is hard and could cause injury while being thrown around a car during a crash. Small or soft-covered books, silly putty, travel games and Highlights magazines are all good activities to have on hand to keep the little people in the back seat occupied.
Distraction is good way to get the kids to stop fighting. Sometimes when my children are close to a battle I’ll distract them at a stop light by starting a game of I Spy. They continue playing as we drive. It quickly becomes speed I Spy; amazing if someone actually sees and guesses before we pass it!
For longer trips allow for stops to let the children run and play out their abundance of energy. Bring a ball to kick around or a Frisbee to catch.
3. Allow a little screen time.
Sometimes it’s all you can do to keep your sanity. Let them play games or watch videos on a handheld or in-car screen. Bonus points if they have and use headphones (aahhhhh, quiet, no bickering, no Frozen songs) Extra bonus points if they have separate handhelds ie. they don’t have to share. Just thinking about it I’m hearing, squabbling about who is holding it and who is hogging it and what they watch.
4. Reward good behavior.
Whether this is a known light at the end of a tunnel incentive or a surprise is up to you. If they have been good and respectful to each other, positively reinforce it with a stop for ice cream or other special treat. Perhaps this will increase your chances for good behavior in future situations.
Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them
5. Set boundaries.
You remember it right? “Dad, she’s touching me!” The car is a small space. And the back seat (unless they are captains chairs) has no borders for each occupant. Our kids say they would like a wall between them and their little brother so he wouldn’t kick them (when he was rear facing) or hit them (now that he’s forward facing). Until car manufacturers create cars with some sort of “wall” that could go up between the kids in the back seat, explaining to everyone what space they have and what space is others’ that they need to respect is all we can really do. If they need help with a visual, perhaps use painters tape to draw a line, explain that possessions and body parts are to remain on each child’s side of the line.
6. Pull over.
If all else fails and you can no longer ignore the bickering, safely pull over and let them know you will just wait until it stops before going again. Explain how it is not safe for anyone in the car when the driver is being distracted and they need to stop fighting in the back seat. Take a deep breath (or 10, or 20), clean up the car, whatever to let your silence tell them they need to settle it before you begin driving. If you feel like you’re reaching the end of your rope of patience, you may need to exit the car. Stand outside and breathe, or pretend to check a tire (you know by kicking it).
Do you have other tips to get the kids to stop fighting you’d like to share? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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We originally published this post in July 2014. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.