With holidays around the corner, a lot of families will be travelling in the car and kids fighting in the car is always and issue at any time. We all remember the “if you don’t stop that, we will turn around and go home!” Threats that were usually empty, that is, not followed through. Said but not done. This is effective for the first few times but then stops working. If they worked we’d never have difficult behaviour in the car again.
You can get very frustrated driving with children who are fighting with each other verbally, or hitting each other back and forth. The temptation is to yell from the front seat, “Stop it!” “That’s enough!” We all know this feeling well. Does this technique achieve anything? Does it work? Do our children stop? Momentarily maybe, but not after that it all starts again.
Your child needs to learn the right way to act in the car, firstly from a safety point of view and then from a sanity one. How do I set them up to be successful and achieve good car behaviour?
Firstly if there are only two children, ideally place one on each side of the car with the youngest on the kerb side.
Secondly, to eliminate the behaviours you don’t want then you need to pay attention to the ones you do want. Take a moment to consider what they would be…quiet car trips, wearing their seat belts, reading a book quietly, playing a game well, talking in soft tones…So remember to praise, notice and react whenever they are reasonable in the car. There must be times when it is going well. If there is more than one child, then praise the child who is being good, without commenting on those who are not!
So what do you do when they are fighting, whinging, hitting each other? The best way to manage this is to not look, not speak, not touch (this includes hitting them back!). Drive as quickly as you safely can to your destination.
If however it is too much (quite often it is ) and you are starting to feel angry, then it is time to quit. Instead of threatening them with ejection, the simplest way is to eject yourself. Stop the car on the side of the road, a quiet side street and shady tree is preferred, and sit outside, without saying anything ( no explanations, sighs, words of frustration ) and stay outside until everyone is settled. No explanations are needed as your child / children know exactly what they are doing.
If you are worried about your child opening the car door then you need to activate your child proof locks or have them fitted, until they can cope. If they throw things out the window take no notice and pick them up and place in the boot when the drama is over. Remember to take the keys with you! If they are being dangerous then this is when you will have to remove them from the car and sit them on the grass or blanket until they calm down.
The most important of these is to look for the behaviours you want and to praise and take notice of these – nothing is as powerful as your attention and praise – this will ensure that your child repeats the desired behaviours, talking quietly, reading, getting on. Try these today and notice the difference.