I recently had dinner with a group of girlfriends, and the conversation naturally turned towards a discussion about the kids. After a little venting, one friend mentioned how hard it was to take her child in the car. To my surprise, this topic caught fire and the rest of the evening was spent telling horror stories. I had no idea that this was such a widespread issue.
It never occurred to me that kids would do anything but sing and sleep while riding in the car. I had never experienced this issue first hand, and had little advice off the cuff. After listening to the many facets of this problem and having a few days to think about how to help my friends with this issue, I offer you the same solutions.
I believe that this issue boils down to one major problem: car safety. If your child is in the back seat screaming, kicking, or throwing things, you have a serious safety issue. How can a parent navigate the road while soothing or disciplining their child? The truth is that they can’t. Here are some strategies for stopping these behaviors early and quickly.
- Is your child comfortable? Make sure that your child’s car seat fits them properly and is clean of debris. Straps that are too tight or that chafe cause pain. Debris left from snacks scratch or poke. Limiting the amount of clothing that your child wears while in the seat can also affect their behavior. Many kids get too hot and cannot remove coats, hats, and sweaters themselves. On the flip side, have a blanket available so your child can cover up if they get cold.
- Are they bored? Sitting without an end in sight can be very boring and frustrating for a child. Have books to look at or a stash of car-only toys to play with. Set rules for keeping the toys in their hands or on the seat. A seat pocket is a great place to store these items as well as a mirror for babies, iPod, or other electronic games.
- Is the music too loud? Sometimes parents are not aware of how loud the speakers are in the back seat of their cars. Young children and babies have more sensitive hearing than older kids and adults. Play soft, soothing music, talk radio or have nothing at all and enjoy the silence. Kids also love to sing with their parents or simply talk. Fresh air is very calming, and rolling the windows down allows you to listen to the sounds of the city (or country).
- No fighting! Do not engage in a fight with your child while driving. Not only is this very dangerous, but it does not solve the problem. If there is a situation where the kids are fighting, separate them or turn the car around and go home if possible. My dad only had to do this once for us to get the message.
- Move your child’s seat to a place of their choosing. If you child kicks the back of the seat in front of them, move their seat to the middle. If they are able to pick a spot to sit move their seat as a reward or incentive for good behavior.
- Praise and rewards go a long way. If you child is doing what you ask of them, tell them. Offer incentives to get through a long ride. It is important to work with your child to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
I am going to keep thinking on this issue and report back when I have more ideas. I would love to hear from those of you who have experienced angry kids in the car and how you have stopped this type of behavior.
I had a hard time finding related articles for this topic. Below are two I found. If you know of an article that is helpful here, please share it.
About.com has good activity ideas
The Australian site, raising children network, covers way more than just this issue