Car Behavior


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


One of the most frustrating experiences for parents is being trapped in a car with children that are unruly, fighting, noisy, or prone to nag. Because the parent has the responsibility of getting all the bodies that are in the car from Point A to Point B, little time is spent training the "passengers" and a lot of time is spent trying to convince the children to "behave". We could script typical car interactions like this. "We are trying to enjoy this trip. Can't you kids get along? We'll be there in a little while." A few minutes pass by with no change and the parent says, "I asked you nicely to settle down. I'm not asking any longer. Now I'm telling you. Settle down back there right now. And I mean it this time."

As you might predict, requests or commands on the part of the parent have little effect on the children's "car behavior." A more effective approach will be outlined in this article. If involves some thought and preparation on the part of the parent, but in the long run it will help to make the world of the traveling parent much better in the future.

You start out by identifying some friends you can count to assist you. They may ask you to assist them in the future when they see how effective you are creating a better "riding environment" for yourself. You schedule a trip when your friend will be available to help you. On the day of the trip (A trip to the grocery store would be ideal) make sure your children are appropriately dressed and/or the weather is such that your children can walk comfortably a couple of miles.

Before you start the trip make sure your friend is positioned at the point you are going to stop the car and let the kids out. Instruct the children before the trip starts that you expect them to behave but if they don't you are sure that they will be able to make it home without your assistance. The next thing that you do is hope and pray that the children act up. When they do you stop the car. Become very sad. Walk around the car to the door and invite them to walk home. Go on with your shopping trip. (This should be a joy since you know your kids are being monitored by your friend and you are free to enjoy your shopping trip by yourself.)

When you get home, DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE CHILDREN'S WALK. This is very important. If you talk about their bad experience they will try to engage you in a argument or word game. This is not a productive thing to do. You want them to think about the behavior that resulted in the walk not about what they think you should have done. You want them to recognize that you love then a lot but that they are responsible for themselves and can figure out how to avoid a walk in the future. A lecture cannot communicate that message.

If you have teenagers with whom this procedure will not work because they refuse to get out of the car you will have to modify this training procedure as follows. Have you friend waiting at home by the phone. When the teenagers are asked to walk home and refuse to get out of the car take the keys and tell them you need to make a call. Phone your friend who can pick you up to take you shopping. When you are done with the shopping, pick up your car on the way home. If the teenagers are still waiting it's ok. If they have left and gone home it's ok too. You are the one in control of the transportation and it is their job to follow you rules. If they don't, then you have to decide what you do. You do not have the power to decide what they do.

Children need to learn that there is certain behavior that you expect when they ride in your vehicle. If they cannot follow the rules you set up it is your job to decide what you will do to help them learn. If you can remain calm, think about how to train you may find you can have fun training them and teach them a lasting lesson in responsibility.