Say goodbye to fights in the car

I know what you are thinking – is that even possible? Can riding in the car with your children be anything like enjoyable? Well, there are some things you can do to minimise the unpleasantness of children’s fights and squawking from their seats. It is going to take some energy and forward thinking, but you will thank me for getting you from A to B in more style and niceness than you have ever had before. Take a look at these tips and aim to tackle at least half of them if you are after some great car trips with your family.

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1. First things first, prep your kids

Have some robust expectations and let your family in on them. Children have a way of adjusting to their parents’ belief in their ability to be self-controlled and pleasant. If your kids hear you say they are rotten to be in the car with – they will be. If they hear you say that they can be awesome creatures to have as passengers – they will adapt.

2. Teach your children to win well and lose well

Some parents have forgotten this one. Things sour pretty quickly when children are in constant competition with one another. This one takes some effort but it changes the atmosphere at home and in the car. If a child wins a round of something, teach the others to congratulate the winner and the winner to be humble and gracious. Many parents avoid this one, and the disappointment or the success is not handled well.

3. Some trips need a ‘leader of the trip’

This job can be rotated amongst the children and gives the child with the leadership badge a chance to choose which seat they sit in, the music played in the car, the car game of choice, and if it’s a long trip, the place you stop for ice creams. Kids soon learn to be fair and kind, because it’s their sibling’s turn next time.

4. Have a few games you go to when you are stuck in traffic

Good old I Spy is great for children and you can adapt it depending on the age of your kids – from colours, to shapes, to letters. Car Bingo, word searches and other fun games are a good ‘go to’ when tackling traffic or a long road trip (find free printables below).

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5. Instead of trying to put up with the fighting, try a new response

Stop the car when it is safe to do so. Stay calm. Let the children know you are not going anywhere until they can be pleasant to one another. Do this as often as it is needed. Children do the research and they know just how far they can go. Growling and yelling will not improve the situation long term.

6. Get fun conversations going in the car

Not only will you get to know your kids better, there will be more chatting and less fighting! For some fantastic conversation starter ideas, get Chatter Box – a series of questions for families, teens and couples produced by The Parenting Place (you can download these cards or purchase them from familyjourneys.co.nz).

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7. When children are fed and watered they do better

Have a supply of nutritious snacks and water bottles to keep them comfortable.

8 . Sing it loud and proud

It doesn’t matter what, but singing will keep an atmosphere from going sour more than just about anything else.

9. Congratulate your kids when a car trip goes well

Shift the energy from your growling to your encouragement when a trip deserves the accolade.


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family-coachSometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.

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About Author

Jenny Hale

Jenny has a primary teaching background and spent three years as a parent educator. Jenny runs workshops at the Parenting Place centre in Auckland and at Hot Tips events around New Zealand. She is the senior Family Coach, working with existing clients as well as training new coaches. Jenny writes regularly and makes appearances on TV 3's The Café. Jenny has two adult children and is a grandmother of two young children.

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