Kids fighting in back seat

Do you dread taking your kids in the car because backseat battles are driving you crazy? You’re definitely not alone. A study published in the Daily Mail found that 30 percent of drivers say their biggest distraction behind the wheel is passengers, and about half of those drivers cited their children as the number one culprit.

Screaming Dad
Driving with an upset child in the backseat can be incredibly frustrating. Here are some tips to help you cope. Photo Credit: AndYaDontStop

Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do when your young child cries in their car seat – or when sibling wars get a little too intense – here are some tips for keeping your stress levels down and your passengers safe.

1. Coping with Car Seat Crying

Many new parents mistakenly believe that all babies love riding in the car. While this is often what we see on television (particularly in minivan advertisements), quite a few babies and toddlers seem to hate their car seat. They can scream incessantly, and this can quickly become a dangerous distraction.

If your baby or toddler can’t handle a quick trip to the store, there are some things that could help:

  • First, recognize that some trial and error experimentation is required
  • Check to make sure child seat straps and buckles aren’t chaffing skin or causing discomfort
  • Start with something simple, like a pacifier and/or a children’s CD in the car stereo
  • Books and toys can work quite well, just make sure that these toys are soft and completely childproof
  • Try taking a couple of rides with one parent in the back seat to entertain your child – that could help them become more comfortable

It’s also a very good idea to try and integrate car rides with your child’s internal sleep schedule. A lot of parents think lulling a child to sleep in the car is effective, but sometimes your tired and cranky baby truly can’t fall asleep comfortably in her car seat. In that case, car rides when she’s wide awake (and not close to nap time) might make her happier.

2. Sibling Squabbles

One of the most difficult areas parents have to tackle is what exactly to do when sibling fights turn meaner and more constant. It’s one thing when you’re at home, but when two or more of your children are going at it in the back seat while you’re trying to drive, it can almost be too much to handle.

Kids fighting in back seat
Does it seem like you’ve got a couple wild animals riding in the car with you? You might actually need to pull over and take charge. Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

The most important thing to do is let your kids know that “Don’t make me pull this car over” is more than just a threat. It may take patience, it may put you behind schedule, but it’s crucial for your safety that you do pull to the side of the road and diffuse the situation if it won’t stop. To avoid fights in the future, it’s helpful to have the right age-appropriate distractions along for the ride to keep the kids busy. If your kids can take turns riding in the front seat, it often keeps them from fighting too much due to their separate space. But fights happen. Sometimes when siblings fight, they are both trying to be heard, so if you take the time to let them tell you what the problem is without interrupting each other, it can make them feel a lot better.

3. Getting Kids Involved

With an infant, you might have to take your chances on getting them to be peaceful in the car. But even young toddlers can be engaged and involved during long car trips, especially if you have siblings along for the ride.

Don’t worry about breaking out the handheld video games or portable DVD players when you’re on a long road trip. But for shorter trips, games and songs will entertain your restless passengers and make them feel better about getting in the car, whatever the occasion. It’s easier to avoid distracted driving if you’re talking to your kids instead of trying to keep them from yelling or kicking your seat. Ask them about what they’re expecting from the trip, and instead of threatening them with punishment, turn moments of bad behavior into positivity by asking them what they can do to improve peace in the car. Giving them power and responsibility will make them feel confident and acknowledged, which is the surest way to prevent chaos and tears.

If you’re having a difficult time getting your kids to calm down in the car, remember it’s a common problem with many different solutions. With a little effort and a lot of patience, you can change the way they look at car rides, which will keep your family safe when on the road. The only thing more stressful than driving is parenting, but it’s easier than you think to do both at the same time.

Author Amy Thomson blogs for Monkey Car Insurance. Check out her other articles at Twitter @VroomVroomAmy.