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When kids are fighting in the car can be frustrating, unsafe, and lead to some difficult trips, even if it’s just to the store. Stop the madness with these proven tips to ease the tension and teach desired behaviors.
Have you ever left any of your kids on the side of the road on purpose?
Just kidding I haven’t, but man alive have I wanted to.
Maybe because it’s crowded, cramped quarters, and the ventilation isn’t as great, but our van is where the kids best prefer to fight. And since mama is up front and unable to physically intervene, it’s like… they know fights can last longer.
Then I end up in fight or flight and I’m like I’LL TURN THIS MINIVAN AROUND. And it’s all fun and games. Well, I’m happy to report, those days are mostly behind us and I’ve gotten some tricks up my sleeve to help you avoid all that mayhem too.
Kids need to behave for safety, first off.
So, it goes without saying that different circumstances require different corrections (reinforcement solutions). I’m using this teacher term because handling kids fighting in the car requires some planning and situation reacting on the part of mom.
All situations are not created equal.
You don’t want to over react, but with the same token you don’t want to ignore and have a dangerous vehicle situation. Here are 2 main categories of responses we can have.
Ready to try and deal with this temper of yours? Let this checklist help you get a handle on it.
Validating the behavior you want
This is where you emphasize the behaviors your kids are doing that you like. Something desirable is given when your kids do well. Could be a little treat (if we’re talking about a long road trip or something) or clearly stated words of appreciation.
Built-in consequences for acting crazy
Here’s where you’d establish clear rules about the behavior in the car that is acceptable – and what isn’t – and give these rules built in-consequences.
A built in consequence just means you aren’t making up random consequences on the fly. While sometimes those random ones are more natural, in which case go with them, other times it’s like you’re having to manufacture some type of negative scenario for your child.
The better way? Consequences baked into the rule.
- Outrageous car behavior = no screen time
- Screaming and fighting in car = the instigators have to clean the car interior or exterior
You get the idea.
Start brainstorming rules to make your family life more peaceful, connected, and strong!
Positive dialogue can go a long way in sculpting wanted behaviors. This is especially true for situations where the rules don’t really change.
AKA car rides
So you’ve laid down the rules. And you’ve made them clear. This is the first and probably most important step. You gotta give clear expectations in order to get desired results.
- Inside voices only
- Hands and feet kept to self
- Passing items only, no throwing, etc.
Have the kids decide what types of behaviors they want as well. No placing shoes on another’s chair, for example. Not leaning onto another person while driving etc.
But… kids will be kids and rules will be broken. Having some positive reinforcement plans in play will help mold your kiddos back into happy little campers.
One huge thing I did with my 5 kids… assigned seats.
I distanced the children most likely to fight and this cut back on stress A Lot.
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Use direct and clear forms of validation to stop kids from fighting in the car.
This type of response means so much to kids. You will be surprised how quickly it shapes their behaviors and makes them want to listen.
- This is where you’ll acknowledge why they’re frustrated and how it makes your child feel.
- Then you’ll call out the appropriate behavior you want to see.
- If you catch someone trying to be extra good and you’re proud, let them know immediately that you see that.
- Be exact and clear with what behaviors you want to happen. Say precisely what your child is doing right.
Fighting in the car is a real stressor for mom.
It’s a hard and dangerous job to drive a family around. It can actually be pretty dangerous is kids are too rowdy in the vehicle. So, there are cases when mom needs to do something clear.
I had times where I got so riled up from hearing their fighting or arguments that my heart was racing out of my chest.
I kind of went into a rage, to be honest, as you do when you are trying to do something as important as DRIVING and people are going nuts.
Act with a quick and immediate response to fighting in the car.
When danger is eminent, mom may have to act quick and “fierce” to stop the behaviors and make a safe situation. Sometimes you have to act fast and firm to stop the madness.
- Get a little loud to get their attention.
- Pull over, put the car in park and deal with the fighting accordingly.
- Turn the radio off, get quiet, and stare at them in the rear-view mirror.
- Or, turn it up very loud to get their attention and then back down.
- Remind them of the consequence to this action.
- Take away their devices (if they have them).
- Turn the car around and head home.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
General Tips For Car Rides To Avoid Fighting
Here are some general tips to avoid fighting so you don’t have to pull over.
- Avoid over-stimulation with too much media or noise. We don’t have any devices for the kids so none in the van, but often if the sights and sounds are very stimulating, then there are lots of voices, and loud music or an audiobook it can be a lot. If things are getting tense, turn off the radio/book.
- Assign seats. As said before, assigning seats will help give kids more chance to have a peaceful ride.
- Pack individual snacks. When we are going for a long ride, we’ll pack individual snacks in bags so each child is focused on what’s on their own lap.
- If sharing numerous things, set up some ground rules. My boys like to read comics and they’ll end up sharing. But, if one wants a book the other has, etc. you get the idea. Set up some rules for who gets what when. Or let them make up the rules!
- Be free with pulling over. If YOU get overwhelmed easy, make it a habit to pull over at the first sign of having a bodily response to the fighting. Step outside of the vehicle, alone, to get a breather before dealing with the situation.
Kids don’t intuitively get that it’s dangerous for ALL OF Y’ALL on the road in a car with people going nuts. Tell them, show them, and you’ll stand a better chance.