Getting kids to behave in the car:
I used to discipline differently than I do now (I
read all those books too) and at the time I was making
frequent two hour car trips, and it was a real pain with
the two or three children I had at the time. I don't
remember what they were doing, but it drove me nuts. I
was so frustrated. I hated driving with the kids.
Then I changed my parenting ways. Among other things,
I put my foot down about how they were acting in the
car. The next couple of times I went on that two hour
drive I did things differently. Instead of yelling and
scolding and threatening them, I told them to stop it,
and when they didn't (which they didn't), I pulled the
car over on the shoulder of the freeway and spanked
them. Period. If it required pulling over several times,
I would. They stopped misbehaving as soon as it sunk in
that I was going to pull over and spank them every
single time, as soon as they started misbehaving. I
told them once and that was it. No counting to three, no
threatening, no getting mad, no yelling, no warnings.
They knew they weren't supposed to take their seat belts
off (or whatever it was they were doing) and as soon as
they did it, I just calmly pulled over, climbed in the
back and spanked them. And I was not Mr. Nice Guy about
it either. It was an "I mean business"
spanking. Then I'd look them in the eye and say,
"Now don't take that seat belt off
Now I must add that I only had to do this with my
first 3 kids who had been used to a different style of
disciplining. Although I have had 7 more children since
then, I can't remember that last time I have had to give
any of them a spanking for misbehaving in the car, and
we spend a lot of time in the car. We have had virtually
no problems for years. Now my kids learn to obey me in
everything at a very early age, and they just don't act
up in the car. If they get a little loud or whatever, I
just tell them to keep it down please, and they do.
I might as well add a few things about car safety
while I am on the subject. Most of these things
are obvious, but worth mentioning anyway.
Insist your children always keep their seat belts
buckled. Train them to put their seatbelts on
immediately upon getting in the car, and not take them
off without asking you first. Do not move your car until
you've checked and found all seatbelts buckled.
We do a little roll call every time we get in the
car. Once the door is closed, Dad or I will call out,
"ROLL CALL!" and the kids call out their
names, in order - oldest to youngest. (We do it oldest
to youngest because, with so many of them, if we don't
stick to a certain order, we get confused.) There is one
other rule in regard to our role call: before saying
one's name, their seat belt must be buckled. (Older ones
are to check the seat belts of younger ones sitting next
Now the roll call is handy for helping teach seatbelt
safety, but it has had, for us, another positive result
as well. We no longer forget a child or two and leave
Yes, I'm afraid it's true, we've done it - more than
once. One time we left our daughter at the airport, but
that wasn't too bad since she was 16 years old at the
time, and besides, we remembered her really quick and
just made the loop around the airport parking lot and
came right back and picked her up. There was one worse
We had just arrived at the home of the kids' cousins'
to celebrate a family birthday. We were about 25 minutes
from our home and the drive had been quiet and peaceful.
As the kids were getting out of the car, I mentally
counted heads. Something was wrong. Where was our five
year old? Nobody knew. Oh, no. I remembered seeing him
lay down on a bed in the bedroom waiting for the rest of
us to get our coats on. He must have fallen
asleep, and I guess we just drove off, thinking he was
in the car with us.
So we called some friends who lived near our house
and asked them to drive over and stay with him until we
could get back home.
He was fine. He had slept through the whole thing, so
we went back to the party and dropped the subject.
Later though, when we were once again home, I thought it
would be wise to talk to our little abandoned orphan and
prepare him for possible future disarming incidents. I
calmly reviewed with him what had happened, and I told
him that if it ever happened again, he should just play
with his toys or the kitties until we got home.
At that point our seven year old daughter interrupted
with, "Yeah, like I did yesterday."
Yes, it is again, true. Apparently, the evening
before, when we all rushed out the door to take a short
trip with some friends and their kids in their large
van, we had inadvertently, and unbeknownst to us, left
our seven year old behind. When we returned home about
one hour later, we split up and entered through several
doors, and so did not notice that she was already inside
the house. We just assumed when we saw her, that she had
entered through a different door.
Woe is me. Did I ever feel bad. No only had I
left two children behind two days in a row, but I had
never even noticed the first one was missing! That's the
day we instituted our roll call policy.
One more quick reminder. Please, please don't ever
leave your children alone in the car. Every year we hear
heartbreaking stories about children who have died of
heat exhaustion after being left in the car on a even a
moderately warm day. Even if the weather is cool
and you'll be "back in a minute", things can
happen. The child of a friend of mine, when left alone
for a few short minutes, managed to figure out how to
heat up the cigarette lighter and stick his finger into
it. You can imagine the painful and serious results.
Don't let these things happen to your child.
Bickering over seats
Nobody likes this. We parents struggle to find
a fair solution and there just never seems to be one
that makes everybody happy. What to do? Well here's a
hint: FORGET FAIR.
Instead of "taking turns" or even giving
permanent seating assignments, try teaching them all to
act like adults. What do adults do? Do they try to elbow
their way to the front of the line? Do they fight over
the best seat and cry if they don't get it? Do they
knock each other down racing across the parking lot to
get to the car first? No, and your kids shouldn't be
acting that way either.
Approach it like a basic etiquette issue. Teach them
first of all that what seat they sit in is NOT important
in the greater scheme of life. They will not die if they
don't get a window seat. There are interesting things to
do and see no matter where they are sitting.
Instead of being overly concerned about where they
themselves will sit, they should look around them and
see if there is anyone else with a special need or good
reason to be sitting in a particular spot, and let them
go first. Then they should look around and see if
there is anyone they can make happy by giving them their
choice of seats, and let them go next. They themselves
should seek to be last unless it is best for all
concerned that they get in first. That's the
way an adult thinks and that's the way children should
be taught to think too.
To get the point across, I often ask them a series of
questions: "Do you think grandma should have to
climb over all of you and sit way in the back, or do you
think maybe you should sit in the back?" "Do
you think you should hurry to get in first and then sit
in the first seat and make everyone else climb over you,
or do you think you should wait for the back seat people
to get in first, then the front seat people?"
"Which do you think is the right thing to do: push
everyone aside so you can grab the best spot, or allow
everyone else to go first?" "What do you think
would make other people the most happy?" "What
do you think Mom or Dad would do?" Maybe this isn't
strictly fair, but it is kindness, and that's more
Usually these questions or other similar ones will
silence the disputes. If they don't, then mom steps in.
They lose their freedom of choice, and we go back to the
basic rule that they must obey Mom with a good attitude.
I turn into a policeman and tell them exactly what
I want them to do next and where I want them to sit.
(And when I do this I always place the most selfish
child in the worst seat.)
P.S. And please teach your child the basic rule: Last
in, first out; First in, last out.
I get motion sickness very easily, so this is a
subject near and dear to my heart. Motion sickness
is closely related to one's senses of touch, smell and
vision. For me, vision is the greatest trigger. If
I just glance down to buckle my seat belt while my
husband is backing out of the driveway, I am instantly
carsick. I have trouble when riding in a back seat where
I am bouncing a lot and can not look straight ahead. If
I am seeing things wiz by me too fast, and I am unable
to focus, I have trouble. I can NOT read in the car. I
can NOT ride facing backward. So, I try to apply these
insights to my dealings with children who are likewise
easily made carsick.
The first thing I tell them to do if they feel the
least bit ill is to shut their eyes. Laying down also
helps. Usually, that takes care of it at least
until you can get to a place where you can pull over and
stop for a walk around the car and some fresh air. Even
if they seem better, keep them laying down with their
eyes closed after that. Trust me on this one.
Another thing I've learned about carsickness and
children during our own travels, is that if we get up
earlier than usual, and stick the kids in the car and
take off without breakfast, somebody is almost certain
to be carsick very soon, even if we are driving on the
open highway. No, it's much better to have at least some
kind of breakfast first, no matter how early it
is. Don't try to wait for an hour or two until YOU are
hungry. That has backfired on us more than once.