When my son was four years old he attended a parent participation preschool.
This was in the days before car seats so kids often floated freely around the car, but in our case, we demanded that they wear belts.
On this particular day I had four little guys in the back seat ready to head off on a wonderful, exciting preschool trip to the pumpkin farm. I told them to buckle up and we would leave. The belts each fit two kids perfectly. That wouldn't be acceptable today but then it was the best we had. But they didn't want to wear the seatbelts. I opened my purse, took out my book and started to read. The kids shuffled about in the back seat, waiting to leave.
Finally, Michael, the ringleader in the "I never have to wear a seat belt" rebellion, looked at my son and said, "When are we going to leave?" "When we get belted," was the answer. "But, we're going to miss the pumpkin farm," Michael responded. My son Foley looked at me and then said, "She doesn't care."
So, the boys put on the belts and off we went. Michael never chose to be in my car again when we had field trips.
Car behaviour is an ongoing issue for many parents. Whether it's resisting car restraints, arguing with siblings or competing to get to sit in the front seat. It can be a nightmare.
The trick is to be clear on the 'car rules' and maintain them consistently. My son knew without a doubt that I was simply not going to start the car until they were all belted.
So, talk to your kids about the rules. Make sure they understand that there are no exceptions when it comes to traveling in the car. The rules are carved in stone.
Trying to drive and pay attention to the traffic when the kids are bickering in the back seat is almost impossible. So, when the kids start into their fight, calmly pull over to the side of the road and say 'I can't drive with all this distraction, let me know when you're finished." Then pull that handy book out of your purse or pocket and start to read. (Or at least pretend to read.) When they calm down, resume your trip. Lectures are not necessary; they get the message.
If fighting in the back seat is a constant problem, plan a training session. Head off for somewhere neat like the video arcade. If they start to fight, let them know that you refuse to drive while they are bickering, turn around and go back home. They will then know you mean it.
Boredom can also cause fights. So have some car-appropriate games and books in the car. The longer the trip the more you need to plan activities for them. If your kids can read in the car without getting nauseous it's a bonus.
Car trips can be time when the kids are permitted to play with their hand-held video games. They will love it. Suddenly, the longer the trip the happier the kids.
In our family we had a very funny CD we used to listen to on long trips. Near the end of the travel day we would put it on, and no matter how often we heard it we would laugh. Today, thirty years later, lines from that CD still prompt laughs in our family.
You can also play music and sing along. Little kids love this.
It's all about first making, stating and enforcing car travel rules and also about planning how to make the trip work for your children.
Then, whether you are heading to the local store or across the country you are ready for safe, comfortable and enjoyable car trips.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author.
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