Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Let’s face it, in Mississippi, we love our children and we need our cars but, when you put the two together (especially if there’s more than one child on board) they can drive parents crazy.
We’ve all seen this scene. A parent is driving. Kids in the back seat, restless. Someone begins to whine. The kids start battling and tattling. “He touched me.” He touched me first.” The parents begin to scold. Don’t touch him” Don’t anybody touch anybody!!” And the fighting intensifies. Soon the parent is driving with one hand and reaching in the back seat trying to swat everyone to silence.
Except, there is no silence. Whether on a short trip or a long one, this produces a driver that is more distracted than one who is texting and driving. It’s very dangerous.
Cries, screams and more fighting occurs. Whether a short trip or a long one, kids get restless, bored and angry. Kids have energy. They have a short attention spans. They get wired. They don’t like to be confined. Tussling with siblings relieves the boredom. The fighting solves their problem but gives you a problem of your own.
Believe me, expecting peace and quiet with children cooped up in a car on a trip that is more than an hour is too much to
So, What’s a Parent To Do?
There are ways to make these trips with kids manageable and occasionally fun.
1. Pack for long trips with the children in mind. Bring along some books, tapes, games, snacks, coloring books and favorite blankets and toys. Let each child pack his or her own.
2. Take frequent breaks to allow kids to rest their legs and run around a bit.
3. Food helps. Bring along a cooler with healthy snacks and drinks. Trail mix, raisins, juice boxes, fresh fruit and baby carrots are some of my favorites.
4. Let the kids handle the maps and set the buzzer on the phone and you won’t hear “Are We There Yet?”
5. For shorter trips, when the noise level reaches the decibel that’s distracting it’s time to act. Say to the children in a calm but firm voice “I’m sorry but I can’t drive when there’s so much noise. I get distracted and it’s dangerous. I’ll have to pull over now and wait until it’s quiet again.” Give it a minute. If the noise continues (and it likely will) find a safe place to pull off the road. Say “ when it’s quiet, we can continue.”
Say no more just look straight ahead and wait. When you do this the first time, the kids won’t believe you and will likely try to push just the right buttons to get you to start yelling again. Be strong and show no reaction. It’ll pay off in the long run.
As soon as it’s quiet, start the car and be on your way.
If the noise increases again, say nothing. Simply find a safe place and pull over and wait. You may need to do this several times for the kids to really get it. Be patient with yourself but be consistent and use this method for all your noisy trips. After all, both you and the kids are learning something new. It’ll get easier with practice.
When using this method, no one is maligned, put down or hurt and you’ll have nothing to feel guilty about when the trip is done. Getting to your destination will become a part of the fun. Remember that the trip is not just about getting there, but like life, it’s about the journey.
© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. June 7, 2013
Dr. Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical in Springfield, Illinois for more than 40 years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.