Stop Backseat Bickering in its Tracks

We parents spend a LOT of time in the car…shuttling from this practice to that rehearsal, from school to home, from doctor or dentist and the list goes on. We long for a witty rapport, pleasant conversation – and sometimes peace and quiet. But, it’s the peace part that often seems elusive. Backseat bickering and sibling squabbles reverberate off windows making us wish for a way to teleport back to the house in a hurry!

What’s a parent to do? You’ve tried yelling. Making idle threats. Or grounding them forever – but to no avail, right? Even if you can get them to stop squabbling in the moment, you know those tactics don’t work in the long run and you’re likely to hear another round by the next stop sign.

Fortunately, there is a strategy that works beautifully to curb car chaos. Try it the next time you hear the battle cry from your back seat and let me know how it works for you.

Execute the new rule…

One night over dinner or sometime when everyone is calm, let your kids know it’s time for a change.

The conversation (in your calm, cool, friendly voice) can go something like…

Hey kids, remember this afternoon on the way home from school when you guys were yelling and picking on each other in the car? When you guys do that, I find it really hard to concentrate on my driving and it’s dangerous for all of us.

So, I’ve decided I’m not going to allow us to be in that dangerous situation anymore. From now on, when I hear fighting, I’m going to pull over to the side of the road and I’ll wait until you’re done with your argument.

When you’re done fighting and I HEAR QUIET, then we’ll continue on.

Make sure this has registered with your kids by asking them to repeat it back to you:

Just so we’re all on the same page with this, what will happen if you guys are acting up or fighting in the car? (Have them repeat the new plan.)

Sounds great. I’m sure we won’t have any more issues with fighting in the car.

Now, you have to act on it.

NOTE: You should try this strategy for the first time when you are going somewhere YOUR KIDS care to go!

No matter how late you are to wherever you’re going – school concert, the mall, Grandma’s house – if car chaos breaks out…simply pull over as soon as it’s safe. Don’t say a word. Wait until you HEAR QUIET.

Have a book, magazine, or something you can focus your attention on so your kids see you’re completely unfazed by the battle in the backseat. Don’t engage in the he said/she said or who’s right or who started it. (If your kids see that their fighting gets a rise out of you, they may keep doing it for the attention.)

If the fighting gets too loud, safely step out of the car until they’re quiet. When you HEAR QUIET, then you can start on your way again.

Will it possibly make your kids late for practice, school or something else important? Yes. That’s all right. They’ll learn a lesson that is equally, if not more important.

Pro Tip: Feel free to bring teachers and coaches into the loop so they know you’re working on important training for your kids.

This strategy is a parenting favorite and because you will be TAKING ACTION rather than reciting the same old “stop-fighting” lecture—you’ll feel empowered to stick to your guns! It works like a charm and has been a go-to solution for parents all over the world.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.