Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zero Tolerance for Backseat Brouhaha

Although few childhood entertainments offer the fun and satisfaction of driving brothers and sisters crazy while touring in the backseat of the family vehicle, and sensible arguments about safety have no influence or visible effect on children under age 21, nevertheless the kids absolutely must behave while they ride around with you. Their lives depend on it.

Kids in the Boot

The most recent statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Board indicate “distracted driving” can be up to 17 times more dangerous than driving while mildly intoxicated or extremely fatigued. The statistics make distracted driving by far the greatest risk to your own and your family’s automobile safety.

With children in the car, you must take extra precautions never to use your cellphone for conversation or texting, and you should use every tool and trick in your mama’s-toolkit to make sure the kids do not harass, annoy, torment, tease, antagonize, bullyrag, incense, anger, or wage war against one another.

Be pro-active. Pre-empt small passengers’ pommeling and pounding one another.

Before you even begin considering the requirements of good parenting, consider the more important requirements of your own and your children’s safety. Take bold, aggressive action to end backseat battles once and for all, making it perfectly, unequivocally, undeniably, and non-negotiably clear that will not tolerate backseat brouhaha in any of its forms.

First, have a family meeting to discuss the issue; then, arrange a quick intervention, remembering that strategic timing matters in the best pre-emptive strikes against rear-seat recalcitrance: Getting set for the first outing after the big family meeting, get everyone securely strapped in, effectively immobilized, and then repeat the zero tolerance policy, issuing threats you have every intention of keeping if the passengers grow unruly.

The experts suggest five specific remedies for drive-time terrorism:

Negotiate a peace treaty. While you discuss the issue in your family meeting, solicit the kids’ input. If your children bravely admit they harass one another mostly because they feel bored, enroll them immediately in the GATE program, because they are showing self-awareness well beyond their years. Otherwise, approach the matter more practically, asking, “What do you need to stay happy and quiet back there?” Mothers generally report their children come-up with perfectly practical, workable solutions. Implement the kids’ suggestions as quickly as possible, and hold them accountable to their own ideas.

Seize the opportunity to talk with them. As you drive around with the little people in the back seat, you have a captive audience. Carpe diem! Talk to them about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how they can participate. If you’re on the way to pre-school or school, discuss the day’s agenda; if you’re driving home from school, do the usual “how was your day, dear?” With older children, seize the opportunity to discuss delicate issues about their personal lives, parent-child issues, or family dynamics. The car promotes the illusion of perfect privacy, so that kids often will open-up in the car on subjects they never would discuss in any other setting.

Distract, entertain, or engage them. Even if you abhor handheld video games, detest the idea of giving a small child a smart-phone, and generally disapprove of television as the electronic babysitter, you may want to reconsider your feelings in light of auto safety. Equip the passengers with game systems or DVD players, or use their low-tech equivalents—coloring books, puzzle books, and crayons. Alternatively, play the kids’ favorite CD, getting everyone to sing along. Once the kids develop longer attention spans and basic language skills, start collecting and playing CD storybooks. Many families have “read” the entire Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett series while driving.

Put them to sleep. The car’s warmth, safety, and rhythmic sound and motion make it the perfect place for high-quality napping. Equip your passengers with all they require for sweet dreams, and encourage them to snooze while you cruise. Promote restful sleep with proper ambient music—as long as it does not put you to sleep, too.

Leave the kids at home. When you carefully analyze your driving habits according to “most likely to inspire backseat battles,” you probably will discover car-seat criminals work their evils mostly when you are dragging them around on your routine errands. They understand just as well as you do how they are excess baggage, and nothing about your shopping and bill-paying interests them in the least. Moreover, because smaller children do not respond to deferred gratification, the promise of reward at trip’s end has very little effect. If you can arrange to take care of your business while the kids are in school, at daycare, or chillin’ with their dad, you probably can decrease drive-time discord by more than 50%.

Safety remains your highest priority, and radical alternatives often work. If your family values include teaching the children to settle their own conflicts, and if you constantly instruct, “Work it out between you,” then consistency may demand building your tolerance for the kids’ wrestling and wrangling in the back seat until they do work it out. At the bottom line, when you achieve a solution that enables you to drive safely, completely free from distractions, then you have found the right answer.

Lisa Tulley is a stay at home blogger and writes for, a site where you can get an auto insurance quote. Find a better rate by getting online vehicle insurance quotes!

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