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Specific ProblemsCar Rides
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 again."

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.

Car safety:

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 to them.)

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 them behind!

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 incident though.

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 attractive anyway.

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.

Carsickness tips:

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.

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.