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Last week, on my Facebook page, someone asked me “What do you do when your kids misbehave in the car?”   They gave more details than that – they had said that when the DVD player was on, or the kids had electronics, they were quiet, but other than that, they were “out of control.”I know the feeling I was driving the other day and the kids were so loud that I had to pull over, turn around and talk to them.   (I saw “talk” because I have tried just yelling from the drivers seat “Guys!  Please use indoor voices!”   That doesn’t work.
misbehaving in car

Some other things we’ve tried, that end in failure…

  • You tap the breaks, hoping they will be caught off-gaurd and quiet down for a minute.~You turn the radio way up or way down to change the volume of their voices.
  • You bribe them, you threaten them, you beg them “Guys… please just be quiet for 2 minutes.”
    Then you realize that none of those work.

Here are a few ideas that really DO work:

  • Have the children earn the DVD player time.   For every minute they are well-behaved, they earn that much DVD time.   Go for 5 minute stretches.  Every 5 minutes of “well behaved time” earns them a ticket worth DVD time.
  • Save the DVD for vacations (then they will be GLUED to the TV for long car trips)
  • Distract by doing things as a family – sing a song, play a game (I spy), tell a story, listen to a book on CD or tape.
  • Reward the older kids for listening. The younger ones will follow along. 
  • Give clear guidelines BEFORE the trip begins.   Talk about what is acceptable and what is not.  
  • Follow through!  If you have told them that if they are loud or throw things (or whatever it may be) they will lose electronic time at home, you need to follow through with this.
  • Have a box of special toys in the car.
  • Have library books in the car.  We go to the library once a week and get books that stay in the car.  Each child gets four books.   They can swap their books with each other, but they stay in the book basket (one on each seat) and it keeps them busy in the car.
  • Do the “candy trick” found on LifeHacks (someone sent this to me…  I’ve never seen it before, but she swears it works- but don’t really throw it OUT THE WINDOW (instead, stick it in a bag that is to donate or throw away)

The most important thing is to always go by the same rules.   If no yelling is  a rule, let the consequence remain the same and follow through each time.  If indoor voices are needed, let the reward (and a very happy parent) be the same and follow through each time.


Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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