Any family who's taken a long road trip with multiple children knows the sound of bickering in the backseat all too well. Kids can get tired, grumpy, and bored, taking this out on their siblings. The following five tips are a few ways to help stop bickering in its tracks.
1. Take age into consideration. – A little bit of understanding is a good way to get started. Even if it seems like your kids are just fighting for the sake of it, small children seem to constantly be moving. For some, being strapped into the backseat of a car can be a recipe for disaster. Toddlers thrive on constant attention and entertainment, and have short attention spans. Furthermore, some normal activities like looking at books or coloring can lead to carsickness, particularly in children under the age of 12. Understanding these age-related factors can help you address them at the source.
2. Plan ahead for frequent stops. – Fight stir-craziness by working pit stops into your journey time. Even a five minute break to run around the park or stretch the legs can break up a long trip into smaller, more pleasant chunks. You can mark your planned stops on a map and let children go over it with you first, so that they know exactly what to expect. Make sure that children are well-fed on these stops, to prevent hunger related bickering.
3. Bring plenty of distractions. – If you can help prevent boredom, you'll stand less of a chance that one sibling will start picking on the other for sport. Let kids choose their own CDs to play in the car or bring along mp3 players, or try playing word games together as a family. Games like 20 Questions, I Spy, and roadside scavenger hunts can be welcome distractions and bring the family together. Another option is to create a goody bag specifically for the car. Fill these with a few of the kids' favorite books and toys, along with a new treat.
4. Separate siblings if needed. – Sibling rivalry can take on a whole new dimension when children are confined in a small space right next to one another. There's a reason why minivans or SUVs with three rows like the Opel Zafira are so popular with families. Not only is there more room to stretch your legs, but you can also use these multiple rows to separate quarreling siblings and ensure that everyone has their own space. This makes it difficult for physical provocation to ensue. In smaller cars, pillow barriers may have to do the trick.
5. Use a System of Reward – It's difficult to send a child to the time-out corner when they're behaving badly in the car, but you can take the opposite approach and give them a reward for good behavior. A sticker chart, a prize at the end of the journey, or even a trip to their favorite restaurant for lunch can help encourage kids to play nicely. These are just a few ideas that can help keep the whole family on your next road trip. Although it may not be possible to completely stop the complaining, welcome distractions and rewards will go a long way!