Kids Fighting In The Car? How Not to Get In a Wreck

When kids are fighting in the car can be frustrating, unsafe, and lead to some difficult trips, even if it’s just to the store. Stop the madness with these proven tips to ease the tension and teach desired behaviors.


Have you ever left any of your kids on the side of the road on purpose?

I have.

Just kidding I haven’t, but man alive have I wanted to.

Maybe because it’s crowded, cramped quarters, and the ventilation isn’t as great, but our van is where the kids prefer to fight. And since mama is up front and unable to physically intervene, it’s like… they know fights can last longer.

Then I end up in fight or flight and I’m like I’LL TURN THIS MINIVAN AROUND. And it’s all fun and games. Well, I’m happy to report, those days are mostly behind us and I’ve gotten some tricks up my sleeve to help you avoid all that mayhem too.

Kids need to behave for safety, first off.

So, it goes without saying that different circumstances require different corrections (reinforcement solutions). I’m using this teacher term because handling kids fighting in the car requires some planning and situation reacting on the part of mom.

All situations are not created equal.

You don’t want to over react, but with the same token you don’t want to ignore and have a dangerous vehicle situation. Let’s define these terms:

Angry Mom CHECKLIST

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Validating the behavior you want

This is where you emphasize the behaviors your kids are doing that you like. Something desirable is given when your kids do well. It’s a reward given for correct behaviour.

Could be a little treat (if we’re talking about a long road trip or something) or clearly stated words of praise.

Built-in consequences for acting crazy in the car

Here’s where you’d establish clear rules about the behavior in the car that is acceptable – and what isn’t – and give these rules built in-consequences.

A built in consequence just means you aren’t making up random consequences on the fly. While sometimes those random ones are more natural, in which case go with them, other times it’s like you’re having to manufacture some type of negative scenario for your child.

The better way? Consequences baked into the rule.

  • Outrageous car behavior = no screen time
  • Screaming and fighting in car = the instigators have to clean the car interior or exterior

You get the idea.

Family Rules Brainstorm SHEETS

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Validating Solutions

Positive praise and reinforcements can go a long way in sculpting wanted behaviors. This is especially true for situations where the rules don’t really change.

AKA car rides

So you’ve laid down the rules. And you’ve made them clear. This is the first and probably the most important step. You gotta give clear expectations in order to get desired results.

  • Inside voices only
  • Hands and feet kept to self
  • Passing items only, no throwing, etc.

Have the kids decide what types of behaviors they want as well. No placing shoes on another’s chair, for example. Not leaning onto another person while driving etc.

But… kids will be kids and rules will be broken. Having some positive reinforcement plans in play will help mold your kiddos back into happy little campers.

Have some tangible rewards that kids expect and look forward to when they aren’t fighting in the car.

Over time, these work because they will keep the “no fighting rule” in the back of their mind… always.

  • A week of no fighting in the car means ice cream on the way home from school on Friday.
  • Good behavior in the car is rewarded with choosing a new book or magazine when we do grocery shopping.
  • Set a time expectation for no fighting and reward with allowing them to use their devices.

Use direct and clear forms of validation to stop kids from fighting in the car.

This type of reward means so much to kids. You will be surprised how quickly it shapes their behavior and makes them want to listen.

  • As soon as you catch someone doing something wrong, remind them of the positive behavior you want to see. You can name a child who is doing it, if there is one. Don’t even mention the misbehavior.
  • If you catch someone trying to be extra good and putting in the effort, let them know immediately that you see that and you’re proud.
  • Be exact and clear with what behaviors you want to happen. Say exactly what your child is doing right.

Consequences

Fighting in the car is a real stressor for mom.

It’s a hard and dangerous job to drive a family around. It can actually be pretty dangerous is kids are too rowdy in the vehicle. So, there are cases when mom needs to do something clear.

I had times where I got so railed up from hearing their fighting or arguments that my heart was racing out of my chest. I kind of went into a rage, to be honest, as you do when you are trying to do something as important as DRIVING and people are going nuts.

Act with a quick and immediate response to fighting in the car.

When danger is eminent, mom may have to act quick and “fierce” to stop the behaviors and make a safe situation.

Sometimes you have to act fast and firm to stop the madness.

  • Get a little loud to get their attention.
  • Pull over, put the car in park and deal with the fighting accordingly.
  • Turn the radio off, get quiet, and stare at them in the rear-view mirror.
  • Remind them of the consequences to this action.
  • Take away their devices (if they have them).
  • Turn the car around and head home.

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Consistency & Followthrough is Key

I can’t stress this enough. If you say you’re going to have a rule with a built in consequence, you’ve got to follow through with that even if it’s putting a cramp in your style.

Kid’s will go back to fighting in the car as soon as they learn that you won’t stick to your word.

Use positive praise as a peaceful way to lead and guide through desired behaviors. The sooner you start this the better.

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