how to stop fighting

How to Stop Backseat Bickering

“I told you to stop that… right now!” “If you don’t stop poking your brother, I’ll…” “Just wait until we get home…” Then there’s the parental arm flailing from the driver’s or passenger’s seat into the backseat. If only fighting in the car was outlawed in all 50 states.

If only fighting in the car was outlawed in all 50 states. Share on X

Why is it that children fight most often in the car? It’s because they’re in a contained space, and they’re jockeying for position to see who is the most dominant among the herd, and even to see how they can dominate you. Do your kids need to know how to stop fighting? Here’s how to make your car more peaceful.

Threatening them accomplishes no purpose. They know:

  • You don’t mean it.
  • You won’t carry it out. Many parents say, “If you don’t settle down, we won’t get this or go there.” But usually, those are just idle threats. With a history of those kinds of threats and warnings, no child will pay attention to what you say.
  • You can’t reach them (other than the ridiculous flailing arm that only makes you angrier).

So try these two things first:

  • Turn up the music on the rear speakers. Part of their fun is knowing you’re overhearing the skirmish. They’re waiting for you to step in and settle it. That’s part of their unionized plan.
  •  If turning up the music doesn’t work and they continue to bicker, calmly pull over the car and stop. Get out of the car, stretch a little, check your tires, open your trunk. If you are going somewhere your children want to be, and they end up getting there late, all the better. Take your time outside the car. When you get back in the car, say something like, “Is it safe for Dad to drive now?” Try this once and it’s usually enough to stop the bickering. If you’ve been a paper tiger parent up to this point, though, they may need another dose. And guess what? Your heart rate hasn’t gone up either. You’ve used the principle of “B doesn’t happen until A is completed.” Those children are not arriving at their destination until their bickering is dealt with.

If you need other ideas to overcome sibling rivalry or other consequences for your arsenal, we have you covered.

*Taken with permission from Have a New Kid By Friday! by Dr. Kevin Leman.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What can you do differently when you start to feel a fight with your sibling coming on?”