It creeps up on you like a swarm of chiggers. You may not even realize it’s been happening until you find yourself biting the inside of your cheek to keep from screaming at the trio of 5th graders in your back seat.
That’s right, I’m talking about carpool bickering. It’s like a sport for some kids.
“That’s not how it goes!”
“Yes it is!”
“No it’s not!”
“How would you know?”
“My brother told me!”
“Well he doesn’t know everything about everything in the universe!”
Exaggeration runs rampant, and often they just make stuff up. These boys are stuck at the starting line in the long race to figure out who they are with their shoelaces tied together and their pants on backwards. And you’ve got to drive them to school.
So, what are the three steps to Stop Carpool Bickering?
1. Slam on the brakes.
2. Scream at them to all shut their filthy, pint-sized faces.
3. Wow – that was only two steps. I’m good.
OK, so that might satisfy in the short term, but maybe you’d regret it that evening when little Jackson Henry’s mom calls at dinner time.
So here’s what we did, after allowing them a moment of grace in our minds. It’s not easy being them, after all.
1. Bring it up. Later, when you’re alone, ask your kid (who’s probably as guilty as any of them) to consider how negative and unkind they sound, and how it makes you feel to be in the car with them. He probably hasn’t even thought about it, but when you bring it up, he’ll see with new perspective. Very few people enjoy that kind of negativity, but we can all be drawn into it. Helping our kids learn how to handle that stuff is part of our job as parents.
2. Ask him to figure out a possible solution. Our kids are just like us. They will take things much more seriously if they have ownership in the idea. If he’s stuck, give suggestions and let him pick one for himself.
“Guys, this arguing is wearing me out. Let’s change the subject.”
“We disagree. Let’s talk about something else that doesn’t include arguing.”
“So… what if this whole car was made of marshmallows?”
3. Challenge him to lead.
Our boys will soon be men. The more they taste leadership now, the more comfortable they will be to lead their peers in more important matters later. Ask your son for help. The people in the argument have the most power to stop the argument, so tell him you’re counting on him to lead the conversation away from bickering. (Of course, this applies to girls as well. The world need girls that know how to lead.)
4. Let them fail. (This isn’t really a fourth step, but it’s an important add-on). Don’t hope for much change the first time back in the car. If he forgets, let them argue again – for the whole car ride if you can stand it. You’ve passed the baton, and if he fails, you’ll have lots to talk about when you’re alone the next time.
Don’t forget – this month, all the profits from sales of Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs will benefit Restore Academy in Gulu, Uganda. All the songs are word-for-word Scripture, so buy them by the box! (They make awesome gifts).