How to Deal With Annoying Behavior While You’re Trying to Drive

Dear Kid Whisperer,

On our drive home from the lake today, my son, who is famous for negotiating, asked for something from the trunk for an hour.  How do I get him to be quiet when I’m clearly not climbing back there? -Anne, St. Paris, Ohio

Anne,

The bad news is that you cannot make a kid be quiet. The good news is that no kid can have a negotiation with you without your consent. Kids who have a habit of negotiating have adults around them who have a habit of negotiating with children. If your kid has achieved a level of fame for negotiating, he has many, many adults who have been sucked into negotiations. This is not time well spent for adults, and it can be devastating to the personalities of kids.

Here’s how I would deal with your little huckster:

Kid: Mother. It appears that I have erroneously packed one of my necessary items in the trunk. Fetch my tablet with all deliberate speed.

Kid Whisperer: Nope.

Kid: WHY NOT!?!?!

Kid Whisperer: Oh, shucks. I don’t argue.

Kid: What? What do you mean? This is stupid, I want my tablet!

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

Kid: What did you what? This is dumb. WHY CAN’T I HAVE THE THING FROM THE TRUNK?

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

Kid: I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS! JUST WAIT UNTIL I GET OLDER AND I WILL HAVE MY OWN CAR AND TABLET AND I WON’T GET YOUR STUFF AND THEN YOU WILL LEARN THE LESSON THAT I AM IMPORTANT AND YOU ARE NOT AND THEN I WILL WIN AND BECOME KING OF OHIO.

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

And just repeat. Keep looking straight out the window and keep driving if you are in the driver’s seat. Keep doing what you are doing if you’re in the passenger seat. Don’t add to the script. Anything outside of this script will reinforce the arguing. While nothing can make him be quiet, doing this will train him to be quiet (or even pleasant) in the future. When he is either of those things, you should engage in some pleasant conversation with your son.

Remember, he can’t negotiate without your participation. However, he can be horribly annoying all by himself. While he will eventually stop trying to argue, if you absolutely can’t handle the blaring foghorn of annoyingness from the backseat, this is how I would recommend handling the situation in the moment:

Kid Whisperer: I drive cars in a forward motion when kids are being pleasant.

Kid: I HATE YOU AND I HATE YOU MORE AFTER YOU READ THAT STUPID COLUMN IN THAT STUPID NEWSPAPER!!!!

Kid Whisperer: Oh, shucks. And what did I say?

Kid Whisperer calmly and silently pulls the car over to a safe spot, gets out a book and a lake chair from the trunk (perhaps located right next to that tablet) and sets up camp where Kid can see Kid Whisperer and asks the following from outside the car:

Kid Whisperer: When do I drive cars in a forward motion?

Kid: When I’m pleasant?

Kid Whisperer: Bingo.

This calm action is likely to set the limit in such a way that your son will become pleasant, or at least silent. If it doesn’t and even after thirty minutes of roadside reading, he is still unpleasant, you may have to ride the rest of the way with a belligerent jerk in the backseat. Later, when it is convenient, extended practicing being in a car while in the driveway may be in order.

I don’t need to tell you that he can’t have the tablet while he practices car riding, right?