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Say “goodbye” to fights in the car


I know what you are thinking – is that even possible? Can riding in the car with your children be anything like enjoyable? Well, there are some things you can do to minimise the unpleasantness of children’s fights and squawking from their seats. It is going to take some energy and forward thinking, but you will thank me for getting you from A to B in more style and niceness than you have ever done before. Take a look at these tips and aim to tackle at least half of them if you are after some great car trips with your family.

First things first, prep your kids.

Have some robust expectations and let your family in on them. Children have a way of adjusting to their parents’ belief in their ability to be self-controlled and pleasant. If your kids hear you say they are rotten to be in the car with – they will be. If they hear you say that they can be awesome creatures to have as passengers, they will adapt.

Teach your children to win well and lose well.

Some parents have forgotten this one. Things sour pretty quickly when children are in constant competition with one another. This one takes some effort but it changes the atmosphere at home and in the car. If a child wins a round of something, teach the others to congratulate the winner and the winner to be humble and gracious. Many parents avoid this one, and the disappointment or the success is not handled well.

Some trips need a ‘leader of the car trip’.

This job can be rotated amongst the children and gives the child with the leadership badge a chance to choose which seat they sit in, the music played in the car, the car game of choice and, if it’s a long trip, the place you stop for ice creams. Kids soon learn to be fair and kind, because it’s a sibling’s turn next time.

Have a few games to play when stuck in traffic.

Good-old I Spy is great for children and you can adapt it depending on the ages of your kids – from colours, to shapes, to letters. Car Bingo, word searches and other fun games are good ‘go tos’ when tackling traffic or on a long road trip (find free printables:

Instead of trying to put up with the fighting, try a new response.

Have a few games you go to when you are stuck in traffic. Stop the car when it is safe to do so. Stay calm. Let the children know you are not going anywhere until they can be pleasant to one another. Do this as often as it is needed.

Children do the research and they know just how far they can go. Growling and yelling will not improve the situation long term.

Let's get talking and have fun conversations.

Not only will you get to know your kids better, there will be more chatting and less fighting! For some fantastic conversation starter ideas, get Chatter Box – a series of questions for families, teens and couples produced by The Parenting Place (you can download these cards or purchase them from our online shop at

When children are fed and watered they do better.

Have a supply of nutritious snacks and water bottles to keep them comfortable.

Sing it loud and sing it proud.

It doesn’t matter what you sing, but singing will keep an atmosphere from going sour more than just about anything else.

Congratulate your kids when car trip is nice and goes well.

Shift the energy from your growling to your encouragement when a trip deserves the accolade.


Toyota New Zealand and The Parenting Place have partnered for more than 10 years to build stronger New Zealand families with good values, essential to a well functioning society and a successful nation.

Toyota Family Journeys was launched late last year, to provide a roadie survival kit for Kiwi families on their road trips, however long or short, and is packed with tips, tools and advice to ensure that parents have strategies to ease the stress of travel and make the most of family downtime for long or short car journeys.

There are 100 conversation starters for children of all ages, ranging from, “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” and “If you were in charge, what would your top five rules be?” to “How would you like to be remembered?” and “Is war ever justified?”

There is also a treasure trove of downloadable activity sheets, videos, games and fun activities for the long haul, with podcasts coming soon too. Toyota Family Journeys also covers making the most of school pick-ups and drop-offs, practical tips for making car time family time, and using travel and car trips to connect with teens.

For more information on Toyota Family Journeys visit and download some useful tips.