The 5 Troublemakers in Every Carpool

There are always a handful of kids who make the carpool a little more colorful. They make noise, get everyone else all excited and make your drive just a little more stressful.

Luckily, difficult kids can often fall into the same categories. Once you know what type you have, it's a simple matter to diffuse the situation.  

Here are five of the most challenging personalities I regularly encounter and my favorite way to rein them in so everyone can enjoy the carpool. 

The 5 Troublemakers in Every Carpool

1. The Braggart

You know the kid, the one who asks you a question just so they can tell you the answer. They've learned the value of hearing themselves speak early on. They use teasers to capture the interest of other kids. Then they spend the entire ride telling you about their life, sometimes more than you'd prefer."Have you ever eaten at Farmer and the Field? My parents own that restaurant.”

How to Tone Down the Bragging:

First acknowledge what this child is saying. Then without judgement, thank him or her for sharing. Then move on to something personal. She just wants to make a connection, so help her do this in a healthy way. Ask her something about school, such as what’s her favorite class and why? The key is to help this child feel like an important part of the carpool. 

2. The Smack Talker

This kid is lippy and always popping off with a sassy comment. (Sometimes with a tone that makes you think she's been personally trained by a cast member of the Real Housewives of Orange County!) This kid has attitude and sometimes even a finger wave to go along. Fun in small doses, this kid can test your patience during a long drive. 

How to Stop the Smack:

This will come and go at different ages. Sometimes it comes from a tired, frustrated child. We can all get a little snippy at the end of the day. Sometimes it comes from a lack of modeling of what’s appropriate. Be patient and take this as an opportunity to make a difference.

My favorite trick with my own kids is to say, "Let’s try that like this" and then to ask them to repeat their statement again. With another child, I would instead re-phrase and parrot the comment back to them.

Here’s an example. "I don’t want to move to a seat in the back row." Rephrase back as "I know you sat in the back last week and it’s frustrating that you have to do it again" Rephrasing acknowledges that they’ve been heard and also models how they can express what they want in a more acceptable way.

3. The Nosey Kid

This kid that prefers to listen to the adult conversation over that of their peers. In my experience, this kid is usually afraid of missing out. They've honed their FOMO (fear of missing out) to the level that they are on constant detail surveillance — certain that it will lead to being the first in the know. Expect lots of interruptions from this kid and requests for more details.

How to Get Them to Mind Their Own Business (Nicely):

It’s okay to just say, "Hey guys, sometimes parents have conversations that are just for the adults. This is one of those times."

The key is to let the kids know that this conversation is not for kids and without judgement ask them to acknowledge that this is one of those conversations.

4. The "Party in Your Car" Kid

This kid is fun to be around, dynamic, silly and bubbly. But in your car, this kid can be a nightmare. They want to start a game, sing, and dance. All good on their own, but this kid wants to do this in a small vehicle full of kids. And when you're trying to focus on driving safely, this party is not fun.

How to Calm Them Down

I’ll admit, more than anything this makes me insane. Twice in my years of carpooling, I've had to pull the car over to get everyone, including me, to calm down. It’s okay to do this as long as you do it quietly and safely. Save pulling over for those intense moments when things are close to out of control.

To maintain or redirect an environment that is starting to veer off track, I start by turning off the radio or reducing any added volume (such as rolling up windows.). Then quietly, in a calm voice, I ask the kids to quiet down.

If you cannot get a response, ask each rider by name if they can hear you. Then once you have the attention of the group, remind them that safety comes first and you need them to be quiet. 

5. The Painfully Quiet Kid

We've all had that one kid who doesn't say a word the entire ride. In fact, you may never have heard them say anything. Painfully-quiet kids aren't much of a disruption, but you leave every carpool worried about them. And the longer it takes for them to say anything, the less likely they ever will!

How to Start the Conversation

I like to break the ice by asking kids a question or two. Usually about their life outside of the sport or activity we're headed to. "Tell me about your schedule this semester, what does a typical day look like?"  For the younger ones, "Tell me about your classroom. What does it look like?"

When you ask open-ended questions, the kids will start to share, not just give the dreaded one-word answer. 

The Happy Carpool

Carpools can be challenging, especially when kids start getting out of control. But as long as you keep things positive and stay in control, it's possible for everyone to have a great ride.