One-Liners: Car Rules

As if parenting wasn't difficult enough, sometimes it's necessary to be confined with your children in a vehicle in order to get where you need to go!

The car is a unique space where any irritation or conflict arising feels suddenly amplified. There's no escaping when you are in the car!

Additionally, parents are also without the usual intervention resources such as time-out chairs, game controllers to confiscate, or rooms to send them (or your own self) to! 

Have you found yourself saying the following while driving?:

  • "Knock it off back there!"
  • "I've already told you how far it is til we get there!"
  • "It's way too loud in here! I can't hear myself think!"
  • "Stop fighting!"
  • "Don't make me pull this car over!"

Most parents don't want to parent from current energy level or mood, but instead to parent with a thoughtful plan. On the fly, however, it is difficult to think of helpful ways to handle situations.

Having a go-to list of "One-Liners" to say at opportune parenting moments is a tool that helps meet that goal (of parenting with a plan) and save your strength despite the specific parenting challenges you face.  I currently parent kids with diagnoses ranging from ADD, dyslexia, Crohn's disease, PTSD, early trauma, and plain ol' everyday adolescence and am grateful for all the tools I can get my hands on! 

As a Parent and Family Coach, I have had the opportunity to teach other parents about using One-Liners effectively.  This series is a compilation of 15 of my favorite parenting One-Liners. 

"Car Rules" is a One-Liner for you as parents to say when you are in the vehicle and you want to cue your child(ren) that it is

  • time to stop talking
  • time to mind their own selves (until further notice). 

Don't get me wrong: there are wonderful moments in the car of giggling and connective conversation BECAUSE you are confined together.  It can be a beautiful opportunity to sing together, tell Knock-Knock jokes, and eat french fries from the drive through.  

Some of my most treasured memories were listening to my children play with their Rescue Heroes action figures and Polly Pockets dolls in the backseat.  These are times where you wouldn't want to say "Car Rules. 

There are however, moments where: 

  • the traffic is terrible and requires your extra focus (or in my case you are totally lost because you have no-sense-of-direction!)
  • someone has a migraine or isn't feeling well
  • you need to take a bluetooth call
  • there's WAY too much complaining
  • they are fighting over an activity or toy
  • you want to be able to talk specifically to one child uninterrupted
  • you and another adult are trying to have a conversation
  • the bickering is over the top and they have forgotten that having a sibling to talk to/play with is a privilege.

Saying "Car Rules" to them (in these scenarios) is a respectful, clear, and direct parenting statement. 

When spoken in a calm, non-sarcastic tone, "Car Rules" can be a helpful reminder to your child that:

  • it is important to speak with respect and kindness
  • quiet and silence is OK
  • safety comes first
  • it is a privilege to have someone to talk with (I MAY have grounded my children before from talking to each other for a time in a desperate attempt to drive this point home!)
  • adult conversation is important
  • sometimes there are others with needs greater than yours at the moment
  • taking turns is a part of life

it can also help them have less anxiety knowing that there is a clear plan for behaviors in the car.  

The details of "Car Rules" have been previously laid out by you at a time when:

  • you were not already in the car,
  • no one was in a fight-flight-freeze response
  • no one felt like they were "in-trouble."

Explaining ahead of time is called "pre-teaching" and is an additional tool used in a multitude of situations including laying out expectations for the grocery store, restaurant, or public restroom use!

Before you use One-Liners as a parent, caregiver, or teacher, it is important to emphasize that these are NEVER said in sarcastic or angry tones.  They are not meant to control your child or to be antagonistic in flavor (though you certainly cannot ultimately control how your child may react to being parented).  

One-Liners are ONLY to be said after taking a deep breath and spoken with an attitude of calm kindness, despite your child's current attitude and behavior choices.

Having go-to planned One-Liner phrases can serve to keep YOU as parent from spiraling into disconnect (your own fight-flight-freeze responses that come courtesy of being human!).

If you have any questions about how to use One-Liners in parenting or to begin a Coaching Group Class or One-on-One Coaching Program, please click the blue bar at the top of this page (Schedule a Free 30 Minute Discovery Session with Hannah).  

Up next in the One-Liners for parents series: "What did you Learn?"  

Catch up on previous One-Liners in the series here.

Happy Parenting!