Minivan Timeouts by ChildGrower A. Woz.

Driving in the car with two children seated too closely to each other is like listening to fingernails on chalkboards for a few too many miles.

Why do we do it to ourselves? Distance the two youngest. Parents: Save Your Sanity!

He shoves his books towards her so they are touching the edge of her car seat.

She shoves them back with a stern, “Get your stuff away from me.”

He counters with drawing an imaginary line between them and then dares her to cross it. She crosses her legs and uses her foot to deliberately cross into the neutral zone and “accidentally” brushes the side of his leg. He wails and kicks her foot away and then she tattles and tells me that he hurt her.

My neck is on swivel mode and I’ve used up all my nice words.

Dad reminds me that they should NEVER be seated next to each other.

I crank my head around and take my boy’s books and tell him that if he doesn’t apologize to his sister I am going to keep his books. The little guy tells me that I took his books just to be mean. I fire back, “I’ll show you I mean business!” similar to the kind of commentary that my father gave me before the spanking ensued.

Lucky for them, we don’t spank.

My husband says again, “They should not be sitting by each other.”

I’m in my mad zone and use the same voice I just used on my six year old and tell my husband, “If we let them sit apart they will never learn to sit side by side. I’m not giving in to this bad behavior.”

Whoops! I just spoke to my life partner like he was three and I yelled at him in front of the kids. Right idea, wrong tone.

I make amends- also in front of the kids- and we both listen to the irritating sounds of two children crying because they are both very mad that I didn’t fix anything but instead, I just added to the yelling.

What kind of example am I giving when I yell at them during an argument? I have just modeled the exact opposite of what I want them to do when they are faced with a conflict.  I take a deep breath and tell the two that we will talk about this when we get home.

That gives me a bit of time to figure out how I can teach them to avoid touching another person whenever they are angry. I’m finding that this has quickly become my newest goal when teaching them to deal with conflict.

Do not touch someone else when angry. Walk away! Hard to do in a car…

Good Grief! This parenting business is real W O R K.

Ok, when in a place where we can’t walk away ( a car, grocery shopping, in the line at the theatre) what can we do?

Later, when the two of them are sitting in the kitchen on stools placed less than an inch apart,  we try and recreate the scene and come up with some ideas to make the next van ride more peaceful.

Rule 1: Are both people are having fun?

Rule 2: What can I do differently so that both of us have fun?

How does this work? We don’t know. We just made it up. Just like parents do every day. We try new things, we read a new book, we know our child and we try something. We know they like to have fun. And we know from all the bickering that the race to have the most fun is a part of how kids operate. They want to be first, they want to win, they don’t necessarily want the other person to have fun unless they are having fun. So we decide that two people having fun is better.

And we cross our fingers. And toes. And hope for the best- or at least a really good radio that we can crank up very very loud.

### by Annita Woz, January 7, 2010 for Childgrower Blog and EP.

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