How can we have fewer problems with our carpool?

      Carpools can be helpful and frustrating at the same time. Parents welcome the driving assistance, yet struggle with the personality, style, and scheduling conflicts involved. Carpools are created for convenience. Most kids would just as soon have their parents drive them everywhere. However, parents need carpools to make their hectic lives run more smoothly.

      When children (and parents) are not compatible, carpooling can become a problem. This is especially true when the drive is long and frequent, as is often the case with private-school carpools. Children who don’t get along whine and complain that the radio’s too loud, the other kids talk too much, the car’s too hot or too cold. One child may start arguments or brag so much about her possessions that she makes the others miserable.

      Children’s ages sometimes affect the success of a carpool. Some mixed-age groups work well, but others fail. One mother listened to her seven-year-old daughter complain that the eight-year-old in the carpool always wanted to listen to rock music on the radio. The next year, the daughter herself wanted rock music, to the dismay of the younger children in the carpool.

      Some kids complain bitterly about carpools, hoping their parents will let them drop out: “I hate Emily and Robert! Do I have to ride to school with them?” Parents should listen to their children’s opinions; they may even share them: “You’re right. Emily does talk too much on the way to school.” Yet, parents have to explain that carpooling is not an option but a necessity. The arrangements are unlikely to change, so parents and children have to try and make the best of them.

      There are a number of things you can do to help make carpooling more successful. First, reach an agreement with the other drivers on matters of car safety, schedules, and acceptable carpool behavior. Keep communicating with these parents when there are problems, but also let your child know that when she’s the passenger, she has to follow the driver’s rules.

      Be sure your child has plenty of time to get ready so the carpool won’t have to wait while she hunts for her gloves, homework folder, and ballet shoes, or change for a drink.

      When it’s your turn to drive, set limits on unacceptable behavior and let your riders know how you want them to act. You may not like dealing with the tension, but you have to step in to ensure a safe and relatively peaceful ride. You can say, “When you act so silly, I have trouble concentrating on driving.” If children won’t stop arguing, tell them to take out a book and read quietly. When you’re the driver, it’s up to you to set the rules: “You can’t bring a toy in the car unless you let the others have a turn with it.” “You can’t insult each other”. “I won’t let you yell like that.”

      You can try to prevent tension by providing distractions such as food, pocket video games, audio tapes, CDs, small pads with pens and pencils, books, miniature cars, dolls, action figures, even gum. One parent kept her carpool busy singing. Another mother kept a conversation going involving all the kids. Often, children can come up with their own ideas for activities.

      If the kids you drive complain about seating arrangements, try assigning seats on a rotating basis. That may stop arguments over who sits in a window seat. As an alternative, you may want your own child to sit up front when you drive so you can talk.

      You may have a child in your carpool who gets upset or cries when you drop her off. After an apparently happy ride, she’ll start crying at her destination because she wants her parents with her. She may be nervous about a new activity or just generally uneasy. When you’re the driver, you have to decide how to deal with the situation. If she goes off with the other children, you can drive away without worrying. But if she regularly stands and cries, ask her parents how they’d like you to handle the situation. Sometimes she actually cries longer when her parents drive than when another adult does.

      Crying children, arguments, worries about being on time – all are frustrating parts of carpooling. After trying to make your carpool as successful as possible, just accept the remaining frustrations in exchange for the convenience.

Picture Credit : Google