Back Seat Driver

Damion has a tendency to want to be in control of EVERYTHING. Mix that with memorizing very early on the way to drive to each and every place we go, as well as a small fascination with maps, and you get yourself a very young “back seat driver”. As you may be able to imagine, this can be a difficult situation when driving requests are made that he doesn’t like, and unfortunately one that seemed to persist quite often once it got started.


Damion became a back seat driver at the ripe age of 3 when he quickly figured out routes from the stop sign by our home. Going straight at the stop meant we were headed home, and turning left meant we were going to the park. Even a short drive can be a very unpleasant experience if you have someone trying to control every move from the back and not getting their way. On top of that, if as the driver, you are the only adult in the car, then this can be a very tricky situation to handle. So, what are the tricks that we have developed to help deal with this issue?


  1. Safety First

Dealing with any type of meltdown while you are the only adult, hence the one driving the car, can be a real problem. Seat kicking, screaming, unbuckling can all lead to some very unsafe and distracted driving. Finding ways to keep them in their seat can be a big help in being able to just ignore the bad behavior at times. We had our fair share of issues when Damion was little, but a lot of what we could power through changed into larger problems once Damion moved out of a 5 point harness seat. It didn’t take me long to find an alternative device to help us with the issue which we have used in place since then. Click here to check out the Buckle Boss, which is the item that has helped make sure my kiddo stays buckled and safe.


  1. Start with gentle reminders

Sometimes, on good days, we can get by with just gently reminding Damion where we are going. As he got older and his language skills grew, this method seemed to work more often. He even started getting remembering certain phrases when we encountered road closers, which can make for an unplanned drive and breaking his routine, thus triggering an issue. After talking him through some of the hiccups, he is able to understand when we say “the road is closed, gotta go around”. After living through big tantrum drives, getting to days where just talking through the issue works really feel like a big win.


  1. Pull Over

A little bit of negative reinforcement that seemed to get the message through to my guy in the younger years or even now when talking is not solving the problem, just pull the car over. If he starts to have a meltdown, one that involves more than just yelling (which I can generally just ignore), I pull over. He is told that we will not go any further until he calms down. This may seem unideal, adding extra time to your drive on rough days, but if your child is like mine, it will only take a few trips of doing this for them to get the message. Obviously, if you’re on the interstate just pulling over is not really an option but finding your next safe stopping point will do the trick as well. If the tantrum is bad enough this is really the safest thing to do as well. I’d suggest giving yourself plenty of extra drive time when you are planning to work through this strategy. I know that in the short term this method can seem very inconvenient, but it really has worked well for us in the long term.


  1. Turn Around

Another, albeit not so convenient, way to go about getting your message across on appropriate car behavior is being willing to just turn around and go home. This is a tool that works best when your end point is a preferred destination. If you find that car travels have hit a big low recently and you’ve gotten in a rut of bad trips every time, this can be a great method to practice on a nothing day when not going somewhere won’t ruin big plans. A sort of “setting your child up to fail”. What I mean by this is say that you are going somewhere that they prefer to go, and when they start acting up in the car, you turn around and go home. It may seem harsh, but just doing this one time was enough to get the message through to Damion. Another tool that is going to be rough the day of implementation, but this is a long term goal we are trying to achieve.


Sometimes it is a want to go somewhere that we have no plans to go to. Sometimes it is a road issue that requires us to take an unplanned detour. His new favorite issue, is he just wants to drive by specific businesses to look at the signs. Regardless of the reason, your child feeling that loss of control can make for a pretty hostile environment while trying to concentrate on driving. We have made big strides with Damion on his car riding etiquette over the years. As he got older there was some evolving in his methods to control the car ride, but as his tactics changed, we did our best to reintroduce our old go-to’s listed above and were able to quell the new protests quickly. Hopefully these tips and tricks that we have used will help you tame any “back seat drivers” you may have in your life.