I hate driving carpool.

There. I’ve finally said something that we are all thinking. Shlepping your own kids around town can be painful enough, but when you throw in two or three of their friends, it can be a downright miserable experience. And, yes, I’ve wanted to pull over and just let everyone out.

It’s loud and noisy. The kids, even seat-belted, are bouncing all over the place. The worst, though, is when the conversation turns nasty. It might be a discussion of someone who isn’t in the car or part of the carpool ganging up on another carpool. These situations are particularly tricky because you have to navigate your own child’s behavior as well as the behavior of the other kids in the car.

The problem is that, like most parents, I really like the benefits of carpooling. Who wants to be in the car for 40 minutes going back and forth from a 90 minute birthday party? And that’s assuming that the party is only ten minutes away!

If the nasty conversations are already cropping up in your car, you will need to have a conversation with your child. They may claim that they aren’t instigating it, but remind them that being a bystander means that they are agreeing with the inappropriate behavior. It’s best to have this conversation away from their friends and at home. You can give them a heads up, but save the longer discussion (and yes, it needs to be both of you talking and listening) for when you are behind closed doors.

You can co-opt carpool time with these tactics and turn carpooling into a more tolerable experience.

Set Ground Rules
Let the parents that you are driving for know what the basic rules are in your car with safety being number one. Remind the kids when they get into the car what the limits are. Your regular riders will get used to things like not playing with the windows or blocking the rear view mirror (which is inevitable if your are carpooling a high school basketball team).

The Game Show
Ever watch Cash Cab? A taxi pulls up and suddenly you are in a game show! If at least one of the kids in the car is a reader, turn them into a game show host by handing them a score card and a set of trivia questions (you can raid the trivia questions from games like Beat the Parents). You can face off against the kids, too.

Karaoke
Yes, it’s still loud, but it’s controlled. Load up your phone with your kid’s music and hit play. Let the kids sing along with whoever is popular at the moment.

Ethical Dilemmas
Get them thinking deep thoughts by presenting them with some challenging ethical dilemmas. You’ll be surprised at the insight that they offer to questions that adults struggle with (e.g. whether or not it is ethical for someone to steal medicine if they can’t afford it). Scholastic News has a series of sticky situations that you can use.

Ridiculous Questions
Ask them the questions that you may have stayed up late talking (and drinking) about in college. Give them ridiculous match-ups that have no clear answer. My personal favorite is who would win in a fight, an alligator or a shark? Or give them questions that might make them think a little like these.

Get your kid used to this. They will become your ally in keeping your carpool under control and manageable.

Have a great idea for surviving carpool? Share it in the comments.

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