Carpools can be helpful
and frustrating at the same time. Parents wel come 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
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
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.