7 Parenting Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining

Family / Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Parenting Tricks to curb car-ride complaining after a long day of fun. Whether the complaining is ours or theirs, we have the chance to finish fun days well.

The Complaining Problem

We’ve all experienced frustration as we hop in the car after a day of fun in the sun when a tired child opens their mouth and complaining spills out.

We've all experienced frustration as we hop in the car after a day of fun when a child opens their mouth and complaining spills out. #momproblems #momlife #parenting #complaining #thisgratefulmama Click To Tweet

We know the feeling of exasperation that EVEN after we spent the entire day engaged in making them happy, they respond with complaining instead of contentment.

About true things.

Silly things.

About nothing.

While frustrating, it is understandable that children are prone to complain. Adults complain too, when they’re tired, or hot, or hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or when there is no good reason for it at all.

While frustrating, it's understandable that children are prone to complaining. Adults complain too, when they're tired, hot, thirsty, bored, or when there's no good reason for it at all. #truestory #parenting #momlife… Click To Tweet

Of course our children are going to struggle with it too.

I do. More than I’d like to admit.

Complaining is Infectious

The problem is, complaining is infectious. It can create a vicious cycle that goes something like this:

Our family has a fun day. Everyone is tired. It takes just one complaint to send our family down the complaint rabbit hole.

It’s a vicious cycle. We request they stop. They complain some more. We become frustrated. Scolding a tired child to stop complaining generates more complaining, and potentially tears. We find ourselves complaining about THEIR complaining and maybe even asking if we need to ‘pull this car over right now‘.

It takes awareness and effort to stop the complaining cycle and to redirect. As parents, we need to recognize and prepare for the very real chance that our child WILL be a stick-in-the-mud at some point this summer.

Or, gasp, it might be US who allow the first complaint to escape our lips.

Complaining happens.

Tired people, enclosed spaces and boredom make the car a place with high potential to complain. We need a game-plan to curb complaints, without threatening to pull the car over to the curb!

Whether the complaining is ours or theirs, we need to stop it in its tracks so we have the chance to finish fun days well. 

We need parenting tricks ready to go when complaining happens. Because it will.

7 Parenting Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining | thisgratefulmama.com

7 Parenting Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining


Yes, you! Children emulate their parents. A complaining parent will have a complaining child. If we want our children to stop, we need to lead by example.

Pay attention to your own thoughts, and listen to your words during the day. What are you complaining about? The weather? Your relationships? Maybe it’s your outfit. Or your child’s complaining? Whatever it is; STOP IT. It is better to be silent than to demonstrate the very thing you want them to stop doing.

2. Apologize

No one is perfect. Even the most purposeful and grateful mama is going to complain. Pay attention! When you catch yourself complaining, stop AND THEN talk to your children about it. Tell them you’re sorry for having a bad attitude. CHOOSE to stop and demonstrate moving on with a positive attitude. Give them a real-life example to emulate.

3. Demonstrate Gratitude

Actively try to replace complaints and negative thoughts with gratitude. Let your children hear you giving thanks and praise to God and others MORE than they hear anything else. Be sure to thank your spouse, children and others generously. Encourage children to thank each other. Try focusing on gratitude while walking to the car and during those first moments IN the car. It can set the tone for the whole ride home!

4. Remember

Stop car-ride complaining by sharing your favorite moments of the day. As you talk about the fun you had, children can begin to think about the fun they had. Be engaged and listen attentively as they share their favorite moments.

If you can, extend their story by asking leading questions:
What about when…?
How did you feel when…?
Wasn’t it fun when…?

The longer the time spent recalling the best of the day, the longer the time their mind is focused on things they have no reason to complain about.

5. Encourage

Instead of demanding that a child stop complaining, redirect them with encouragement. Tell your kids how they made you proud earlier in the day. What did they do today that was kind, helpful, gentle, loving or patient? Did your child try something new, challenging or out of their comfort zone?

While a child may have trouble shifting from complaints when instructed to do so, praising what they do well can help them see their circumstances from a different perspective. Help them make the leap by lifting them up. Extend the praise by going around, addressing each child in the car and encourage each child to lift their siblings up as well.

6. Planned Distractions

An over-tired child has trouble with transitions. When getting ready for a long, fun day, think about what will help your child transition at the end of the day. 

When nap time is being pushed back or skipped altogether, consider bringing your child’s comfort blanket or toy. If an activity involves changing the normal meal schedule, bring extra snacks and drinks.

When a long drive is required, throw in a few toys, kids CDs or books to keep them busy. Or, engage your family in a game of I-Spy, sing a song, or start counting SOMETHING (trucks, red cars, blue cars, planes, birds, cows).

7. Pray Together

Pray when you get in the car, BEFORE anyone has had the chance to complain. Thank God for the fun day, for memories made, for each family member, and ask Him to help your family finish the day with grateful hearts. Prayer can effectively and powerfully set the tone for every one in the car. 

How do handle complaints?

If you’re hopping in the car after a public meltdown, check out these tips as well! 7 DO’s and DON’Ts after your Child’s Public Meltdown

Parenting Tricks and Strategies To Curb Car Ride Complaining | ThisGratefulMama.com #parenting #tricks #strategies #motherhood #momlife #momproblems #parentingtips #complaining #whining

Additional Resources

The Difference Between Whining and Complaining, Psychology Today

Why We Love Complaining (And How to Stop), Crosswalk.com

Replace Whining with Gratitude in Your Children, FamilyLife

6 Replies to “7 Parenting Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining”

  1. Thanks for the tips! It ids so true that if one person starts complaining, the others will follow. Me and my hubby just remind our daughter about the wonderful day we just had, this sometimes work and sometimes it doesn’t. So I definitely have to try your other tips!

    1. Just checked out your blog – it’s lovely! We remind them of the day too, in fact, we were doing that on the way home last night. It worked last night, but doesn’t always work for us either! Helps to have a few strategies so most of the time we can enjoy our ride home. Thanks for commenting and stopping by!

  2. Thanks for sharing your strategies. Our three boys are now grown and two have children of their own. I remember our car rides when they were children though and remember that the times we were in the car together were often the best opportunities for profound discussions because we chose the time to focus on reminiscing, sharing how our days went, dealing with an important concern or issue etc. Now we have grandchildren I anticipate that car rides can provide the same opportunity for such profound discussions.

  3. Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with our kids complaining too often in the car because we are mostly home, but I tell them no complaining is allowed and then try to get a car game going.

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