Scientist Finally Finds a Formula to Prevent Kids' Tantrums in Cars

Entertainment and food are key

It's a scientific development parents have been awaiting for generations: How to stop kids from completely freaking out during car rides. If you've ever ridden with a child, you know that the occasional backseat meltdown is par for the course. A statistician has compiled a precise formula to predict the likelihood of a tantrum. Read on to find out how you can preserve the peace the next time you're traveling with little ones.

1
Entertainment and Food Are Key

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Dr. James Hind of Nottingham Trent University interviewed 2,000 parents and found that the average time it takes a child to throw a tantrum during a car ride is 70 minutes. He used that and other data to compile the following formula: 

T = 70 + 0.5E + 15F – 10S

Translation: The probability of a tantrum is reduced every minute a child is entertained (E). Food (F) can delay a backseat meltdown by 15 minutes. But having siblings (S) in the car was found to shorten tantrum-free time by 10 minutes.  The statistician also found that the average child will ask "are we there yet?" 32 minutes into a car ride, and will ask four times total. 

2
Unlimited Snacks Not the Answer

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"If you have only one child, and you can keep them entertained and occasionally bribe them with food, you could manage two hours of tantrum-free driving," said Hind. "Unfortunately, two children with no entertainment and no snacks can brew up a tantrum in just 40 minutes. Snacks are important but there is a limit to how much they can help, so keep them to two an hour max. Entertainment is key, but even that fails with really long journey times."

3
What Are the Main Causes of Backseat Tantrums?

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The research found that boredom is the #1 cause of backseat tantrums, as cited by 68% of parents, followed by the trip taking too long (62%) and kids being hungry (57%). "Taking breaks to 'reset the clock' is important for preventing tantrums, as well as making sure you are not tired while driving," said Hind.

4
Tantrum Hacks

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The UK Sun recently published a series of hacks to forestall kids' tantrums during car rides. They include planning exercise breaks; traveling at night, so part of the journey occurs when kids are sleeping; talk about the importance of seat belt wearing before the trip; and play interactive games that involve all of you. 

5
Just Ignore It (If You Can)

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An expert told Parents magazine that if a tantrum happens, the best thing to do is just ignore it (unless it involves aggression toward others). "Turn your music up, sing yourself a little song, and concentrate on the road," suggests Marni Axelrad, Ph.D., a child psychologist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. If you can't concentrate, pull over, but keep ignoring the tantrum-thrower until the drama ends.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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