How I Got My Kids to Stop Bickering in the Car


What is it about a family car ride — even just a trip across town — that brings out the worst in everyone? Kids swatting at each other in the backseat, shrieking for no reason, and carrying on with all that who-started-what drama. This is what used to happen every single time my family drove somewhere, and I was beyond frustrated.

One day after a particularly rowdy ride to the local library, I checked out an audiobook on a whim. I popped it into the car’s CD player, and the most magical thing happened: Instant quiet in the backseat. My kids buckled their seat belts and perked up their ears. Story time began and I turned the car toward home.

What was even more amazing: it stuck. Now we listen to audiobooks on the way to school, while schlepping to practices, on cross-country road trips, and every little drive in between. My mom-mobile is officially a book-mobile, and we’re all happier (and better read!) because of it.

Want to steal this secret for yourself? Here’s how to pick audiobooks that will get your kids onboard (pun intended):

Start with a crowd-pleaser

Don’t mess around in the beginning: Choose something you know your kids will get into — fast. Our first was Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a classic (and award winner!) about a sweet dog, the perfect option for our family of readers and puppy lovers.

See if there’s a movie version

The added bonus to Winn Dixie? There’s a movie, too! After finishing the book in the car, we all watched it together at home and talked about the differences between the film and book versions. This was so much fun, we picked more books that were adapted for the big screen. Look for The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The BFG by Roald Dahl, and Holes by Louis Sachar. Spoiler alert: so far we’ve found the book is always better! (And I think we prefer it that way, too.)

Extend the fun with a series

My kids have also loved listening to whole book series, including the Humphrey series by Betty J. Birney, The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Knowing there was a second, third or fourth book to tune into after we finished one was exciting. (It also took the pressure off me to choose the next hit. Big win!)

Appreciate the art of good narration

When browsing audiobooks on an app like Audible or Libby, pay attention to reviews about the narrator. A good narrator is almost as important as a good story. Don’t believe me? Listen to Harry Potter and I swear the narrator will make you feel like you’re actually at student at Hogwarts. While important to any book, having a skilled narrator read a book about other cultures can be especially helpful. (Something I found out when my family listened to books like Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson.)

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How I Got My Kids to Stop Bickering in the Car