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Motor Mouth articles 2006

Beware the brats in the back

MOANING, misbehaving children are sending the stress levels of Britain’s motoring parents soaring, a new report unsurprisingly reveals.

The dreadful behaviour or the brats in the back is undermining the concentration of the poor, pressurised mother or father striving against impossible odds to pilot them all safely from A to B.

The report, which stems from a survey of 2,000 parents with children up to 12 years of age, reckons three-quarters of drivers don’t enjoy travelling with their offspring.

Apparently 59% of parents complained that their children’s behaviour wrecked their concentration; 56% found car trips with their children ‘barely tolerable’; and 20% found journeys stressful. The biggest surprise for me was that only 1% found it completely unbearable.

Carmarkers Kia commissioned the report, which led to a child psychologist remarking: “Driving demands complex mental activity – from monitoring the road, anticipating new developments and co-ordinating responses. Add to that whingeing and squabbling kids and it can feel that there simply isn’t enough ‘processing power’ to go round. This is a surefire recipe for stress.”

He comes up with all sorts of theories about why the children misbehave and why the parents’ subsequent stress only compounds the problem, but nowhere does he actually say that the little monsters should be left at home, bound and gagged, until they learn to behave like human beings instead of hyperactive chimpanzees.

In fact, in the true politically over-correct spirit of our age, he is critical of the poor, demented adults for failing to ‘prepare themselves and their children sufficiently for the journey’.

Under-pressure parents, the researchers discovered, resort to all sorts of trickery and bribery to persuade their passengers to keep quiet. Two-thirds resort to filling them with sweets, food or drink – probably vividly coloured, sickly rubbish, knee-deep in E-numbers, that merely aggravates the problem.

More than half use electronic games and other equipment in order to keep the little dears entertained and amused, but I can’t help but harbour a sneaking admiration for the 11% of parents who demand absolute silence when travelling with their children.

The message emanating from these over-indulged spawn of the devil, apparently, is that the journey is too long (77%), while 20% reckon they get travel sick, 17% moan about not having enough space, and a grizzling 9% find their seats not completely to their liking.

Kia have responded to this crisis by preparing an advice guide laughably entitled ‘Kia’s Seven Steps to Kid Heaven’ – no doubt you’ve got a copy pinned to your dashboard. The seven key recommendations are too banal and obvious to be worthy of the space it would eat up to repeat them here.

But what it amounts to is that, unless you can afford the time and energy to go through the most extraordinary elaborate preparation exercise every single time you’re planning to chauffeur your ungrateful child a few hundred yards so that it can indulge in its latest favourite passion, it’s probably best to get it adopted.

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