Practical Parenting Strategies with Dr. Heller View All Posts

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About Practical Parenting Strategies with Dr. Heller

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist and founding partner of The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Stop It Or I Will Turn This Car Around”

Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist and founding partner of The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist and founding partner of The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

Many parents find themselves saying some version of “stop it or I will turn this car around” to their children when driving due to their children’s negative behavior in the car.  Siblings fighting, children yelling, and other negative behaviors are annoying/distracting for the driver, and pose a safety concern for everyone in the car. Here are a few suggestions to help alleviate you wanting to threaten to turn the car around due to your children’s negative behaviors:

1) Identify the most frequent causes of difficulty in the car. Write them down and make a list of ways to address each item. For instance, if your child yells because they are hungry or thirsty, try to give them food or drinks before getting in the car. Depending on the age of your child, leaving a snack or drink accessible to them in the car could be helpful.

2) Stop siblings from fighting in the car. If possible, separate children in different rows of a car. Alternatively, put a small beanbag chair/large pillow in the middle seat between two children and insist that they do not cross the barrier. This can  help cut down on siblings fighting in the car. Provide children with activities to keep them occupied, especially for longer car trips. The use of listening to music on the car stereo, with headphones (as long as it is age appropriate to do so), or even letting them play handheld video games can be helpful.

3) Set consequences for negative behavior before getting in the car and inform your children of these consequences.  If the behavior relates to fighting with siblings, consider setting the same consequences for both children (as long as they are age appropriate) so that even if one child instigates the other one, if the other child retaliates, then both children are held responsible. Often times negative behavior between siblings escalates because one child instigates (either intentionally or not) the other one. Thus, holding both children responsible helps reduce the risk of retaliation.

4) If your children are misbehaving and it is becoming a distraction to driving, pull over when safe to do so and address the situation.

These are just a few suggestions to improve your car time with your children. Safety is a top priority, so if you feel that your driving is being compromised by distractions from your children, please pull over to address the situation and calm down if needed. Trying to identify the likely triggers of your children’s misbehavior and implement ways to stop this before it begins is one of the best ways to cut down on problems in the car.

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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


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