School carpool etiquette for parents.
Friendly relationships have soured because of carpooling. Oh, it’s not usually the children involved; it’s the parents. School carpools are practical, but without a little etiquette, practical can quickly turn into intolerable.
These tips can apply to children of all ages. However, I am focusing more on the older child. You know the age; when in their mind they are practically grown.
- Don’t lecture or give advice to someone else’s child. (Naturally a comment or two will slip. Keep your parenting advice to yourself, especially if the matter is of consequence–not all families think alike.)
- If you learn about something that is of concern to you, it does not give you the right to lecture the parent, buy them parenting books, or take the child into your confidence. (If you must, speak directly to the parent.)
- Don’t speak ill of another parent or child. (Eventually they’ll hear about it. Besides, think about how uncomfortable the child might feel. Talk about etiquette!)
- Don’t intentionally manipulate the conversation to obtain private information about the child’s family. (That’s just wrong! …beyond etiquette.)
- Make sure your child is on time. (Use this as an opportunity to teach them about responsibility, consideration for others, and integrity. If being on time isn’t “your thing”, then don’t carpool!)
- If your child is late, send the carpool on its way. Waiting even five minutes can make the others late. (Drive your child yourself.)
- Make sure your son or daughter showers, brushes their teeth, and wears clean clothes. (It is inconsiderate to stink it up in the car. Besides, eventually someone will point it out.)
- If you have concerns about a child, speak directly to the parent. (Calmly and privately. As you know, parents can be very touchy when it comes to their child.)
- Don’t burden or delay the carpool driver with details about your child’s schedule, or yours. (If you have to share something, do it later.)
- If your child is staying home, inform the driver as soon as possible. Don’t wait until they honk you out of your sleep while they wait and wait in the driveway.)
- If you cannot drive, call one of the other drivers immediately. (Naturally, a flat tire, sudden illness or any other “out of your control” dilemmas are forgiven.)
- Once your child is of a certain age and requests that you not stand in the driveway blowing kisses as he/she drives away, try to understand. (Blow them kisses before the garage door opens. And please, don’t send him/her off screaming either.)
- If you decide that a school carpool just isn’t for you, be sure to give the group at least two weeks notice. (Be flexible; some families depend on this arrangement.)
- If your driving habits are irregular (text, speed, apply make-up, play music/news loudly, you are a grouch, run through the red light, etc.), out of courtesy and safety for others, stop it! (You do not have the right to endanger other people’s children.)
- Don’t insist that they tell you about every detail that happened in school. (If you don’t say much, you’d be surprised at how much you’ll hear.)
- Don’t over do it in trying to be the “cool mom/dad”. (Yes, your child will be embarrassed. Oh, you don’t care? Good luck with “mutual respect”.)
- If you resent or dislike one of the parents, please do not take it out on the child.
- Don’t make an unplanned stop without the parent’s consent. (A pit stop at the local quick-mart might seem insignificant to you, but not to the other parent. Discuss at pre-carpool meeting.)
- I plead with you; please don’t air out your family’s dirty laundry in front of the other children. Especially not your child’s personal stuff. (Talk about shutting down the doors of communication and losing your child’s trust and possibly respect.)
- And finally, remember how you felt at their age. (Need I say more?)
Final thoughts: A school carpool is a commitment. Consider holding a brief meeting with all of the drivers before the school year begins. Discuss boundaries. What is acceptable to you? Do you allow eating in your car? Can you stop for an ice cream after school? Will you bring your dog along? What if someone has allergies?
The dilemmas that arise are usually in the details that were not discussed. With time, all you will have is built up resentment. Remember, it is all about the children’s experience. You have the power to set a positive tone for their day.
P.S. If the children are soon-to-be drivers, remember that they’re watching you.
Helping Businesses and Individuals Find Success Through Better Communication and Social Skills
Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, Social Skills and Civility Presenter, Media Source, and author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.”
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