23 Aug 2022

Children and back seat tantrums: There’s a formula for that!

An academic at Nottingham Trent University has created a formula to tell parents the likely time their child, when travelling in a car, is due to have a tantrum.

Based on the responses from 2,000 parents, Dr James Hind worked out that T= 70 + 0.5E + 15F – 10S. Understood?

To break it down more precisely, T is the time an average child will take to reach a tantrum during a long car journey. This is, insists the research, 70 minutes.

The chance of an infant meltdown is reduced by every minute of entertainment (E), with food (F) also delaying it by 15 minutes. But the presence of a sibling increases the chances of a tantrum by 10 minutes.

Sound familiar? With thousands of drivers making long journeys – for staycations, school holiday trips to visit distant relatives, and/or going on weekends away – the need to deal with child boredom in the car is all too real.

Over two-thirds (68%) of parents suggested boredom as the prime reason for a child’s tantrum, with 62% taking issue with the length of the journey and 57% being hungry.

Dr Hind said in the Guardian: “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.

“Unfortunately, two children with no entertainment and no snacks can brew up a tantrum in just 40 minutes.

“Entertainment is key, but even that fails with really long journey times. Taking breaks to ‘reset the clock’ is important for preventing tantrums, as well as making sure you are not tired while driving.”


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