As the “can’t sit still adult” in the family, I tend to be the shuttle driver for our kids. With three kids, we’ve run into an issue that you are probably familiar with if you have siblings, pre-teens, tweens, or teens: the fight for “shotgun!” It’s a fight as old as the Ford Model T. But the origins of the term “shotgun rider” for the front passenger seat of the car go even further back—all the way to the 1850’s, when stagecoaches were used for transportation. In the stagecoach days, a “shotgun guard” rode next to the driver, taking on the job of protecting the occupants of the stagecoach from bandits they may encounter along the way. Riding in the front is a much less dangerous job these days, but it’s one our kids covet.
While we call it “the shotgun solution” in our house, I recognize that in this day and age, some people may prefer to use a different title for this seat. You could also call this the navigator job, radio controller, or simply front seat rider!
Whatever you call it, starting a car ride with a fight for the front seat is like nails on a chalkboard (is that an outdated reference?). But, guess what? After too many car trips that started with a fight, I found an easy way to settle this argument before it even starts.
Here’s how it works: I started with the oldest child and designated him “shotgun rider for this month.” On the first of the following month, the designation moves to the second in line, and the next month to the third. Easy right? There are some exceptions to the system and parents always have the right to revoke front seat privileges for things like poor behavior, bad grades, the overuse of seat buttons, or insert your pet peeve here.
What constitutes an exception, you ask? Well, I give the birthday boy or girl the front seat on his/her special day. There are also exceptions for the absolute need of the front seat (car sickness or injuries that prevent crawling over other sibs) or if only one child is riding with you. However, if two of our three children are riding along and neither of them have the shotgun designation, they both sit in the back. In the event your spouse is along for the ride, the designated shotgunner is relegated to the third row or asked to squeeze in the back seat with the sibs.
What I love about this system is the kids run it! They know when their month is and automatically relegate themselves to the back when Whitney is riding along or it is someone’s birthday. There’s no argument on who shouted “shotgun!” first or running through a busy parking lot to reach the car door before the others. Now they just fight over who had what book first once they find their seats. I’m currently working on a solution for that one.
Maybe you have tried something like this before, or have your own hack. If so, leave a comment or reply to The English Edit email and share your tips and tricks for avoiding sibling arguments. I’d love to hear them—this little nugget has eliminated one area of sibling rivalry for our kids but I’m always looking for ideas for the other 15,000 things they fight about.