Expert Blog

Mums and Dads


Mums and dads love to complain endlessly about the incessant and annoying distractions their pesky kids produce during trips in the family motor. They paint a picture of their saintly, grown-up patience in putting up with their sprogs’ easily bored, self-centred behaviour while they calmly negotiate the hazards of Her Majesty’s Highway.

But according to a new survey, their kids are really the ones suffering nobly. And their vehicular demands and queries were merely their attempts to try to keep their easily bored, self-centred, badly-behaved, potty-mouthed parents sweet – and try to avoid an accident, as their elders and betters shout and swear at other drivers and pick their noses.

Two thirds (66 per cent) of 2,000 children surveyed across Europe by Ford said that they find their parents annoying on road trips. And I’m guessing the other third are just being polite. The most irritating parental road habit cited by UK kids (34 per cent) was ‘mum and dad singing’ – something which will no doubt rankle with parents who tell themselves that their caterwauling to The Best of Robbie Williams is ‘to entertain the kids’.

This top parental pet peeve of UK kids was followed by mum and dad ‘picking their noses’. Which is to say, most children would actually rather watch their parents digging around in their nasal cavities than listen to them sing.

In France, the only country that didn’t rank singing behind the wheel as the worst habit, children were twice as likely to complain about their parents shouting at other drivers. Which will no doubt come as a terrible shock to anyone who has ever driven in France.

Overall, 61 per cent of kids across Europe said mum and dad got angry or used ‘naughty words’ – French parents were the worst offenders, at 74 per cent. Though the accuracy of this survey was somewhat called into question by the finding that Italy was the only country in Europe where supposedly less than half of parents lose their temper (39 per cent).

63 per cent of kids did admit however to using the nails-on-a-blackboard phrase ‘are we there yet’ when bored. UK and Italian kids were most likely to ask mum and dad to put on some music. But probably not Robbie Williams.

Three quarters (74 per cent) of UK kids said their parents offer them bribes of various kinds to behave. A quarter (26 per cent) said mum and dad hand over their smartphones for them to play with. No doubt the smart kids had kicked up a fuss to get the phone so their parents couldn’t play with them whilst driving.

A fifth (20 per cent) get to watch a film or TV show. UK parents were the most likely to offer a snack (29 per cent). While 38 per cent of German kids claim their parents don’t need to bribe them to get them to behave in the car. And no doubt they said the car was a better-made one than everyone else’s too.

In news that will be music to dads’ ears, a clear majority of boys and girls across Europe identified dad as the best driver (61 per cent). Though, since most kids don’t have licences, this finding probably shouldn’t be treated as entirely decisive. More likely it will just cause another annoying row between mum and dad during the next family car journey, where mum will angrily cite a study by Privilege car insurers from earlier this year which claimed to show that women were in fact the best drivers.

Forcing their poor kids to distract their badly-behaved folks again by asking for more sweets. Sacrificing their own dental health for the sake of family safety.

Ford sponsored the survey to promote their C-Max ‘multi-activity vehicles’, which the press release tells us have ‘more than 20 clever storage solutions with dedicated homes for sunglasses, smart phones and cups,’ along with ‘USB charging points ensuring that smartphones and tablets will never run out of battery while on the move’. Perish the thought that your phones and tablets should run out of juice in a vehicle full of kids before you reach your destination.

Rather unwisely, the press release goes on to extoll the C-Max’s voice-controlled navigation that can find somewhere to eat through the simple command ‘I’m hungry’.

That, frankly, sounds like a recipe for a very, very long car drive indeed.

Even if it only recognises the parents’ whingeing.


Guest Blogger: Mark Simpson. Journalist, Writer & Broadcaster

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