Help me properly buckle up the little kids
May 11, 2012 4:25 PM   Subscribe

I spoiled my kids, now how to reverse it? Specifics about car seat

I know my parenting is on the too loose side, not the too strict side. Because of my parenting, the kids have some behavior that shows that they are spoiled, not disciplined enough. Now the most critical issue that I have to work on is to let the kids properly use car seat. I have a 9 yr old, she is big enough, so she does not need car seat. The two younger ones saw what the big sister can do and hate car seat, especially the big car seat that is for under 3 yr old. Booster seat is better, but still they prefer to sit in the back row directly without any car seat (they will still have one seatbelt on their laps). I need to yell at them, use candy to make them sit on car seat, but sometimes nothing works. I gave up and just do local ride without them sitting on car seat, with the car seat still present in the car. But I feel terribly guilty and nervous about this. But HOW do I make them just do it? Any tips? Often time, I am under time pressure, I need to buckle them up under 1 min and just go, drive, so there is no time to wait it out. so HOW? please help me get this discipline issue solved. Many thanks.
posted by akomom to Education (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest doing a trial run on a weekend when there's no time pressure. "Hey kids, surprise. We're going to get ice cream. Let's get in our car seats." Then you can do all the training and re-training when there's no pressure on you to solve the problem immediately.

Secondly, you need to re-frame this and how you approach applying rules in general. I see too many parents approaching their children as if they're negotiating with them, or persuading them. You're not selling them a set of rules.

Which is why I suggest doing this from a position without time pressure, because then you hold all the cards. "We're not going anywhere until you're in your seat properly."

And then you just sit there and stare at them. You're not negotiating. This is how it's going to be. Nobody's going anywhere. Period.

Do this a few times and you'll have fixed the problem in the short run, but in the long run, you need to constantly be re-framing conversations. Just say it. "This is not a negotiation." They'll eventually understand what is and isn't a proper time to step up and ask for what they want.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:33 PM on May 11, 2012 [46 favorites]

I feel your pain on the stubborn child front. It can be so difficult!

Could you involve their big sister? Explain to her the importance of her little sibs being properly fastened in a car seat? Maybe she could help buckle them in.

I also sympathize with the needing to buckle them in "under 1 min" but maybe this is where you can help your cause. Alter your pre-leaving the house routine so you have a couple of extra minutes. They MUST learn that this is a non-negotiable. What if you made a chart that went in the car with stickers of things they love, and once the buckle goes "snap!" each child chooses a sticker to put on the chart. If you continue to bribe with candy, they won't change because they are being rewarded for their negative behavior ("I pitch a fit, I get candy.") Be overly "proud" of them when they comply. The best way to curb negative behavior is by showing great enthusiasm over proper behavior. We all love to be recognized for accomplishments (even if it seems ridiculous to us as adults that a car seat would be such a big deal).

I also second the above comment- plan an outing where time is not a factor and establish that car seats are in fact, not a choice, and the car doesn't move until everyone's strapped in.

Good luck!
posted by muxnaw at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2012

I'd just add that if you get "but you let me before" you just say "yes. And I realized it was not safe and now it is carseat every time." Then return to the non-negotiating quiet wait outlined above.
posted by Zen_warrior at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Tell them you just found out it's illegal. Sorry, it's out of your hands, you'll get in big trouble. And then introduce them to the concept of non-negotiable, as others are saying.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:55 PM on May 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Besides just making it so (good advice above)

When I've had issues like this will my happily willful toddlers, sometimes a reference to external forces helps as well (e.g. There's a new law that says that all kids under X years need to be in car seats. We need to do this to keep you safe and to make sure that I don't get in trouble")

Not sure how old your younger kids are, but this has helped with my 4 year old over the last year or so.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2012

Stop giving them candy. They don't get a reward for following the rules. You tell them what to do, and if they won't do it, you make them. You're bigger than them; buckle them in by force if necessary and ignore them completely when they cry and scream. Do not get frazzled; speak to them with calm authority. If they repeat the behaviour, threaten them with consequences, then deliver - no TV for a week, whatever. If they unbuckle themselves, the car ride doesn't happen and they spend the day in their rooms by themselves. Repeat until they realize that getting a reaction out of you is not going to happen and learn to respect your authority. Extend this to other areas of discipline.
posted by Dasein at 4:59 PM on May 11, 2012 [16 favorites]

There are certain things that, as the parent, you make non-negotiable. It is not your job to be your kids' friend. It is your job to be their parent, and that means sometimes they won't like you. Especially when it comes to issues of their safety.

"We are going in the car. You WILL sit in your car seat or we won't go anywhere," and you stick to it. If you have to go somewhere and they won't sit in their car seats, you either don't go or get a babysitter.

There should be no negotiating on this issue. None. It is an END OF STORY issue.

And you need to stop letting them ride without a car seat like yesterday. It is almost certainly against the law if you anywhere within the US, and if you get stopped for it, CPS will quite possibly be called about it.
posted by zizzle at 5:04 PM on May 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

We had a phase of our two not wanting to get in carseats. What I said others may not agree with, but it worked.

I guilted them into it. I explained that if they werent buckled in their chairs, mommy could get pulled over. The policeman will see they aren't buckled up according to the law and mommy will go to jail. Do you want mommy to go to jail? That got a resounding Noooooooooo.

After that, no problem!
posted by Sweetmag at 5:09 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

When time is tight, I find that I can generally speed up my dilatory toddler by giving her a fixed period of time in which to choose to do the right thing, after which the choice will be made for her. With carseats, it goes like this: I count to 10. If she gets into the carseat herself by 10, then she gets a book to take into the car. Otherwise, I put her in the carseat myself, buckle her in, and she gets no book. Either way, the carseat is happening. In disciplinary terms, it's nice to put a time limit on things, so you don't have to risk an indefinite period of standoff and foot-dragging.

The countdown technique will work much better if you've first established that all kids MUST use carseats, using the great techniques suggested above.
posted by Bardolph at 5:23 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

The "we have to because it's the law" angle worked with my son on things like that, too. After he was born, a county social worker came through the maternity ward surveying families. She had really uncomfortable looking red shoes and became the central figure in all our "don't screw up the child rearing" jokes, so she occupied a sort of bogey man position in our son's early childhood.

"What's that?"


"Can I have some?"



"Because the Lady with the Red Shoes will come get us."

That also worked with the booster seat, which he hated, then whether or not he could ride up front.

I guess you gave to assess how you feel about raising your children to live in fear of county social workers, and whether or not "because Some Outside Authority says" is a good reason. The latter started to get to me a little, so as he's gotten older I've started to tack on things like "plus, if we were in an accident you could get hurt really bad if you're not {in the desired state}." Since his mom's a social worker, too, I think the former will work itself out.
posted by mph at 5:29 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter was very oppositional. She defied me on pretty much everything I ever tried to get her to do from the time she learned the word "no."

The only thing I never had an issue with her was the car seat. And the reason why is because I simply never, ever, ever let her ride in the car without it. Every time we got in the car, she went to the seat without question.

On the other hand, I had a friend who fought with her toddler constantly about the car seat. But the thing is, her rule was never consistent. She'd let the child out of the car seat if she didn't feel good, or if she was fussy, or if she simply fought so long and hard she wore the mom down. The kid knew there were exceptions to the rule and so she fought to make every ride an exception.

Take someone else's advice about re-training to the seat, but once you've got them trained take my advice and MAKE NO EXCEPTIONS. No "just this once" no matter whether the kid is fighty, fussy, whiny, tantruming, teething, flu-ish... none. Because if you give in once you will lose all the ground you gained and then some, because they will no longer believe you when you say it's a rule. You'll lose credibility as well as reinforcing their negative behavior.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:30 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Often time, I am under time pressure, I need to buckle them up under 1 min and just go, drive, so there is no time to wait it out.

Start the leaving process earlier. Or be late. "Sorry, the kids were having an issue" will get you out of a lot of tardiness, especially if it's something kid-related.
posted by Etrigan at 5:35 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are presumably bigger than your children. You could just buckle them in whether they like it or not, dodging any ensuing thrashing as best you can and utterly ignoring any screaming and/or pleading. This also works with uncooperative children who do not want to wear clothes, who will not go to their rooms, and so on.

Note that you can also physically pick up and remove children who are being loud in a restaurant.

In the case of the car seat, this admittedly only works until they can unbuckle themselves.
posted by Andrhia at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start the leaving process earlier. Or be late. "Sorry, the kids were having an issue" will get you out of a lot of tardiness, especially if it's something kid-related.

Anecdotally, I have heard that you only need to pull the car over and/or turn around and go home and/or leave them staring dolefully from the living room window (especially if you were going somewhere fun, like to get ice cream or see a movie) ONCE before kids get the message that the seat belt, car seat, etc, is non-negotiable.

"You have to sit in your car seat or we are not going to get ice cream." Wait the little suckers out, you're an adult and you have a rich inner life, imagine you are in Jamaica on the beach or something. They'll fold.

"Get back in your car seat or we are going home instead of getting ice cream." Turn car around. Go home even if they get back in their car seats.

Unfortunately, I can see this backfiring if you are taking them somewhere they hate to go, so I like Cool Papa Bell's suggestion to do the practice runs with fun destinations combined with Bardolph's countdown plan where the child gets in the car seat no matter what but has a treat at stake if they do it in a timely fashion.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:44 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

They need to use the car seat 100% of the time. If you make them use it half the time they will argue a little. If you make them use it 90% of the time they will argue a lot. If you make them use it 99% of the time but still give in 1% of the time they will make your life a continuous torment.

They need to know there is zero chance of them riding without the car seat. Then they won't argue with you about it.

Also seconding those people who suggest telling them against the law. If they ride without the car seat Mommy will go to jail and Kiddies will be sent by DSS to foster parents. You just found this out, you don't break the law, end of story.
posted by alms at 6:11 PM on May 11, 2012

Call your local police department and ask if an officer will speak to your children for you.

Explain to your children that driving is difficult and they must be buckled up and sitting quietly or you might have an accident and you would all die in a fiery crash. Then, whenever they start to act up and ignore your first warning, swerve a bit, scream, and then say, "I'm so sorry, I was distracted and we almost died." After the first few times, they will settle down. I've done this. It really works.

These are two extreme, short term solutions. For the long term, get yourself into a parenting class or start going to therapy. Children need limits and boundaries to grow up healthy and safe.
posted by myselfasme at 6:14 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think there's a LOT of great advice in here. But I'm not sure about using threats of outside forces like police officers, social workers, etc. to get your children to comply. First, I think it's important that your children obey you because you're the parent and not because you might get arrested. They need to respect your authority. Second, you don't want your children to be afraid of the police, social workers, or other governmental authorities. Kids need to learn that those people are there to help so that if they get lost or something bad happens they know they should go to the police. If you tell them that the police are going to come and take you away to jail, it might make them less likely to approach police for help when they need it.

But really, I think you just need to tell them that you're the adult, you're the decider, and it's not negotiable no matter how much they whine, plead, beg, and cry.

This is a good reminder for me with my students. Give into them once and they'll never stop whining.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 6:25 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

My parents convinced us that the car would not turn on until everyone's seatbelts were buckled. I believed this for much longer than I should have. Perhaps you can tell your children that you had the car "fixed"?
posted by Maarika at 6:34 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If they can unbuckle themselves, you can use duct tape.
posted by bq at 6:52 PM on May 11, 2012

Oh for the love of all that is holy, do NOT duct tape your into their seats. That is incredibly dangerous!! I'm assuming you already knew that, though.
posted by hasna at 7:57 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

^ your kids, of course.
posted by hasna at 7:58 PM on May 11, 2012

Tell them you're not starting the car until everyone is properly buckled in.

Better yet, considering that we're clearly talking about toddlers/extremely young children, YOU buckle them in. Period. Any unbuckling results in an immediate pull over and fix. Period. Repeated antics result in turning around and going home. If the overall tendency doesn't stop, stat, take away the privilege of going somewhere they want to go. ("We can't go to Burger King for dinner tomorrow if you don't stay in your seats.")

And HOLD to this stuff. Be firm. Don't cave to whining. You're the adult. They are the children. This is a completely rational request on your part. Also, do your own part by wearing a seatbelt and following other vehicular rules.

I was irrationally afraid of my parents threats to "pull over RIGHT NOW if you don't stop" and/or "turn this car RIGHT AROUND and go home" as a child. Seriously, that was as huge a threat as bodily harm or possibly even death. For reasons I cannot explain. Your kids have no idea how powerless you actually are.
posted by Sara C. at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2012

My friend lets her kid ride with the shoulder belt behind her.This winter, my daughter was with them (properly buckled up) when they hit an icy patch of road and crashed badly. My friends daughter hit her head pretty badly. My kid was unharmed.
posted by vespabelle at 8:15 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Duct taping the buckle is fairly common. My sister never had this problem, she never drove the kids anywhere with out them being properly secured. And these are not easy kids!!
posted by wandering_not_lost at 10:53 PM on May 11, 2012

First, I think it's important that your children obey you because you're the parent and not because you might get arrested. They need to respect your authority. Second, you don't want your children to be afraid of the police

Just wanted to disagree with this advice a little bit...First, there are so many times and ways a parent has to teach a child to respect his/her direct authority, and the process overall can be so draining, there's no need to borrow extra conflict. This particular issue (at least if the OP is in the States) is easy and straightforward because it does not even need to be a power struggle between mom and kids; it's a matter of law. akomom has no choice in the matter, and therefore neither do the kids. Even a three-year-old can understand this.

Second, teaching that we should be "afraid" of police if we are breaking a law is not a bad thing. That's the whole thing you tell a child about a police officer--that his or her job is to help keep us safe and to stop people who are doing bad things. We do not want to be people who do bad (or unsafe) things, and if we do break the law, we will get a ticket and have to pay lots of money. So yeah, akomom, I agree with posters above that you should appeal to the law and make this simply non-negotiable going forward.

(Also, don't worry, your kids aren't "spoiled." They just need to be redirected. After a few weeks of riding in carseats, consistently with no exceptions, they'll completely forget that it wasn't always like that.)
posted by torticat at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2012

This won't help immediately, but once you've got the non-negotiable part down -- when my 4yo is a bit balky about getting in, I pretend to "sneeze" her in. A bunch of fake ACHOO! in her direction, sneezing her towards the seat. Hilarious! Or, er, well, find the equivalently funny thing for your kids, and use that. It works, it's just Mum being silly, there's no power struggle, and no negative association with getting into the car and getting buckled in.

FWIW I find the pages here to be stuffed with great advice on discipline.
posted by kmennie at 4:21 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here are a few things I've been reading about toddler discipline (we have a one year old):

and (which specifically contains an anecdote about a car seat tantrum, and a bridge analogy I really like)


I am SO not an expert on this stuff, and I worry a lot about my little dude being spoiled because it's already hard to say no to him, but I did find these articles informative and helpful as far as how to think about this stuff and how to act.
posted by hought20 at 6:46 AM on May 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the encouragement, ideas and tips. I think it's the key thing is to stick to 100% of the requirement, no negotiation or give ins. I will take this issue on seriously get it solved once and for all. I want to use both sticker chart and other forms to let them know the consequence. I will drive them to police station if I have to just to show the consequence (hopefully I don't have to do this). I will start on weekend rides, and leave more time for school days. Thx everybody.
posted by akomom at 8:22 AM on May 12, 2012

whenever they start to act up and ignore your first warning, swerve a bit, scream, and then say, "I'm so sorry, I was distracted and we almost died."

Though I don't have kids, I have been one, and I feel like somebody ought to be refuting this recommendation. "Whoops, you almost died just there" will instill either (i) terror or (ii) insouciance toward death, and "whoops, you almost caused the death of everyone in your family" will instill guilt. It's a suboptimal way to change a kid's behavior for the same reasons that "you'll go to hell if you don't obey" is a suboptimal way to change a kid's behavior.
posted by foursentences at 10:38 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, you don't need to take them to the police to scare them - take them to the fire station for motivation. Most fire houses will do install checks on carseats, and if you take the nice fireperson aside and explain that you are having some compliance issues maybe they can help explain that it's really important to ride properly in your car seat because it keeps you safe. (I would imagine you are not the first or the last person to have this problem, they've probably done this song and dance before.) And then OMG FIRETRUCKS! and then also they learn that they can ask fire- and police-people for help when they need it. And so when they need a reminder, you can bring up how we all learned to ride safely in the car the day we went to see the firetruck.

Call your city non-emergency/info number and ask about car seat checks. They'll direct you to whoever you need to arrange it with.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:54 AM on May 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

Children can be willful. Comes with the job. Our kids know that if we start counting, and get to three, something bad will happen. In this case, it'd probably be getting picked up in an undignified manner and dumped in the car seat. You can't be their friend, you can't negotiate with them, you can't bribe them. All that backfires. Giving them a short period of time to come to grips with the inevitable seems to be okay, or at least it has been for our kids, and I've met other parents who use the technique too.
posted by jgreco at 7:23 PM on May 12, 2012

It might help to put it in the context of Other Stuff That Keeps Us Safe. My kid was always fascinated by sprinklers, emergency doors, fire extinguishers, etc. and liked to ask about how to use them and when. Car seats are in that category; we have them for the same reason we have smoke detectors and stoplights and lifejackets. Because Very Smart People figured out that it made us safer to use them.

You've gotten lots of other good advice, and honestly, it's ok to be late somewhere if you had to sit in the driveway for 10 minutes to make your kid get in the car seat. Whatever embarassment you feel is way less than the guilt you would feel if they were hurt in a wreck because you didn't make them put it on, right?

Sometimes people roll their eyes at us because we take the time to explain things to our kid (when we can); it's great to give them a "why" when you're making them do something. If that's still not good enough, you just have to stick to it. Not like they can drive themselves there.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Old-timer web designer looking to get back up to...   |   Where to look for electrical engineering jobs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.