How to Get a Child to Sit in a Car Seat
Car seats are essential for child safety on the road, but getting toddlers or preschoolers to comply with buckling up can be difficult, especially if they are tired, uncomfortable, or jealous that older siblings get to sit in the "big seats." The key to getting them into their car seats is to avoid a power struggle by keeping it fun and providing distractions.
Preparing for the Transition
Give your child a heads-up.At least five minutes before your car trip, warn the child about where you'll be going, and let them know that means getting in the car seat.
Play up the benefits of the destination.If the journey isn't going to be fun, focus on the fun of the destination. If you're heading to the playground, this part is easy. If you're running errands or going somewhere else your child won't prefer, focus on any small enjoyable aspects of the trip like riding in the shopping cart or getting a lollipop at the doctor's office.
Provide a choice.Getting in the car seat may be necessary, but you can still provide a choice about how. For children who can talk and make choices, tell them: "Do you want me to lift you in, or do you want to climb in yourself?" or "Do you want Mommy or Daddy to put you in?" Giving them some control about the situation will make them feel more comfortable and help avoid a power struggle.
Making it Fun
Make a ritual.To keep things light and fun, make a ritual or game out of getting in the car. For example, pretend to be an astronaut and do a "safety check" before counting down to "lift off," or start a race for who can get in their seat first.
Keep fun items in the car.Let your child play with some preferred toys or books while in the car seat. You can bring along the child's latest favorites, or you can keep some special "car seat only" toys and books for enjoyment only after buckling. If you're comfortable with it, you can also offer your smartphone or tablet for games.
Bring snacks, if appropriate.While you probably don't want to use snacks as a bribe, do bring along some snacks or drinks for longer car rides. Making car rides enjoyable (and avoiding thirst and hunger) will go a long way towards making sure children are compliant next time they have to buckle up.
Offer them fun music or a movie.If your car has the option, remind your child of the fun music or videos that he or she can enjoy on the trip. Make it fun: sing along, laugh at the video, enjoy the ride.
Dealing with Power Struggles
Distract your child from the power struggle.If your child starts to have a tantrum, do anything you can to break the pattern early on. Make a funny face, sing a silly song, do a dance, or show your child something really "cool" inside the car. Distraction can prevent a full meltdown, especially if the child is really just a bit tired or grumpy and needs livening up.
Consider a rewards system.If car seat tantrums are a common occurrence, you may want to implement a star chart or sticker chart system so that your child can earn a reward every time they buckle up without making a fuss. After a certain number of rewards, the child can earn a prize, treat, or special outing.
Wait it out, if it will help.Every child is different, but if yours tends to enter a power struggle but then get bored, just wait. Make it clear that you can't go anywhere or do anything fun until the child buckles up.
QuestionMy three year old frequently has huge tantrums when it's "going back home." It's not just the car seat, but getting to the car. I can force him to the car, but the tantrum can last over an hour. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake the car seem like a happy place. Decorate the seat with him. Have snacks. Say if he behaves, you will give him a reasonable reward.Thanks!
- Every child is different, so some tips and tricks may work for some and others will not.
- Being grumpy, tired, hungry, or upset is normal for everyone, sometimes. Don't punish your child for these emotions - just try to redirect the bad behaviors, keeping things as light and fun as possible.
- If your child is under the age of 12, beware of ever "giving in" to their request to sit in the passenger seat. If you do it once, the child will know it's a possibility in the future too, so he or she will fight even harder next time to get it again.
- Beware of ultimatums if you can't stick to them. Avoid going back on your word or leaving threats of consequences unfulfilled.
- Ensure all child seats are safe, comfortable, and properly fitting. Don't force your child into an uncomfortable seat, because it may not be a safe fit anymore.
Video: Ways to Encourage a Baby to Sit Up
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