There's nothing more frustrating than driving down the road with your child on the loose in the car. Not only is it frustrating, it's illegal and extremely unsafe. So when your child masters a new skill as exhilarating as unbuckling that car seat belt, what can you do to keep her in place? Here are five great suggestions from Circle of Moms members for keeping your kids buckled down.
1. Stop The Car
For many kids, the easiest and most effective message you can give them is: if everyone is not buckled in, the car doesn't move. Jane S. went through this stage with her son, and solved it by pulling over the car when he would unbuckle himself: "I would turn the car off and take out a book and read, reminding him periodically that the car doesn't go if he isn't in his seat with the belts fastened. We sat up to 45 minutes a few times, and missed several birthday parties. . . .Eventually he got the idea and we only rarely had problems after that."
This method works best when you plan some outings that can be missed without major consequences for your child or yourself. Caroline E. was able to break her daughter of this habit in just a couple days with the help of a sitter: "One day I told her we were going to her fave place (kid zone) but she had to stay in her seat or she would go home to stay with the sitter while I went with the rest of the kids. She had three chances. . . .The third time we went home. The next day we tried again. Took 3 attempts before she got the message. . . . I had to arrange for a friend to stay with her at home and to have other kids along so she felt left out and it was hard to do but worked."
In reality, most of our car trips with preschoolers involve places we have to reach by a certain time, such as preschool, work, doctors, etc. In these instances, your best bet might be to plan some extra time to get there. Circle of Moms member Kristin G. points out that preschoolers learn quickly how to get what they want: "Your child is smart enough to know that if he continues to Houdini his way out, he will not get to go anywhere. If he starts, pull over and turn the car off. Tell him to get back into his seat. Do not move again until he is. Make sure if you are heading to an appointment that you allow for a few stops along the way. Make it very clear that safety is not up for discussion or negotiation at any time. They learn very quickly."
2. Create A Reward System
Some moms find it more effective and less time consuming to come up with a special reward or treat as positive reinforcement for staying in their car seat. Rewards such as a special toy that he only gets to play with if he stays buckled, or stickers, or a piece of candy. As Ricky P. says: "If you can figure out a reward system for him that may help. Kids no matter how old love rewards."
Lindee P. reports success keeping her 3-year-old son in his seat with a unique reward system: "My mom suggested doing a quarter in a cup in the car. Every time he stays buckled or waits for me to say 'okay, unbuckle,' we put a quarter in a cup in the cup holder. When there are 5 coins in the cup, then take him to All-a-dollar [store] and buy him a reward with the money in the cup!"
3. Electronic Distractions
The same electronic games and entertainment devices we use to occupy our kids at other times can work in the car to distract them from messing with their car seat. Circle of Moms member Jill suggests calculators, LeapPads, game systems, or mp3 players. If you have ever considered a handheld DVD player or one mounted in the headrest, this might be a good tactic to keep your child from getting bored enough to start playing with buckles.
4. Buckle Guards
Nowadays if you have a problem, chances are someone has a gadget that claims to solve it. There are a few devices on the market that can be put over the buckles on certain car seats and seatbelts to prevent little hands from unbuckling them. The Angel Guard Car Seat Button Cover (about $20 for a set of 2) works on standard seat belt buckles, while the Houdini Stop (about $22) and Monkey Tyz (about $30) are designed for 3- and 5-point harnesses. Circle of Moms member Gayleen P. used Monkey Tyz and had very positive results: "I used this on my son when he was getting out of the car seat and it stopped him."
Keeping your kids safe is the main priority, and if a gadget accomplishes that then it's probably worth it. While devices such as those mentioned above may solve the problem by preventing your preschooler from physically being able to unbuckle, you still need to teach the safety lesson in the long run. Bri A. warns: "I disagree about getting a new seat and switching buckles- it fixes the 'symptoms' and not the problem. This is about boundaries and expectations."
5. Scare Tactics
Fear can be a healthy motivator when it comes to serious safety issues such as seat belts. When your preschooler is old enough to understand and respect the authority of law enforcement officers, you can use this to your advantage. Paris D. lives in a small town and her local cops were more than happy to help: "I pulled over at the police station and had the officer tell her that it was the law and she would go to jail if she broke the law."
How did you keep your kids from unbuckling in the car?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.