For the longest time I thought I was going to avoid this battle. I’ve heard so many moms (and dads!) comment on how it can be impossible to strap a squirming toddler into a car seat when they’ve decided they don’t want to cooperate. And Matthew has always enjoyed riding in the car, so I thought I was doing pretty good! But recently with the transition to being 3 and wanting more independence, he’s been having moments where even though nothing is wrong otherwise, he’s decided that he just doesn’t want to be strapped in.
He makes his body rigid, pushes his belly out, and wiggles back and forth while crying. I can generally keep him in the car seat by just use of force, but it’s impossible to get him into a sitting position where the straps can be safely secured so we can get going. And of course, he’s decided that it’s best to do this in either:
- A highly public area
- On the coldest, snowiest, windiest or rainiest days of the winter where I’m outside exposed to all the elements.
Both situations put me in a bad mood.
Matthew started to do this first with my husband, who would just let him squirm out of the seat. Matthew would then crawl out to a different part of the car, insisting that he was going to sit in that seat instead. Then my husband would try to reason with him and end up getting very upset (because you know how impossible it is to reason with a 3 year old!). I was starting to do the same thing until I realized I could try one simple trick.
Matthew is super ticklish, especially on his belly. And what’s the instinctual reaction when you get tickled? To pull away. So when he starts to resist and push his belly forward so he can’t sit in his seat properly, I just give his belly a little tickle. He immediately forgets that he was resisting, starts laughing and sits perfectly into the car seat position. Normally he says something like “You just made me feel better!” while laughing and smiling, as I pretend like I’m going to keep tickling him as a distraction. All the time I’m getting the straps on as fast as possible. He’s in his seat safely and we’re on the go with no drama.
I know when he’s older that the reasoning behind the car seat will come into play and it’ll be good to teach him the safety factors of why he needs to be in his seat and strapped in. But for now, sometimes it’s just easier to diffuse the tension and keep a positive vibe for the day. I want Matthew to know that I’m on his side, and a good laugh and some bonding is the surest way to make that happen – instead of the full out battle that this situation could become otherwise (and has become in the past!). Plus, I feel like he’ll respond better to learning why the car seat is important when we aren’t in the heat of the moment.
So as a reminder: When your toddler goes rigid on you when getting strapped into the car seat, just give them a little tickle on the belly or where ever else they may respond best. The guaranteed laughter will make them forgot what they were doing, and you can all get on to having a great day together. Yay for no car seat drama!
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All the best,