How do you Get Your Toddler in the Car if They Refuse?

Car Seat

This is a subject that is very close and personal to me after my Saturday evening. My husband and I are the very proud, very happy parents to four beautiful little ones. Three girls (almost 6, 3 and 10-months) and a little boy (10 months – he’s a twin) are the little people we love so much. Our oldest and our twins are the easiest babies that ever did exist on the face of the planet. Our 3 (almost 4) year-old is the child that has given me more gray hair than my mother and I’m not slated to turn 32 for 8 more months. She’s a firecracker. She’s beautiful, intelligent, sweet and she’s a raging monster. Well, she’s not a monster; she’s actually very kind-hearted and loving. But she is stubborn to the point that bribery does not work. She’s not in it for anything. She wants what she wants, she likes what she likes and she doesn’t give a you-know-what about what anyone else thinks or wants. She can ignore you like you are dead to her. She can smile and make your heart melt, and she can have a very occasional (thank you God that it’s VERY occasional) meltdown so severe that it takes every ounce of your being to calm down and stay cool.

That’s what she did on Saturday night. We took all four kids to our niece’s birthday party. It was at a bowling alley. Our older girls love to bowl. The babies love to sit in their stroller, play with their toys and watch. It was a fun-filled family evening with lots of friends and family. Pretty ideal, we’d say. Until, that is, it was time to leave. Our daughter didn’t want to go home. She wanted to keep bowling. That meant I had to carry her from the bowling alley to my SUV while she kicked me, screamed, wriggled around in my arms, refused to wear shoes and made it look like she was being kidnapped. In fact, I was wishing the police would come take me away and question me for kidnapping at that point so that I could walk away from her and someone else would become responsible for her (it was bad). I was then left with this issue; my husband was in the bathroom inside with our oldest and my mother-in-law was getting the twins together and waiting on him. I had to put Ava in the car. By myself. And she wasn’t interested. What’s a mom to do when her toddler doesn’t want to get in the car seat? Well, she has to get creative.

Count to 10

Let your toddler know you mean business. What works for us is the good old, “I’ll count to 10 and if you are not sitting in that seat so I can buckle you up, we are XYZ,” it usually works. She will sit down, we can buckle her and she doesn’t lose XYZ. You can refuse to turn the DVD player on in the car, take the books away from her, not have dessert, not play outside; whatever you want. It usually works.

Force It

Sometimes you have to force it, as I did this weekend. It’s not easy when they’re dong the screaming, writhing, body stiffening corpse of dead weight thing, but you can do it. Just be very careful since you could accidentally hurt a child that’s behaving like this. What I do is brace one arm across her chest to keep her arms in place, loosen the straps so I have more give, click the buckles between her legs and then work on getting her arms in the straps. Once I finally have her buckled, I tighten the straps. It’s time-consuming and it’s a process, but it’s sometimes the only way.

Get Scary

Kids know when you’re overwhelmed and angry, and they don’t often care. But sometimes you have to let go of the anger and get scary. Sometimes I have to put my nose to hers and say in my softest, hardest, firmest teeth-clenched so tight they hurt kind of voice, “If you do not get in this seat so mommy can buckle you up right this second, I’m going to take you home, put you to bed and remove every single toy from your room for the rest of the afternoon/night,” and wait for it. 99% of the time your kid will listen to scary mommy because this is not something they’re used to and they’re worried. But just in case, make sure whatever you threaten with is something you can follow through with when you get home.

Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Evenflo


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