Jul 17, 2014

Car Seat Wars: They Drive Me Crazy

It has been said that some of the greatest (and blood-churning) battles ever waged in the history of parent-versus-toddler face-offs take place in the backseat of the car. That's right - getting toddlers to sit in their car seat and buckle up can sometimes feel like the fight of the century. 

I came across this comic and thought it neatly summed up the challenges parents face when trying to convince their kids to get into the car seat and buckle.

Does any of the scenarios look familiar? But is it worth battling your child to get him or her buckled up? Most definitely. It is the law here in Singapore but more importantly, it is the most important way to protect our children during car rides.

For me, there can be no compromise. My monkies get buckled up in the car seat whenever we are in the car, no matter what. The wifey and I didn't have it easy from the beginning though.

Back in the days Ash was the only monkie around, he was one tough cookie when it came to getting strapped in the car seat. He would scream blue murder every single time the car seat came within close range, and kick up such a enormous fuss that it almost made me swear off any future siblings for him.

Well, almost... because we eventually succeeded in making yield to the car seat.

How did we do it? We simply let him cry his lungs out, along with his dinner too. Yes, it was heart-wrenching to hear him cry throughout the entire car journey - and even more so to sanitize and scrub vomit off my backseat and window. But it worked out fine in the end (thank goodness for that!). Moral of story? Be persistent, be hard of hearing and invest in loads of cleaning aids.

Of course, there were also a few other tricks we employed to smoothly con get our monkies into car seat without a tantrum:

Create a habit 
Ultimately, everything comes down to this. Because habits are a powerful thing and children are creatures of habit. We fought the crying/vomiting/whining battle with Ash for about three weeks by staying firm and in control, and it was no longer an issue after that.

Keep them occupied
Of course, we did not just leave him to cry for all of the three weeks. In between his pitiful sobs and wails, we stored a box of toys in the car - soft toys, toys with light and sound, even books - which served to distract him for a considerable amount of time.

Make the car seat part of everyday life
One of the methods we tried for Ash was bringing the car seat back to our home and let him sit in it to watch the TV or just simply play in it. It will help to encourage bonding with the car seat, so that it becomes less of a foreign object when it comes to getting buckled up inside the car.

Have a competition
Compared to Ash, Ayd was an absolute angel when it came to car seats. We could just buckle him and he would fall asleep almost instantaneously! Ale was somewhere in between her two brothers. No wailing til the whole-face-turn-red or vomit kind, but still bad enough to make the buckling process a tedious one. There was a period during her terrible-twos stage when it was an absolute chore in trying to belt her up. So I decided to issue her a challenge every time when we get into the car, to see who will be the first to buckle up. Obviously she will win as I make a big show of hurrying and fumbling. But it worked, and I followed that up by declaring that it shall be my turn to win the next time we buckle up!

Delegating authority
Kids love to be the big boss and sometimes, I assign my backseat drivers some authority by putting them in charge of making sure that everyone’s seatbelt is safely buckled. Or, I would ask them to serve as a lookout for me, to ensure that there are no oncoming cars as I am backing out of the parking lot.

One additional tip: give the kids milestones so that they can gauge the duration of the car journey. Whether it is two more streets, three more turns or four more traffic lights, kids will fare better if they are able to tick off various checkpoints throughout the journey and make the ride a tad more bearable.

At the end of the day, common sense prevails - if you do give in and let your child travel without the car seat even once, he or she will most probably try to fight sitting in it the next time. But the good news is that as kids get older, they will outgrow the objection of being strapped in a car seat. Or at least that was what happened to my monkies.

Ironically, I am now faced with a different fight on my hands - who gets to sit in the front seat! With parenting, battles never cease.

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