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Car Seat Rules

Isn't it amazing how quickly children outgrow their car seats? Decades ago, child safety seats were not required, nor where they widely used. However, as research pointed out how likely small children were to become injured in a vehicle collision, the legal system responded by implementing special vehicle safety laws that apply specifically to children. Today, child restraint laws are common in most states.Very small children must be in car seats, older children in booster seats, and children under a certain weight must be restrained with a seat belt. Although following these laws might be important, your child could care less. All she wants to do is move around the car, fidget, and look out the window. Some kids, especially those who have always been in some sort of vehicle restraint system, are perfectly happy to sit quietly in their car/booster seat and watch the world go by. Others hate being restrained, and, as soon as they can manage it themselves, they unhook their restraint and crawl over the seat. Parents who are dealing with this group of kids are often so frustrated they give up.

Creative car seat rules to get your child to stay in her car/booster seat.

  • Pretend the car won't start. Thank goodness kids are easy to fool! If your child won't get into, or stay in, her car/booster seat, tell her that the car won't start if she isn't buckled in. Show her that it won't start by pretending to turn the key. When she buckles in, turn the key and show her how the car starts. Voila! If she wants to go somewhere, she had to be buckled in.
  • Call Santa, a police officer, or some other important person (try the president if you have to). Make a pretend call and explain how your child isn't following the rules. Kids will often scramble to get into their seat rather than being tattled on. Note: be careful with this one. You don't want to lose your own authority.
  • Pull over. It's not ok to let your child roam the car as you drive. If she has escaped from her car seat, pull over and secure her again. Sure, it's a pain, but it's better than the injuries she may receive in an accident. This also shows her that it's not ok, under any circumstances, to get out of her car seat when the car is moving.
  • The Safety Star System. Try making a chart that helps your child keep track of her successes. She can check off each time she stays in her seat. After a certain number of checks, you can reward her with a small treat and/or a special award certificate. You can also try using a hat, badge, or pin to get her to stay in her car/booster seat. Buy a plastic crown that she is allowed to wear only if she's in her seat.
  • Let her choose her own seat. Kids respond well to rules they've had a hand in making. When it comes time to buy a booster seat, take her shopping to pick out her own "big girl" seat. Let her decide where (in the back seat) she wants to put the booster.

The best way that you can teach your child the importance of vehicle safety is to set a good example. Buckle your own seatbelt, stay off your cell phone, and drive carefully. You're carrying precious cargo!