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#AskAlyson: Seatbelt Struggles

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My strong willed 6 year old keeps undoing her car seat buckle when we are driving. She refuses to leave it alone and I end up yelling at her to do it back up.  I have to drop her off at school in September and I don’t want to have this fight every morning.   Help!


Hi Help,


Sounds like  you are locked in a power struggle with her.  Her defiance makes you angry and she defeats you because you have no control or ability to stop her from unbuckling!  So, when it’s a power struggle; you want to make sure you don’t win (scream at her until she obeys) nor loose (let her get you upset and defeat you).


Instead – we want to defuse or disengage from her invitation to fight.   To do this, we focus on what we are willing or not willing to do, and leave her to make her own choices.  I would not be willing to yell, or get angry, or drive with a child who is not safely secured.  So simply state “I am unwilling to drive when passengers in my car are not wearing seat belts. I will pull over until everyone is safe with their belt on”.  Then pull the car over, pull out a book and start to read.  Let your little passenger know that they can let you know when they are ready again.  And just read and read without getting emotionally dysregulated.  Now she is not reaching her goal of dominating you.  And she is in control of the situation.  She will likely decide its boring to sit in the car while you read if she doesn’t get the benefit of showing you how powerful she is by upsetting and defeating you in her game.  You are showing her you are not playing this game with her. You can even say  “I am not willing to play the seatbelt game today – let me know when we can drive again.  You can decide for yourself when you’re ready.”  I know this will be inconvenient and slow you down.  But you likely only have to do this one or two or three times before she sees that it’s an ineffective way to dominate you and she’ll abandon this behaviour.


Of course we still have some work ahead of us, because she may just find another method of controlling or dominating you or refusing to be controlled by you.   We have to find ways to empower her and co-operate together instead of being in a constant battle of the wills over who is ruling who!  Give her lots of opportunities to contribute, develop her mastery and skills, to help out in the family and offer her choices and a voice in the family.


Hope this helps!


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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