If DD goes into meltdown mode in the car, she has started unbuckling herself. It's a power issue for her, and I've tried as well as dh to help her understand the dangers of unbuckling, how we can get pulled over and get a ticket, etc. She says she "doesn't care" when she's in this state.
My sister died at the age of 15 because she wasn't buckled in a car and was tossed from the vehicle. Buckling up is a SERIOUS issue in our family (as I'm sure it is for other families), so I know she's acting out during her meltdowns and unbuckling because she knows she's not supposed to. After she's calm, she feels sorry. We talk about it often. Each time she promises she will not unbuckle anymore, yet cannot keep her promise.
She's been out of the 5-pt harness for a while, and now sits in a car buckled booster. I've considered getting another larger 5-pt harness, but she was able to unbuckle herself while still in it anyway. She is really good at buckles.
I've though about getting a lock for the seat belt. She hates the idea of not being able to buckle/unbuckle herself, and talking about solutions with her doesn't heed results. Again, she's sorry she does it, but as soon as she gets angry in the car, it's the first tactic she pulls out.
She doesn't unbuckle everytime. But at this point, we're at about 3 meltdowns per week in the car. I pull over as much as I can until she can calm down, but sometimes when I'm on the highway, it takes a minute to safely pull over. Not to mention, it can take a while to get her calm enough to sit back down, and sometimes, we just need to get somewhere.
Any ideas? Anybody else have this issue?
*edited to add/delete a few things from my original post
She's five. Lately, she's been getting angry at just about everything. We're currently on an extended trip due to my husbands working out of state (we are with him). She has made it very clear that she wants to go back home. I understand, and I have empathy for her. I'm almost positive the root of most of her meltdowns are because she wants to go home, and she has no control over going home. We look at a calendar, talk about how we can make the most of being here, call friends family at home, etc.
This particular meltdown, she was thirsty. I forgot to take her water bottle (which we ALWAYS take with us when we leave, because she always gets thirsty in the car). We were almost at Target, and I told her as soon as we got inside, I would get her a bottle of water. She saw a Starbucks before we got to Target, and said no, let's get water at Starbucks NOW! and proceeded to unbuckle.
Most of the times she's unbuckled in the car are because of either 1. She doesn't want to go to the destination we are heading to 2. She's hungry/tired/thirsty 3. Some unpredictable reason
This morning, I showed her videos of crash test dummy kids that weren't buckled. She cuddled up in my lap as we talked about how when she's upset, I know she wants to show me, but unbuckling is not a good way to show me how she's upset, and that it only puts her in danger. We had no problems today, and am hopeful the videos helped.
If you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear. We'll be on a 4-day road trip back home in a couple of weeks and need all the ideas I can possibly get.
Wow, what a tough situation. It sounds as if she has a high need for autonomy right now, especially with all the changes going on. At the same time, I understand that you need her buckled in.
One of my kids went through a phase of unbuckling at age four, for similar reasons. While I did emphasize safety, I ended up deciding not to give her all the detailed reasons why being unbuckled could be dangerous. I would back off the worst-case-scenario thing, and not show your DD any more videos. I don't think she's quite old enough to understand the logic of it all (though an eight-year-old might be able to). And I think talking about being injured or killed runs the risk of making her really afraid to ride in a car.
What if at the start of a car trip, you allow extra time and go through a list of everything that will make her feel comfortable enough to stay buckled. If hunger and thirst are issues (as they were for my daughter who did this), can you let her choose some fun snacks and drinks to pack along? Maybe even a grab bag of surprise little toys for the longer trips? Promise to stop someplace she would like to go? Are you okay with her watching a DVD for a longer trip? This might keep her distracted. This is what we did with my daughter, and it worked almost immediately. The idea was to give her something specific that she could enjoy on each trip. A surprise DVD checked out from the library, a little bag of chocolate covered raisins, a new paperback book, a promise to stop for a milkshake a half-hour into the drive, etc.
In the case you described, where your DD wanted the water RIGHT NOW from Starbuck's instead of waiting for Target, I would say, "Okay, we'll stop at Starbucks if you stay buckled!" and let her see you turning into Starbuck's. It might be annoying when you're like two minutes from Target and would prefer to combine the two stops into one but I think it would give her a clear message that her needs are being heard. My daughter, at age seven, still has a very difficult time delaying her needs once she gets hungry or thirsty. I'm not perfect--like you, I occasionally forget to pack the water or the snacks--but when I do, I'm willing to stop ASAP to get her something. She doesn't unbuckle these days, but she still falls apart.
You're right. She wants to be in control of everything she can possibly control right now, because her physical body is in a place she does NOT want to be. She really has had a hard time adjusting to being in California vs. Texas. Our 8yr is having a blast and wants to go everywhere all the time and explore! DD on the other hand doesn't want to leave the condo, and when we finally help her understand she'll have fun at our destination and get in the car, she usually changes her mind, unbuckles, and will yell/cry that she wants to go back home NOW.
I LOVE your suggestions. It will help her associate the car being a fun place to get what she needs/wants, instead of a vehicle that took her away from her home. Today, 5 minutes away from our condo after leaving the farmers market, she said "I'M THIRSTY!!!" and her water bottle was unfortunately bone dry. Thankfully I had just filled up our 5-gallon filtered water bottle. Instead of saying, we'll be back at the condo in five minutes, I pulled over, and poured a bit of the 5-gallon bottle into her little cup. She felt heard, and was content.
Amazing what happens when we put our kids needs first, instead of putting convenience first. I appreciate the reminder and your helpful suggestions!
I told mine that I don't take "unsafe passengers." Since the day I told them that I would not take even an adult who refused to stay buckled, and told my 5 year old unbuckler that this choice would result in her being grounded from riding in the van for a week, I have not had an issue with unbuckling.
lovin DH since 1/04, best mom for my 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), one 13 wk (10/13) and 5/15 just your average multigenerational living family!!
Just get the lock for the seat belt. Too bad if she hates it. Until she can be trusted to keep her seat belt buckled she doesn't get to be in control of it. This is a safety issue and she is obviously not able to fully understand the possible consequences of her actions and does not have the self control yet to stop herself when she is in the middle of a tantrum.
Of course you want to avoid meltdowns, anywhere, but in this case I would just get the lock. It is not worth the risks. If she is upset with it you can build in a way she can earn removing it - one week without meltdowns in the car or something similar with the understanding that the minute she unbuckles again the lock will go back on.
Surviving sleep deprivation one day at a time with dd (Oct '11) & ds (Oct '08).
I think you should get the lock and give her a chance to earn it back with safe car behavior. Of course, I'd also pair this with the suggestions that pps gave for helping meet her car and autonomy needs as well, but IMO safety in a motor vehicle is NON NEGOTIABLE and the car is not a place where I want to be held hostage to a horrible tantrum... it is hard enough to drive safely- even long enough to pull over- with a screaming baby or child in the car-- but stress and danger x100 if there is the risk of her unbuckling at that same time. I think you can be a supportive and kind parent without having to sacrifice acutal physical safety. Something to the effect of,
"I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that you are comfortable in the car. I wrote a little check list and put it with my keys to help me remember to pack your water, a snack, and to bring along some of your books/toys. Doing those things are my job because I want you to be happy and comfortable. BUT, it is also my JOB to keep you safe. It is NEVER ok to take off a seatbelt while the car is moving. When you get very angry or upset, you are not able to remember that important rule even though you understand it at other times. That is OK- a lot of people have a hard time remembering rules and doing the right thing when they are extremely upset, you are not the only person that happens to. BUT even though I understand, I have to protect you- so until there are ZERO screaming meltdowns in the car, I have to put the lock on your seatbelt to keep you safe. Since I never know which times you are going to unbuckle, the lock will stay on until you are able to behave safely in the car. You can be upset, you can tell me how you feel and what you want, you can cry. But you can not act in an unsafe way that makes it hard for me to drive safely- like screaming- or makes it dangerous for you to be in the car."
These things would not be debatable for me... I think we can be supportive parents who honor our children's feelings and needs without knowingly sacrificing safety. Its too much for her to be able to maintain basic car safety when she is overly emotional, so the parents have to step in to control that part of the issue so that there is not a terrible, life altering/ending consequence due to a stage/behavior that will soon be outgrown anyway.
sorry to be doom and gloom.. but I'm also the parent who has told my 6 year old that she'll lose her bike for a month every time I see her on it without a helmet for the entire time she lives in my home.
My mom would refuse to even put the car in drive when I was little if seat belts weren't on( however when my sister died in an accident at the age of 13 her seat belt didn't help at all, being an EMT I've really seen that it can go both ways, a little off point here, moving on). It may be inconvenient for you but maybe you could pull over as quickly and safely as possible, pay no attention to her..personally I would use my phone to check facebook... and tell her you aren't going anywhere until she puts her seat belt back on and that the quicker she puts it back on the quicker you can get to Target to get her some water like you told her the first time! Stay strong and good luck!
Mother of two spectacular girls, born mid-2010 and late 2012
I would also try giving her as much autonomy as you can in as many ways as possible. For anything that isn't a safety concern, step back and ask yourself how important it is, and if it isn't very important, let her have her way. Kids this age need autonomy and it makes sense that she'd look for it every place she can. She might back off on important issues if she has more autonomy elsewhere, and it'll be easier for you to fight through this huge issues when you haven't had to fight this battle over a dozen other things earlier in the day.
Yes - this is about what I would do. In addition to what the other posters talked about with regards to making things as pleasant as possible, talking and etc.
Would it be possible for you to ride in the back with her and prevent her from unbuckling herself? Is it possible this could be a boredom issue? If so, what activities does she have to keep herself occupied in the car? Can you ask for her help/input to put together a backpack filled with activities/toys/snacks for her on car rides/outings?
I hope one of those suggestions helps!