Car Seat Struggles – Handled With Respect

True story: Holly was a tentative mom, someone who avoided setting limits. Holly told me she was having an impossible time getting three-year-old Eliza to sit in her car seat. Eliza screamed and refused to cooperate. I recommended to Holly that she say, “I know you don’t want to, but you must sit in your car seat” and then place Eliza into the car seat as gently and calmly as she could. Holly reported back to me that when she had insistently placed Eliza in the car seat, Eliza kicked and screamed. Then, as Holly started the car in complete dismay, Eliza said softly, “That’s what I wanted you to do.” (From A Toddler’s Need For Boundaries – No Walk In The Park)

Being clear and direct is the kindest, most respectful way to handle non-negotiable issues like car seats. Toddlers just want to know what we expect. They need to feel confident that we will consistently, calmly follow through (well before we get impatient or angry) and be assured that any negative reaction they have is understood by us. Here’s more…

Dear Janet,

I’m the proud mother of an adorable 15 month old son.  Our home is very baby-proofed so he is free to move and explore his surroundings without hearing a series of “no’s”.  We also maintain a very consistent schedule so he transitions between eat, sleep, and play periods with ease.  Our problem is the car seat. He HATES it.

About 70 percent of the time I try to put him in his car seat he has a full blown tantrum.  He has always really hated riding in the car, but I have a feeling that I might be exacerbating the issue by occasionally letting him explore the car and pretend to “drive”.  (The keys aren’t in the ignition and I’m right by his side the entire time.)  I’m wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by sending mixed messages.

He currently doesn’t say any words, so I’m not sure how much he would understand if I said “today we’re riding- not playing”. I’ve tried that before, but it doesn’t seem to help.  I react to his tantrums by pinning him down, strapping him down and moving on.  Usually he stops crying before we even get out of the driveway. Even though the tantrums are short I’d still like to have less of them, if possible.   I’d love to hear your feedback.

Thank you,


Hi Abbie,

Sorry this response is so late. A couple of thoughts…

1. Your boy definitely understands your words even though he doesn’t talk yet. He needs clear, brief explanations and acknowledgments of his feelings. He needs to know a little beforehand when you will go to the car and get in the car seat and not have time to play. “Today we’re riding — not playing“ is not explicit enough. Better to say something like: “I know you like to play in the car, but today we will go to the car and go right to your seat. After your nap, we will have time to play in the car.” Be sure to make eye contact.

2. It’s okay to do both playing and not playing, as long as you clearly let him know.

3. Crying when restricted is completely normal and expected at this age. Most infants and toddlers like feeling free to move. The more calm and assured you are (it will probably help make you more so when you know you’ve told him beforehand) the easier it will be for him to accept doing what he doesn’t want to do.

This holds true every time your wishes clash, which may be more often as you are entering the toddler years. Be clear, direct and confident, even in the face of his complaints and cries. Once he has expressed his differing opinion (which is healthy, healthy, healthy for him to do), your son will be able to move on. It sounds like you are already experiencing that.

Remember that your boy is unable to say in words, “I don’t want to be confined! I want to move.” So, all he can do to express himself is cry about it (and he may be releasing other pent-up feelings as well). It does not mean that he is traumatized!

4. Sometimes it helps to give him a simple choice like, “Would you like to climb into the car seat yourself or have me pick you up?” He feels more autonomous and can “save face.” Soon he’ll be able to latch the seat himself and you can let him chose that, too. Wait. If he still resists after you’ve given him a moment to begin doing those things himself, you may end up saying, “You don’t seem able to go in yourself, so I’ll have to help you.”

5. Problems happen when we try to avoid cries or are afraid to be decisive leaders. If we waffle, that makes the child feel uneasy, unsettled, and usually makes the eventual tantrum last longer, leads to more resistance about the car seat and other things. When we are tentative, we leave our child in an uncomfortable state of limbo.

It sounds to me like you are handling everything well, but definitely communicate with him more. He needs to know what’s going on. And don’t forget to empathize and acknowledge when he is upset, “I know you didn’t want to get into the car seat, and I’m sorry I had to make you do it. I know that’s upsetting!”

Hope this helps…




Thank you so much for your feedback!  I follow you on Facebook and enjoy reading every single one of your posts. It has really helped to make me a more relaxed, confident parent.  My son’s ability to play independently is pretty amazing. Many people have commented on it. Thank you very much for you advice on how to react to his tantrums.

We’ve pretty much moved past the power struggles over the car seat, but as you can well imagine, there are still plenty of other issues to disagree about. You once wrote something about being a “calm, confident CEO”, and it has really stuck with me.  When I need to set a limit I really don’t get worked up or emotional. I’m always amazed by how quickly he moves on.  And I guess I move on pretty quickly, too!

I think the most important thing for me to remember is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Thank you for the healthy reminder.

 Thanks for listening,


Communicate, communicate, communicate. Yes, that’s it, exactly.

 I offer a complete guide to respectful guidance in 

NO BAD KIDS: Toddler Discipline Without Shame



(Photo by Ray Dehler on Flickr)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

      1. Hi Janet,
        I just read Abbie’s post and have similar issue with car seat. My 20mth old often struggles so hard I can’t get her in the seat. Today I sat in the car after a 5 min struggle with my feet in the pavement quite confounded how I was going to get my 12 kilo very strong little girl in. I told her we have to go home , I know you don’t like it but mummy needs you to sit in your seat. She was hysterical and acting like a wild animal. I didn’t want her to get injured in the struggle or fall on the floor so I took her out for the 5th time and she walked backwards away from me smirking on the footpath. I physically and mentally didn’t feel able to make this happen via words so gave in passed her my iPhone to play with she then hopped straight in. I felt I lost the lesson and she now thinks I’m a push over. 10 min later she was asleep I think the whole episode wore us both out. What can I do better ? I’d love your thoughts ✨

        1. mamaintraining says:

          I would love an answer to this as well. I love Janet’s advice most of the time…but what to do when my child is completely losing her mind?? Especially while I’m driving? I understand communicating what we are doing, acknowledging emotions, and how all of this may help our children not get to that melt down point, or will make the meltdown shorter. But what do we do when we are ARE at that point?? No amount of calmly telling her I hear you back there, I can hear and see you are not happy, wow, you are really unhappy right now! I hear that! We have to keep driving though, I can’t stop right now but I totally hear you… amount of that helps sometimes. I’ve tried.

          1. I would love a response to this as well! Our 3yr old has been inconsolable when getting strapped in. This advice reinforces what we mostly already do with her; however, it does seem to be traumatizing our very strong-willed daughter now!

  1. I have a tot with eczema and often she’d be scratching in the car. I have lots of snacks, toys and often give in to letting her stand or seat unbuckled in her car seat or with me.

    Her latest favorite thing to do is ‘On the Light’, ‘Off the Light’ – for the top light in the car, within her reach now.

    1. Hi Marcie! I have a couple of families in my classes dealing with the eczema issue and I know it isn’t fun… It makes it harder for them to both trust their children in some areas of development and also to give them the limits they need.

  2. Hi dear Janet! Something similar happened to me last week in our play group! A little boy was running and bumping quite hard other children. Then, following your advice, I looked at him in the same eye level and calmly said: “I won´t let you hurt the other kids, if this happens again you´ll have to go home for today”. Just a few minutes later he hit another girl from the back. Then, he and his mother had to leave. He didn´t want to but I was firm. When he waved good by he told me: “You did the right thing”. Oh! that touched my heart.Next class he was so calm! Thank you Janet for opening my eyes (and heart) to this “revelation” regarding infant education! Love,

    1. Dearest Fernanda… HI! I love “you did the right thing”. So surprising and so much more gratifying to hear that from him than from another adult, don’t you think? (This comment reminds me that you sent me a long and wonderful note about the play group and I haven’t had the chance to share my thoughts with you. Will do that later today!)

      1. Yes, you caught my feeling. It was soooo gratifying! Today I wrote a post about it in my Spanish blog.
        I thought may be you didn´t get my mail… I´ll be waiting for your answer then;)

        1. Hi Janet, I do all of this and my 3+ year old is so strong and strong willed that me “helping her” can’t be a gentle process. She fights hard. I’ve waited this out, gave her choices, not gone places. She doesn’t care. I’ve tried first this, then that. I’ve offered to play a song or give her a toy after she’s in. It’s like she wants and enjoys the power struggle. I don’t know what to do but I avoid taking her anywhere when I can, which is really tough.

  3. Thank you again for your response to my e-mail. I really love your website.

    1. Abbie, thanks! Gosh, I don’t think I even asked you if I could post this…oops!

  4. By the way, the picture you posted is hilarious. That is just how my son looks when he is behind the wheel.

    1. HA! I know, I love it… The caption is funny, too… The photographer calls the photo “Russian” and describes it as a “Fat russian mobster stealing a Lada in Moscow.” Looking at some of these baby driver photos, I definitely got the impression that these babies have better concentration than most of the people I see on the road.

  5. When I first read the title of this post I got super excited! I am a certified child passenger safety technician, so car seat safety is another one of my passions. It makes me feel good to know that the advice that you have shared is very similar to advice that I have shared with parents I work with.

    It is common and normal for children and toddlers to have times when they do not want to be in their car seats, but this passes. Sometimes it comes and goes. I know it does with my son. The way parents handle these situations can make it better or worse. I think it absolutely helps children when parents are firm, but can still be respectful during these tantrums. It is not a choice to be in the car seat, but you can offer other choices within that like you mentioned. Sometimes tantrums are not avoidable, but when you stay calm and can validate your child’s feelings it makes a big difference. If getting into the car seat is always a power struggle, then your child will expect it.

    Well, I could write a whole blog post on the emotional aspects of car seats, but I’ll just leave it at that!

  6. Does this mean I don’t need to do an entire vaudeville song and dance routine to coax a child into their car seat? I have really mixed feelings about this.. On the one hand, “Hooray! What a relief,” because I’m just too darn tired to maintain such an energetic, playful routine on a lot of days. On the other hand, I was getting pretty darn good at tap dancing… although I had noticed my efforts weren’t always sufficiently appreciated by the child(ren) in question, which leads me back to “Hooray for permission to communicate in an honest, direct fashion!” I’m pretty sure the children will be relieved as well. ;>)

    1. Lisa, I like this mood you’re in… Yes, even a naturally playful entertainer, dancer and comedienne like yourself doesn’t have to be “on” all the time. Children of all ages actually prefer being treated as intelligent, aware people capable of understanding honest human interactions. Of course, if the spirit moves you and you feel compelled to suggest a race to the car…great. But when it’s conjured up, it can be a little demeaning, don’t you think? Behind those kind of games is the assumption that babies can’t really understand the truth. But I know you know this, Lisa!

  7. Great tips! My boys both went through phases where getting them in the carseat was a nightmare.

    Giving them options and making it a game were the most effective tools to get them buckled up so we could get going.

    Options: I only gave them two like you listed…”Do you want to hop in your seat by yourself, or do you want Mommy to help you?”

    Game: I counted them down. Instead of the fear-based 1…2…3… I made it playful and fun and counted fast to see how quickly they could get into their seat.

    Kids respond so well to respect and love! And they adore the opportunity to feel in control of what’s going on.

    Great article. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Janet,

    Do you have any further wisdom to share regarding infants who dislike the car seat/car ride? My baby is 8 months and is truly distraught at times in his seat. He has been this way since birth. We can go for up to one hour, only if he falls asleep. Consequently, we stay home quite a lot.

    Thank you,

    1. +1 to this question. My daughter has the same issue and we’ve been limiting car rides to less than 20 minutes because she will cry the whole time.

  9. I have gotten a lot out of this post as my 15 month old has really disliked the car seat on-and-off since birth. Like you Karen, I would plan longish drives during his naps. Even a ten minute ride could be so stressful for me if he was crying! I would love some wisdom about how to handle this – how does one radiate confidence, love, empathy from the front seat?! And at what point would you just pull over and pick him up (I did this a lot!)?
    Thank you!
    p.s. Once my son was big enough for a front facing seat, he enjoyed the ride a lot more and the tools offered here have made getting into the car seat much more enjoyable for both of us!

    1. Tanya, I’ve been through that myself and it’s horrible… No, it’s not possible to radiate confidence, love and empathy when your baby is inconsolable in the back seat. Pulling over periodically makes a lot of sense. I also noticed that my children would cry hardest in the car right before they fell asleep. These aren’t fun times, but sometimes they are necessary. My best advice would be to do whatever possible to limit these situations from happening and just try to bear with them when they do. As you say, it gets better…

  10. Janet, thank you for your advice – I guess we’re never too old for empathy and reassurance are we?!

  11. Thank you for your inspirational blog, Janet.

    I would like to know how to respectfully handle routine procedures such as the clipping of nails and how to handle taking a toddler for uncomfortable procedures such as immunisations.

    My little one is 14 months now and since she has been little she has hated her nails being cut. I use nails scissors rather than clippers because I find them more stable when she wriggles. She gets so distraught that she breaks out in a sweat. I have never hurt her or accidently cut her so the screaming is not because of a fear of being hurt in the past. I cut my own nails in front of her to show her it is no big deal which she is happy to watch until I bring the scissors near her. It probably is the procedure of holding her hand more firmly than usual and then the cutting that she does not like.
    The only thing that remotely works in keeping her calm (for the first few seconds at least) is playing a farm song clip for her to watch on the computer whilst I cut as quickly as possible but even this is no longer working. As calmly as possible I try and talk the procedure through and tell her we’ll be finished soon. I just don’t know how to safely handle this in a respectful way. Please help!

    Also, what do you suggest parents do when they have to take their toddler to the doctor for uncomfortable procedures such as immunisations? She becomes hysterical the moment she sees anyone in our surgery’s uniform because she remembers having injections in the past. I hate having to hold her down whilst a needle is put in her arm and it feels like I’m betraying her each time she has to have some kind of procedure done. Any advice would be appreciated!


  12. Great information…as a grandmother I have experienced a few of these struggles with the car seat. I could not put a struggling little one in the seat but I did use empathy and I use choices. Asking a child if they want to get into the seat themselves works wonders sometimes. Also, we now race to see who can get into our seat first.
    Thank you Janet!

  13. I am revisiting this post several months after having read it for the first time. We have a new problem! I have adapted your “strategy” or philosophy with getting my now 25-month-old into the car seat, and I allow him to choose if he wants me to do it or if he wants to do it himself. However, the answer more often than not is, “NO!” I then will say something like, “I understand that you don’t want to be in your car seat right now. I’m going to help you in.” And then what ensues is something akin to World War 3. He is now strong enough to actually keep me from getting him in. I physically cannot do it by myself. What then?!

    1. I’m having the same problem with my 17 month old daughter. I can deal with the crying, but I’m not comfortable getting extremely physical with her. She is super strong and I don’t want to hurt her or be a bad example of handling someone roughly to get them to do what you want.

  14. Janneke Verheij says:

    Dear Janet, Thank you for the article. I tried many things. Giving my 21month old the option to climb in herself, saving a special loved toy only for the car. Explaining where we go and telling what I expect of her but she will scream and fight for as long as the car ride lasts, last time it was an hour. What to do when your child is very very persistent? She does the same on the bike seat lately which she used to love.

  15. Lately my three year old son runs around the car, instead of sitting in the cars eat. Once he is actually in the car, he wants to play with the buttons. I don’t know how to have him sit without me forcing him to sit Nd having him have a tantrum. He has a twin sister who will cry if her brother doesn’t sit in the car. What can I do?

  16. Hi Janet,

    I love your blog and you give great advice. I have a question on – when to say “I’m sorry”. My husband has a tendency to say “I’m sorry” to our 16 month old daughter all the time, he is always apologizing whenever he sets boundaries or limits or is in situations where he has to do something she doesn’t want to – like get in the car seat. I sometimes feel like it demeans the actual boundary setting and makes him seem less confident. So my struggle, and his, is how do you acknowledge her emotions while not apologizing for being a confident leader.


    1. Hi Shabi! Thanks for your kind words. How about, “I’m sorry that upset you,” rather than, “I’m sorry I need to do this.”

  17. Hi Janet,
    I have the same problem with my 3 year old daughter. But know she is big enough to unbuckle herself and move around the car. My husband and I tried everything to stop her but no use.
    How can I get her back to set in the car seat wig out the struggle.
    Appreciate your help

  18. Hey Janet! Would this advice work for a 7 month old as well? Car seat time has been a nightmare since day one! Just getting near the car he clings to me and starts screaming. I’ve tried to prepare him starting 30 minutes to an hour before. Talking him through what is about to happen but I haven’t seen any lessening. It makes it a nightmare to get anything done as a single mama

    1. Hi Alexandra! This isn’t quite the same, because your 7 month old cannot understand why he should be strapped into a seat and not be able to see you, etc. He has no concept of the purpose of a car ride and very little concept of time. For these reasons, I would do all you can to limit car rides. But when you do need to take him, proceed with confidence and calmly acknowledge of his feelings. Let him know you understand him. “I hear you saying, no, no, no. You don’t want to go in your seat. I wish we didn’t have to, be we do. I will talk you as we go.”

      The respect you are showing him is wonderful. Still, there is nothing for a baby to like about being restricted in a car seat.

  19. My 2.5yr daughter often stalls when I ask her to get into the car seat. It is becoming very frustrating to deal with as she is no longer small enough to help into the car seat when given the choice of sitting in the car seat by herself (which she is very capable of doing) or me helping her, it is too disrespectful as she is so tall and also heavy for me to pick up. She just climbs around the car saying no, no, no, no, no. Nothing seems to work. Please help as its making getting anywhere in a timely fashion impossible. Tonight after picking up food on the way home she spent nearly 40mins stalling as I tried to get us into the car so we could get home. When I can and have more time I give her the option to play in the car as she loves doing this but I am always clear that we have time to play in the car now or we need to get straight into our seat now. I am new to the principals you use but really like them and am trying my best to change my language and style of parenting. Any advice you can offer would be warmly received as I’m at the point of dreading getting into the car now.
    Thank you.

  20. My 2.5yr daughter often stalls when I ask her to get into the car seat. It is becoming very frustrating to deal with as she is no longer small enough to help into the car seat when given the choice of sitting in the car seat by herself (which she is very capable of doing) or me helping her, it is too disrespectful as she is so tall and also heavy for me to pick up. She just climbs around the car saying no, no, no, no, no. Nothing seems to work. Please help as its making getting anywhere in a timely fashion impossible. Tonight after picking up food on the way home she spent nearly 40mins stalling as I tried to get us into the car so we could get home. When I can and have more time I give her the option to play in the car as she loves doing this but I am always clear that we have time to play in the car now or we need to get straight into our seat now. I am new to the principals you use but really like them and am trying my best to change my language and style of parenting. Any advice you can offer would be warmly received as I’m at the point of dreading getting into the car now. Same thing happens when we are at the park, stalling to leave, runs off and won’t come back or listen when I ask her to stop. Also pulling hair and scratching me and other children. I’m a solo parent with no family close by and am struggling.

    Thank you.

  21. Hi Janet,
    I know it’s been a while since you posted this one but I just came across it for the first time. I searched your blog for something like this because we’re having some traveling issues. My husband’s parents live out of town (about a two hour drive). Being that they’re older (and always filling up our bank account…) we feel like we have to take our little one-year-old Manny to visit often. There’s actually a bus from our door to theirs (almost) which is very convenient when we’re lazy to drive. But the ride is becoming a nightmare lately! When he’s in the car seat I need to entertain him with a book, food, toys…otherwise he squirms and shrieks and wants to get out. When it’s a bus ride he jumps around on my lap and wants to get on the floor unless I entertain him with the above mentioned. I’ve become so exasperated that I don’t want to go lately, which is making everyone a little upset. How can we rectify this situation?

  22. Hello Janet,

    I’m facing the same problem with my 16 months old son. He always dont like to sit in car seat, high chair or even he wont co operate for his diaper chance. Whenever he see me he want myself to hold him no matter with whom he was. He will show his dislike most of the time if I put him in car seat, he will try to jump and I couldnt control him. Sometimes he quitely sit if his daddy put him but sometimes not. He understand if I say sing a song, take the ball or even he will follow me when I say 1 2 3 but not listen to “this is your seat and you have to sit here” and “this is diaper time and please cooperate for diaper change”. Please help.

  23. Hi Janet,

    This may have already been asked but, I didn’t see it. What do you do if they don’t calm down? I assume you just acknowledge their feelings and continue to buckle them in anyway? What about if they scream all the way to the destination?

    1. That can be hard, obviously, but the more completely you welcome and validate the feelings, the shorter the duration. You could also try stopping the car and taking a break, if that’s possible.

      1. Kirsty Harper says:

        Hi Janet, I’ve been following your facebook posts closely for some time and have read some of your books and some that you have recommended. Thank you for your advice!
        My son of 2 years and 9 months is really tired after his childcare days (he often won’t nap) so he often comes out of the childcare gate happily and then takes off at full speed down the street. I do let him run down the big tree roots that are there a couple of times but when he takes off down the street it’s dangerous as there is a road and driveways. I try not to make it a game or a struggle but i have to run at full speed to catch him for safety reasons and then spend a long time coaxing him into the car. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting him choose a couple of leaves on the ground to take with him and i always give him the choice of climbing into the car himself or being helped. I can help him but i am physically unable to force him. Any suggestions when playing, coaxing and being calm and firm are not working and child is overtired? I don’t really want to resort to bribery. By the way, the saga continues at home as I attempt to make (reheat) dinner, and get him to eat, have a bath and get dressed. Forcing clothes on will fail as even if i manage he’ll just take them straight off again. If bath time will be a battle I skip it for safety reaons unless my partner is home as back up. All of these things are fairly manageable when my son is not overtired but the battle lasts a good 2 hours just when he realiy needs to be in bed fast. I would appreciate any suggestions you have. Thanks

  24. We’re going through this with my DD (2 yrs old). What sometimes works is offering her a snack in a little bowl that she can have after she’s buckled in. This only works half the time. The other times, I just have to grit my teeth and not show any frustrations since she’ll fight harder if she sees a reward for it.

    I know it’s frustrating, but it’ll pass (boy, if I have a penny everytime I hear that phrase…). My DS, now 4.5, used to do this when he was younger. Now, he’s the first one to jump onto his seat and fasten his own buckles.

  25. I think I have read this 50 times. My daughter is 4 now and carseat trouble is less common for us but still it happens. Today she wanted to ride her bike to school but we were very late because it took an extra 20 minutes to get her to put her clothes on so I said we may have time tomorrow but today we will have to take the car. I think I’m quite good at being clear and calm most of the time. Same thing with the clothes as with the carseat… I said, “we have to get in the car now to go to school. Do you want to get in on your own or do you want my help.” “NONE!” “You really wanted to take your bike today but we have to take the car. You don’t like that decision. I understand.” “STOP TALKING!! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ME!!! STOP IT!!!” “Okay, well, we do have to go so by yourself or with my help. You decide or I decide.” “NONE!!!” “I see. I will help you then.” Now………. I want to see who’s going to get her body in that seat without breaking her arms!!! There is no way. And there is only so much I can do before I am going to hurt her. So, I stop. And I think maybe we can try reconnecting. “You really wanted to ride your bike but we have to take the car today. I imagine you felt that was unfair and disappointing.” “GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE! DON’T TOUCH ME!” We were in the car for 30 minutes. We were almost an hour late for school. Eventually we were able to get that connection and she said she didn’t want to go to school because she didn’t want to be away from me but it all started with wanting to ride her bike. I took her to school and she was happy and we hugged and said goodbye and I left and cried in the car. I mean…. is that just the way it goes???

  26. Hi Janet,

    Thanks so much for all your wonderful advice. Finding your blog has been a godsend for helping me to develop the way I want to parent my child. As I type this, I’m sitting in the parking lot of my 18mo’s daycare. We’ve been here for about 30min. She often protests about sitting in the car seat and I acknowledge those feelings while putting her into the seat. Today however I just haven’t been able to physically do it. I’m at a loss. She must have magically gotten stronger overnight.

    Update: in the midst of typing, she decided to crawl in and I got her all buckled. She still complained a bit on the ride home which I suppose isn’t terribly odd. What else can I do when I try to put her in but just can’t? Thanks in advance for your insight.

    1. Hi Camille! Thanks for your kind words. I’m thrilled to hear that my blog has been helpful to you. I would imagine that you are physically stronger than your 18 month old, if you really think about it. But I would focus on coming into this situation with confident momentum. Confidence with our children is more important and helpful than physical strength. I share more about that in this post: Hope it helps!

  27. I don’t believe in being impatient with a child nor in distraction or using force. I follow a love and connection approach to all tantrums with my 2 year old. However, today she would not get in the carseat. I held her while she continued with screaming and crying, and I calmly validated her feelings for 5 mins, then 10 mins, 15, 20… half an hour later and she STILL was crying that she did not want to get in the carseat. I gave her options – ‘step in independently or prefer for mommy to put you in?’ The cries continued. I told her I understood that she didn’t want to get in. ONE HOUR LATER and I am late for work, and we have made no progress. I finally just had to force her in while she screamed. I felt terrible but by this point I was very late for work and soaking wet from us negotiating and hugging in the rain. ONE WHOLE HOUR. I’m not sure if this method is the best one any longer. I’m sure she could have continued with the tantrum if I did not end it with putting her in the seat quickly while she cried.

  28. Hi Janet,

    I first want to say I’m so grateful to have found you on this journey of parenting!
    I read your article.

    I give my almost 3yo son climb the choice to climb into his seat by himself every time. Sometimes he wants to hold the keys, unlock and open the door and climb into his seat. However, not every time does he want to get into his seat. More days than others he thinks it’s funny to climb back and forth from the front to the back of the car while mommy chases him. I didn’t let it bother me as much before, but now I’m super pregnant and my big swollen belly prevents me from “chasing” him. I have to do my best to catch him and put him in the seat. Then he kicks, thrashes and physically hurts me. It’s hard to hold all limbs with both hands and try to buckle him in. I try and tell him that I understand he doesn’t want to get into his seat but we need to go to blank and he needs to sit in his safe seat. I’ll tell him I won’t let him hurt me and give him a moment to let it out. If I let go of him, he’ll get back out and climb to the front which starts our cycle all over again. Eventually this scenario ends up much more physical than I want it to. I try and “mama bear” him into the seat, but my arms end up red and sore from his kicks and tears stream down his face as we leave to our destination. Any additional advice before I add a new baby to this situation?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashley! You’re waiting much too long. Be ready to help him physically into the seat right away, before the stalling and power struggle take hold, just as I describe the parent doing in the opening paragraph of this post.

  29. I kind of strange everyone focus their concern about babies tantrums and weird behavior! Well , let me tell you, have you ever sat in a chair that pinches a nerve or two, your body and heats faster then others, your back boils and sweat like crazy and you can’t wait the moment of getting up and make sure you seat in the floor or else,? really have you? what do you really think a baby can be feeling? you receive a chair that accordingly with your friend told you is very expensive, is quality seat, is the best I could buy for your child! Have you tested that baby at the store and ask him what he will like to try out? specially when you guys are saying they understand what you say? but he can’t tell you how much is this thing uncomfortable and he hates it!!! why don’t we think about this things?
    do you ask him if he will choose from two or three models that you would kind of approved? invite the baby to decide if he will like to wear no to much clothing, so he can be comfortable? . Been creative, is part of our job to help our babies, no to let them cry and suffered till their experience in this issue can traumatized your child! Sorry ladies I am an Adult 60 plus, I am just learning all your new ways to educate your babies, but oh boy when I sit in the car I don’t care if is a Bentley or ex so and so, I can be very sore in my ass and my legs specially in some sits. not all of them but my husband had to sale hes Land Rover as I was staring to chronically to suffer that pain on my left leg because the sit was hurting me. anyway good luck to you all, I love babies and I can tell when babies are pretending and when they are really suffering! God Lord it breaks my heart! Planes at early age can be a horrible experience as well or a real fun adventure for your child, be carful when you choose to fly just for your personal interest…….

  30. Hi Janet!
    Thanks so much for your work, it has really helped me with my kids!
    I have a three year old whom I really struggle with on a daily basis, made much worse by the arrival of her little brother. While I think I’m doing well to stay calm and confident (with lots of mistakes along the way), most of the time I really need some advice on one situation in particular. While nursing my two month old, my daughter likes to come over and be a part of this time. Often I have to ask her not to climb on me, touch her brother in the face, etc. Usually she is just being curious and kind and mostly gentle, but then it seems like her emotions get the better of her (after my repeated corrections or admonishments) and she lashes out by hitting her brother or me and screaming, and trying to phsically force herself onto my lap . I know that while she dearly loves her brother, this has been a tough transition! I know there is a lot going on in her mind, but what should I do? It’s hard to physically stop her since my hands are tied up with the baby, and when I try to stand and move away I usually end up knocking over and hurting my daughter and my son is screaming bloody murder for being interrupted. Is there anything I can do or say to help her?

  31. Hi Janet,

    The car seat is a constant battle. I can no longer physically force my 3 year old into the car seat so I’m not sure how to handle it when she is climbing all over the car, trying to push all the buttons in the front seat. I say, “it looks like you’re having a hard time getting yourself into your car seat, I’m going to help you” but then I try to drag her out of the front seat and back into the back seat and she’s flailing or holding onto something so tightly that I can’t get her loose and it all feels very violent and I’m afraid I’m going to hurt her, I acknowledge her feelings about not wanting to get in, etc. I’m so frustrated. I’m not following through before I get angry as you mention above. I think most of the time I’m not sure how. I usually resort to bribery with treats.

    Any tips for when you can’t overpower your child physically?

  32. Janet, you have helped me so much. I searched for this post because my 3rd child who is now 2 (& my most strong-willed to date) has such terrible tantrums when being strapped into the car seat that strangers consistently come up to me in parking lots and ask if everyone is ok. He is physically strong and loud and has left bruises on my forearms from me trying to keep his body from flailing out of the seat and hurting his back. It literally takes me about 10 minutes to get him strapped in because he is so strong. Because I like to get “heart obedience” and never basically man-handle my kids, it takes quite an emotional toll on me to have to resort to such tactics. I try to get him out and hold him and calm him then try again – this whole process can take up to 20 minutes, then usually there is something pressing like picking up my oldest child from school & then I have to just use brute strength to clip him in the seat. I hate it! It makes me so sad, and I feel embarrassed in public because it looks so forceful. Help!

  33. I’ve been trying these strategies and others for a year I think. It’s worst after a long day at childcare (and i understand why) but happens most times. What do I do if physically forcing him into the seat is next to impossible? He’s 3 and strong. We often spend half an hour negotiating.

    1. NIKOLE CARRILLO says:

      I’m dealing with this to with my three-year-old never had an issue up to a week ago she’s refusing to go to her favorite places and just will not get in her seat even after negotiating an hour and I just give up I feel so sad about it I don’t know what to do


    My dear daughter is 3 years old never had an issue getting in her car seat at all. Recently she will just not get into her car seat at all I even tried to adjust it to the regular strap buckle her car seat since I thought maybe the pressure of the harness was bothering her and it still didn’t work she had a full-on meltdown and like other said I thought she was going to hurt herself in my arms are totally scratched up she even refuses to go to her favorite places that she normally would have jumped in the car immediately. Makes me so sad.

  35. Hi Janet! Would this advice work for a 1 year old to?

    Getting my child into a car seat has been a massive struggle, particularly when I am in a rush!


    1. Hi Renelle! Yes, I would use the same approach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More From Janet

Books & Recommendations