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Winning the Seatbelt Wars
By Sandy Fleming

Every child goes through it at one time or another, and it can be enough to spoil a fun trip: The Great Seatbelt Fight is on! Whether your child is a car seat passenger, a booster seat user, or a seatbelt wearer, sooner or later you will be faced with a battle to wear the safety restraint. States now require that all children be buckled into an age-appropriate system when riding in the car, but the law gives very little suggestion about how to go about getting an uncooperative child to buckle up and stay buckled when you are occupied in the driver's seat. Here are a few tips:

First and foremost, children are great imitators. Your behavior and example will be a great help for your children to learn the importance of buckling up. We've all heard the statistics that this is the biggest single factor in helping people be safer in accidents. If you make sre that you are always buckled up and you expect ALL of your passengers to buckle, kids will see this consistency. Also, try to verbalize how important this action is, instead of complaining or making excuses. Children watch attitudes as well as actions.

You may not be able to do this physically, but many families have a rule that the car simply does not go if anyone is not wearing a safety belt. Moving cars are much more rewarding than stopped cars, and the threat of motionlessness and delay is enough to ensure that most children cooperate. Don't be afraid to pull off the road in a safe location either, if someone unbuckles mid-ride. This is a serious safety issue, and certainly warrants an emergency roadside stop to correct the situation.

If you need more help, the next step is to try various behavior management techniques, including praising passengers with restraints fastened, rewarding those who comply throughout the entire trip, and planning a consequence for children who do not comply.

No matter how you accomplish it, be sure your children are ALWAYS buckled up in the car -- not only because it is the law, but because children are absolutely irreplaceable!

Sandy Fleming is an educator, author and workshop facilitator. She resides in southern Michigan with her husband and three daughters. Sandy leads workshops for daycare providers and parents in the region, tutors students, volunteers for Girl Scouts and her church, and teaches online classes for adults and children. She loves to make new friends, so please drop her an e-mail at


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