What to do:
Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "Even if my child is not always happy in a car seat, we still need to go places in the car safely. I can stand the screaming because I know my child is safe in his car seat, even though he doesn't want to be there."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "I understand that my child may not like to be strapped into the car seat. I sometimes don't like it either. But I know he's safe, and that's what's important."
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to feel good cruising along in the car while buckled in."
Make a Rule that the Car Will Not Move Unless Everyone Is Buckled Up. From his very first ride, your child will be in a car seat. This is the rule-and soon your child will realize that this is his normal habit-when he goes in the car, he goes in his car seat."
Give Choices for Refusing to Get in the Car Seat. It's okay if your child screams as you ask him to get in his car seat or as you put him in it. Calmly say in a kind voice, "Here are your choices: You can climb in yourself or I can put you in. You choose."
Buckle Up Yourself. Make sure to wear your seat belt and show your child that you are wearing one, too, to help her understand that she's not alone in being buckled in. If you don't wear a seat belt, your child will not understand why she has to.
Praise Staying in the Car Seat. Praise your child's staying in her car seat. Say, "I'm so happy you're sitting nicely in your seat. Now, let's sing that song you like."
Divert Your Child's Attention. Try activities such as number games, word games, Peek-a-Boo, singing songs, and so on. This will prevent your child from trying to get out of her car seat because she needs something to do.
Make Riding in the Car Seat Fun. Give your child a fun ride in his car seat by making the seat a busy place to be. Hang a mirror on the seat facing him, give him a favorite book to hold or provide an easy snack bag to reach into all by himself (and cup to drink out of) during his ride (for toddlers and preschoolers). These car-riding pleasures make it a treat to take a ride, and focus his attention on other things than the fact that he is buckled in.
Potty Before You Go. Make sure to have a potty stop before leaving the house to prevent your child from saying, "I need to go potty!" in order to get out of her car seat or not get in it.
What not to do:
Don't Complain About Having to Wear a Seat Belt. Casually telling friends and family that you hate wearing a seat belt gives your child a reason to resist her belt, too.
Don't Pay Attention to Your Child's Yelling About Being Buckled in. Not giving attention to your child's crying or whining helps her see that there's no benefit in protesting the rule. Instead, sing, talk, point out things outside the car, count and do other things to divert her attention. Tell yourself: My child's safety is my responsibility, and I am fulfilling that responsibility by enforcing the rule.
Don't Use Threats or Fear. Telling your child about the grave dangers of being out of her car seat won't teach her how to stay in it. Threatening to take away toys or privileges later in the day won't teach her to follow the rules, either.
Don't Spank. Spanking or threatening to spank her for trying to get out of her car seat will only hurt you both and won't teach your child how to stay buckled up. You can't be a caring adult and use violence or threats of violence at the same time.
Don't Threaten Arrest. Telling your child that the police will arrest her if she gets out of her car seat will only make her fear the police and won't teach her how to stay in her seat, safely buckled up.