Please help! I want to travel, but my toddler can barely make it to the grocery store in her car seat without a massive meltdown. If we tried a big road trip, I’m afraid she’d scream the whole way. Help!
Sincerely, Trapped by a toddler
Dear Trapped by a Toddler,
First of all, you are not alone – car seat troubles are a parenting rite of passage. That being said, there is a solution. Car seat adjustment, like most things, comes with practice. Which, and you may not relish the thought, means a lot more time in that car seat.
We’ve found success with long trips through the immersion method, which means you simply get in the car and drive.
If the kiddo screams, you just keep driving. For two of my kids, they’d eventually fall asleep. This is key! Sometimes they just need to sleep it off.
One of my kids, however, is an Olympic-level tantrum thrower. He can go for hours. But even a Ph.D. level screamer will eventually accept reality; we’re in the car and we’re staying here.
This is the gold medal: acceptance.
The best way to solve car seat struggles is to show the kiddo that it’s not changing. The worst thing you can do is answer a child’s fit by releasing them. This teaches them that screaming works and they’re in control.
In general, road trips stop for gas, food, regular bathroom breaks and diaper changes (plus some running time), seeing a site or two (and more running time) and that’s it. Kids can handle this schedule.
When you’re on the road, fun things like toys, snacks, and screens are all great – but they aren’t for screaming or whining kids. They’re for calm kids who are behaving themselves well. Being rewarded with a snack, screen or toy reinforces their positive behavior. And when your toddler learns the pattern, she or he will be much happier to play along – and you’ll be a lot happier too.