What can we do about our two-year-old who performs every time she has to go into the car seat? It's getting to the stage where we avoid going out with her, limiting what we do as a family. Samantha'sparents
Samantha like a lot of other two year olds finds that performing and refusing to participate in buckling up and getting in the car seat is worthwhile for her. It has become worthwhile to her because you, no doubt, have tried at various times to convince, force, bribe or beg her to hurry up, get in and sit still to get buckled. No doubt at this stage you are dreading the episode and feeling tense and she also knows this as well. When we talk to, look at, touch and listen to toddler tantrums and difficult behaviour they see this as worthwhile – I know you certainly don’t. So without realizing you have become the main reason that this continues. Perhaps the first day she did this behaviour she was tired and didn’t feel like being reasonable however after the drama was over, her brain went, hmmm… that was interesting….. if I perform mummy talks to me, looks at me, touches me and listens to me……..I might try that again next time I get in the car….. and thus before you know it Samantha is doing this great performance.
How to get yourself and her out of this cycle of behaviour is simply to not make it work for her anymore. Remember that working for her is talk, look, touch and listen. So basically her performance really does not interest you anymore. So I suggest quite a few trail runs where you pretend you need to go somewhere, when you really don’t. That way you are not stressed or on a time frame and can take the time to not be interested. Before you start, when you are talking about going out I would tell her exactly what you want her to do. Samantha we are going to get in the car calmly, climb up, sit in our seat calmly etc.. Off you go. If she surprises you can complies first time then in you handbag I’d have a little stamp or sticker that you promptly get out and praise her for her behaviour, high five, and give her a sticker and tell her it is for getting in the car so quickly and calmly.
If she does her usual routine which is more likely, then just calmly tell her you will go to the park when she is sitting in her seat calmly and buckled. Then turn your back on her and busy yourself with other stuff. Do not speak to her again. She will perform and when that’s not working, will make it bigger and better. When she does finally comply off you go and try again next trip until you get calm behaviour. Do not reward her with a stamp or sticker for compliance after a tantrum.
If it is just too much drama for you to handle simply say, ‘I’ve changed my mind about going, lets go inside’ – make sure you are calm. Do not talk about what has happened. Try again in another hour. Samantha will soon catch on. If you follow these strategies within days the situation will be greatly improved and then you can reward every second time etc. until the stickers become just weekly and then fade away.