When Your Toddler Hates Their Carseat: 3 Ways For Parents to Cope

Posted on Posted in Blog, Mom, Mom
I thought kids were supposed to enjoy car rides. My toddler hates their carseat.

In fact, during the first couple of months after my son was born, I had several well-meaning people advise me to put him in his car seat and drive him around the neighborhood whenever he would have a screaming fit. It never worked for us, not even once. To this day we dread long car rides with our now 18 month old. He will scream at the top of his lungs the entire time. We’ve tried everything from riding in the back with him to playing music to even letting him pull out the entire contents of my purse, just for a moment of peace. But the screaming always resumes. I have learned to drown his screams out a bit and just go somewhere else mentally (when I know there is nothing wrong with him other than he’s not getting is way). But my husband really struggles with it. I’ll sit there and watch as his eyes wince and his hands tighten their grip on the steering wheel. I stress when I know he’s feeling frustrated, and all I want to do is make it better so he can relax while he’s driving.

We recently took a family day trip out of Las Vegas, into the area surrounding Charleston Mountain. We left our house feeling pumped and ready for a fun day. Being from Portland, OR the thought of seeing some green had us both anxious to get to our destination. We had our picnic bag packed and our cameras ready. Everything was awesome until we hit the road. About 5 minutes into driving the screaming started. We immediately jumped into trouble-shooting mode. Music was our first go-to solution. We played Prince, James Brown, Roxette…nothing worked, not even Taylor Swift would soothe him. We took turns making funny faces at him, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, sitting in back with him….nothing worked. Our positive attitudes eventually took a turn for the worse, and what started out as a fun day turned into my husband and I arguing about how to handle our unhappy child.

This ride was the one that broke the camel’s back for us. That night at home, we sat on the couch and together, brainstormed some ways we could solve this “screaming-in-the-car” situation.

Below are 3 coping strategies that work for us:
  1. Headphones. Seriously. A part of me feels bad even writing this because I NEVER intend to drown out or ignore my child. But when you’re driving on the freeway, there’s nowhere to go and It’s your child’s M.O. to scream for no apparent reason every time he’s in a car, you take the necessary precautions to be safe. A baby/toddler screaming will stress you out like nothing else will. Are you wondering if you have nerves of steel? Try riding in a car with a toddler whose virgin lungs will impress you with their ability to take a good, long scream. NOTE: I once heard that the FBI trains their candidates with a soundtrack of a baby crying. The key is for them to be able to focus on their target without the crying distracting them. Not sure if this is true but I can appreciate the tactic.
  2. A video, the subject being them and them alone. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that all babies start as miniature Narcissists who through good parenting learn to show interest in the needs of others. It does not matter how hard my son is crying, if I show him videos of himself he will immediately stop and will fixate on watching himself. He loves it, like really digs looking at himself. My husband and I are going to build our own little mount for the iPad so that I can edit a bunch of his videos together, download them to my iPad and play them while we are driving. If anyone knows of a car seat iPad mount, please do let me know!
  3. A special “driving in the car” toy box. This box will not contain ordinary toys, oh no. It will be comprised of unique gadgets, like his own wallets (a replica of mine and of his dad’s), a set of his own keys, a dead cell phone, maybe a calculator, and anything else with lots of buttons, colors and lights that will keep him busy.

And that’s all we have folks! Which is why I’m coming to you. Has anyone else had to suffer through the “Long Ride Home?” What worked for you and what didn’t? When did your baby switch from hating car rides to loving them? Please leave a comment below.

Does your toddler scream and cry every time you put them in their carseat? Here are 3 ways you, the parent can cope on those long rides home.


See this picture? To a frazzled parent on the drive home, it’s a vision of heaven. 🙂 He really is adorable.


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