This is 3: Who was in the wrong again?


I am in our car, driving home with both kids in the back seat. It’s dark out, yet I can suddenly see Stella’s hands reaching forward between the front seats – a feat which should not have been possible if she was still properly strapped into her car seat. Lately she has been unbuckling the chest clip despite repeated warnings about how dangerous it is and how upset it makes Mommy & Daddy, so I know instantly what has happened.


[instant fake tears from Stella]

Me: [Attempting to moderate my voice a bit as I pull over to the side of the road, but I’m still using my authoritative Mommy voice] Stella Joan. Right. Now. Get your arms through those straps.

Stella: Mommy, don’t YELL at me!

Me: You’re right. I’m sorry I yelled, but that makes me feel VERY frustrated when you take your arms out of the straps while I am driving. It is so dangerous and you could get hurt very badly if there was an accident.

[Stella’s arms are now back through the straps and she has grudgingly re-buckled the chest clip]

Stella: Mommy, you need to use your nice voice. You could say, “Stella, please may you buckle up.” (she always says “may you”  because she’s used to saying “Please may I…”)

Me: [exasperated – but I know she’s right] Yes, Stella. You are right. I will work on using my nice voice. But you need to listen to Mommy and not unbuckle yourself while I’m driving. It makes me feel very afraid, and when I get upset, sometimes I yell when I shouldn’t.

Stella: Yes, Mommy. And you need to be kind and talk like this… [in a sing songy voice she very softly and kindly asks herself to buckle herself up again]

Me: Yes, Stella. I know. I will try harder not to yell next time.

Stella: Yes, Mommy. You shouldn’t yell. It’s not nice to yell. We need to always use nice voices when we talk to each other.


UGH, it’s amazing how my 3 year old can turn a lecture to HER back around on ME. How does that even happen?!


  1. Haha, smart girl! I have a feeling Chloe would have loved to say those same things to me last night when I was yelling at her about something. 🙁 Following the “I like daddy better” comment yesterday morning, I asked her about it last night again and how she felt when I yelled at her. She said it made her feel sad, which I knew is what she’d say, but it broke my heart. I think I needed to hear that to help myself remember to keep calm in certain situations. That sucks that Stella is unbuckling that clip! I’ve seen many people comment on a car seat FB forum about that and asking for advice. There really is no good answer, just what will finally get your own child past doing it. Chloe attempted it one day and I freaked thinking, oh here we go! but she quickly forgot about it and moved on.

  2. See, I call bullshit on her. 😉. Matthew pulls the same thing on me, lecturing when I yell, and sometimes he’s right. But your situation here, or when Matthews jumping on his bed when he knows he shouldn’t (and worse, when he’s hoisted Bryson up there too), NO, I don’t have to ask nicely. I tell him, “Moms and dads get to yell sometimes because they’re the parents, and you’re being naughty on purpose. That’s just how it is.”. I also say, “moms don’t have to ask you to do certain things, many things are expected so moms tell, not ask.”.

    I can be a hard ass though. 😉

  3. 1. I yell way too much. Way, way, way too much. I HATE it. But when it comes to a safety situation that needs immediate attention like you’re describing, yelling is 100% warranted, in my opinion.

    2. She is so smart.

    3. I love her car seat.

    4. Have you heard of Orange Rhino? Google it if you want. It’s about yelling.

    1. Reading through the comments now, I just want to clarify that the Orange Rhino thing isn’t a discipline theory, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s about the mom trying to yell less.

  4. Boy do you have your work cut out for you with that one 😉 I consider myself lucky that E has seatbelts so ingrained that if I so much as start the car without her seatbelt on she starts lecturing me about safety.

    1. Dude – us too! A freak out about being buckled before we start the car — but this whole “I can do it myself” thing is now exciting because she can do the clip herself, so UGH!

  5. Wow- she’s a smart one. In this instance, I would say yelling (or a very stern tone) is completely appropriate and necessary. I can so see my Charlotte doing this in a few years. Yikes. Stella is SO beautiful- I still can’t believe shes already 3!

  6. Have you heard of 1-2-3 Magic? Another twin mother was raving about the technique for disciplining her sons. The idea is that having a method that gives kids a chance to correct their behavior with you having to yell or be driven mad. We haven’t gotten there yet, but considering all the fact that I was raised in a household where spanking and yelling was the norm, I’m very fearful that I will repeat the pattern unless I find another model.

    1. I haven’t, but I’ll check it out. I was raised in a house with zero spanking and zero yelling, and now that I’m a parent I really admire my parents for being able to raise us that way (5 kids!)

  7. We have the exact problem with Toby. Same car seat as well (minus the flowers). he wants to do it himself. We have another xar seat for when we travel which just uses the seat belt and he will undo that which is way worse. he is pretty good though with doing what he is asked. I don’t know what I would do if he didn’t. lo e the logic

  8. The fake tears. Molly pulls the “i need a cuddle” knowing immediately it is going to soften my hard heart. I hate it when I yell. I do a lot. I sound like a fish wife it is scary. Molly is always pulling her arms out and it drives me banana. See fishwife above 😉

  9. HAHAHA! The Force is strong with that one. Cheeky monkey.

    Putting aside the circumstances, this really shows that you are doing a great job teaching her to have a respectful conversation about boundaries and relationships. I know that might seem like a stretch, but when this happens over here (I eat *so many* words over here) I am a little proud that HGB is *getting it* a little more, you know? And also amazed at his cross-examination skillz. Heh.

  10. Totally hear ya on this! Went through it with my 4 and 5 year old. And still do here and there. I have pulled over and sat until they re buckle and explained why it is not appropriate to unbuckle and what can happen (also helps Granpda is Chief of Police so I can explain that the police can stop and come talk to us about not being safe and we can get in big trouble not being buckled.) I feel it is a phase most kids go through but yes TOTALLY unsafe!

    Also, just one recommendation is Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson. It’s kind of like Love and Logic (natural and logical consequences, another good one) but relies on NO rewards and NO punishments. Don’t get me wrong, there are DEF consequences but they are not “go to your room” etc. I took some of the classes and met with a teacher one on one…I do like it a lot. It’s based on finding out WHY the child is doing what they are doing (wanting attention negative or positive, revenge like hitting a sibling back etc.) instead of just ONLY stopping the behavior momentarily (aka spanking.)

    Sorry this is so long but I will say I have 4 kids close in age and yelling eventually works IN THE MOMENT (totally done this a lot!) but overall studies show that it all it does is make you feel bad, the kid feel bad and nothing is accomplished to stop the behavior next time or why it happened in the first place. Love and Logic is the same…no spanking or yelling, just letting the child understand the natural or logical consequences of what happens ( within reason aka I am cold if I choose not to wear a coat etc.)

    Oh and I am big on choices. Kids get 2 choices. “Would you to leave the park now or in 5 minutes?” Of course it’s usually 5 minutes but THEY made the choice so they leave much happier.

    Anyway just my recs, everyone has their own way of doing things and I am sure you will find what works!

  11. 3 is exasperating.
    I have yelled more in the last 3 months that I have in the first three years.
    it’s also hard when the three-year-olds are so bipolar, they can be very very challenging and go to the sweetest most lovable thing ever.

  12. The first part of this sounds like the conversations I have with Lexi! She will not leave the buckle alone and is constantly undoing it or slipping her arms out of the straps. Drives me nuts!!

  13. Oh those kids! This sounds like something Lids would do as well. Luckily not with her seatbelt. She does always insist on buckling and unbuckling that chest clip too but I think she herself is scared to undo it while moving.. so far anyway! 😉 It does make me feel sad when Lids talks to us about how our yelling makes her feel but gosh, sometimes I just cannot help it! Arrg.

    1. Careful! For a few months Stella just wanted to buckle/unbuckle the clip on her own…and it progressed to this! :[ Darn kids!

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