STELLA JOAN. PUT YOUR ARMS BACK THROUGH YOUR STRAPS AND BUCKLE THAT CLIP RIGHT NOW!
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.