Children in this age group are building an awareness of social and cultural norms; they are developing reasoning, problem-solving abilities, a sense of identity and independence. These changes will continue to develop into adolescence.
As these changes occur, it’s important as the parent or caregiver to consistently model seat belt safety, communicate and reinforce clear rules, and give age-appropriate rewards and praise. It’s also important to tailor your message to your child, depending on his/her stage of development and personality. Learn what works and adjust your message as your child grows older.
Be aware of your child’s concerns or fears. Some kids report the fear of flying out the window or hitting the front dashboard during a sudden stop. Personal stories detailing the benefits of wearing a belt or pitfalls of not wearing a seat belt can be effective in getting your child to buckle up.
Elementary School-Aged Children (Typically ages 8 to 12)
Emphasize short-term consequences and rewards. For example, consider handing over or withholding your child’s electronic device as a reward or punishment for wearing or not wearing a seat belt. Here are some tactics to try:
- “After you buckle up, you can play with your [electronic device].”
- “Not buckling up means not going to [that super-fun place]. It’s your choice—buckle up, or we stay home.”
- “I know we take this [short] trip every day, but most deadly crashes happen near people’s homes.”
- “We may be driving slowly, but most deadly crashes happen at speeds of less than 40 miles an hour.”
Middle School-Age Children (Typically Ages 13 to 14)
This age group is motivated by the law—for example, seeing the police. Also, young teens tend to go along with wearing a seat belt because you can more easily see them when they’re in the front seat. Let these kids know about the seat belt laws in your State and try some of these tactics:
- “If the police see you’re not wearing a seat belt, I could be fined and that’s going to come out of your allowance.
- “Most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home and at speeds of less than 40 miles per hour.”