Whether or not we like to wear seatbelts, most of us understand the importance of seatbelt safety.
How we go about teaching our kids about seatbelt safety should be handled with care, as well.
Obviously, people are going to disagree about appropriate approaches, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor pryciedoo decided honesty was the best policy when his niece decided to unbuckle herself in the backseat.
But when he was criticized for his honesty, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if he should have approached the situation differently.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my niece she could die if she didn’t keep herself buckled in her carseat?”
The OP’s niece did something drastic for attention.
“My niece (5) has a behavioral issue where she goes through extreme methods to get attention, and she’s in therapy to work on it.”
“A few days ago, I (23 [male]) was driving her back home from lunch, and she said she was unbuckling herself, because she didn’t like how the straps felt, even though they weren’t too tight or loose.”
The OP stopped to react.
“As soon as I heard this, I pulled over and explained that if she did not stay buckled in her car seat, she could get very hurt and even die if there was an accident.”
“Anytime someone calls her out for doing something unacceptable, she cries and sucks her thumb until she can tell her mom (my SIL (sister-in-law), 35).”
“Also, once we were in a safe place for me to do so, and I knew she was completely buckled, I brake-checked her at 10 mph (miles per hour), so she could feel herself go forward and the straps hold her in.”
The OP’s SIL didn’t appreciate his approach.
“Her mom told me I was being cruel and gross.”
“As for the brake check, my brother (30) understood, but my SIL said that was going too far, as well.”
“AITA for this?”
“I can understand both sides, but I’d like to know how other people view this.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said somebody needed to be honest with the niece.
“Here I thought it was typical ‘mom’ talk to talk up how car seats ‘keep us safe so we don’t get hurt in an accident.’ I’ve been saying that to both my kids since they were infants who probably didn’t even understand me.”
“If they were to have tested the boundaries, I’d probably have thrown in the ‘we can get hurt or die’ when old enough to understand. And it sounds like this kid was old enough to understand.”
“Maybe I’m an AH though?”
“OP, I say NTA, but brake checking might have been a litttttttttle much.” – NoNameForMetoUse
“NTA. Honestly, if it were me I’d tell mommy that this ‘cruel and gross’ person will no longer be driving her daughter anywhere until mommy understands that her child not dying is the true priority here. This is not an issue to coddle over and wheedle about when an unclipped buckle could mean an unclipped head.” – jwjnthrowawaykfeiofj
“My son is high functioning autistic and when he asked me (about the same age) why he had to wear a seat belt, I was more blunt than OP.”
“I said, ‘Because if we get in a car accident you can die. Do you want to die?’ He replied no and has never complained about his seat belt again. Kids understand way more than we give them credit for.” – HuneyBee35
Others agreed with the OP’s brake-check tactic, as well.
“I brake checked my son in the driveway once because he refused to put his seatbelt on. He bumped his head on the seat in front of him, never took his seat belt off mid-ride again, and insisted that everyone else in the car is wearing one.” – SquishySpark
“‘You could get hurt’ is a much better arguing point than, ‘You’ll cost me money and get me in trouble.’ I wonder if the mom would’ve had an issue with the fines being an explanation vs the bodily harm? Would OP have been petty and money-obsessed instead of just gross?”
“Could’ve shown her how people get folded like an accordion or ejected from the car. That would’ve been too far but this was reasonable, even the brake checking if done in an empty parking lot to demonstrate the force while buckled.”
“I don’t get this at all. Kids actually have died from unbuckling without their parents knowing (one mom lost 2 kids in a van rollover when both wanted to switch seats) and I dread the day I start to have arguments with my kid about wearing a seatbelt, my anxiety will probably shoot through the roof.”
“NTA and I’d be refusing to drive her around without both parents backing me up fully on this.” – Primary-Eggplant-612
“NTA. You were literally just telling her the truth. Also, good call on the brake-checking as well, so the kid could fully understand that it was a safety rule. A physical demo probably helped the message sink in.” – AdrianeKay
“NTA. My own kids have tried to unbuckle. I’ve explained the injury and death angle. I’ve brake checked too and the unbuckling stopped. No one considered me cruel and gross for teaching safety basics” – ringslingleader
Some also thought the SIL would be in for a rude awakening someday.
“NTA, you’re caught in the middle of a bad situation where her mom is rewarding her bad behavior. Notice how the discussion was about what you said, rather than about the obvious fact that the kid should be buckled up.”
“If Mom doesn’t learn to set boundaries, this isn’t going to be fun when the kid’s 13. The best thing you can do is set consistent boundaries with your niece. She’ll actually appreciate that, and most likely you’ll get along fine in time. But when in doubt, do the right thing.” – cjack68
“I also wonder if a big part of the reason this 5-year-old is in therapy is because of her mother rewarding her bad behavior.” – indi50
“NTA. What would be ‘cruel and gross,’ is if your SIL’s lack of parenting meant her kid went sailing through the windshield, like the bloody meat torpedo she’d become in such a situation.”
“Also, CPS could easily be called on you for neglecting and endangering the child by not buckling her in.”
“Sounds like the niece is well on the way to becoming entitled like her mother if SIL keeps this mindset up. Her daughter isn’t so special that the laws (both those of physics, as well as federal) don’t apply to her little princess.” – SmolOracle
“NTA. I grew up with family and friends who were First Responders and Nurses. Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, EMT’s, ER Nurses and Doctors.”
“My mother was an RN, worked in the ER and was a Lifeflight Nurse.”
“I’ve heard the whispered conversations about the state of people, especially kids, who weren’t in seatbelts during accidents, including the tears and heartbreak when they couldn’t save those kids from horrific crash injuries.”
You did the right thing. Kids are far smarter and more resilient then we’re often led to believe.”
“Certain types of fear are also healthy.” – Safe-Invite3509
“NTA – A brake check at 10 mph to reinforce the lesson and to demonstrate how the safety straps work sounds perfectly fine to me.”
“Some people have to learn by doing and expereincing, (kinetic learning) and it’s possible that the neice is one of those people. Your SIL should thank you for caring enough to do this and show her daughter that what she was doing was unsafe.”
“You didn’t hit her, or harm her, so you are definitely not the a**hole.”
“Your SIL should have told her daughter that what you did was for her own good and to show you that he loves you and wants to keep her safe, but instead she decided to enable and reinforce her daughters unacceptable behaviour.”
“Way to ruin a great teaching moment Mom!” – Matelot67
“And if the cops see you, you get the fine, not your niece, or your SIL.”
“You are a responsible driver, and will not be driving anyone who can’t follow the rules.” – napperdj
“NTA. I was an obstinate little kid who would not do a single thing without a damn good reason.”
“Telling me to wear a seatbelt just ’cause would not have been good enough for my stubborn self. My parents told me the same thing you told your niece.”
“I wore a seatbelt. I was not traumatised.” – NootTheNoot
“NTA I once showed a preschooler/toddler a video of another child getting hit (not fatally) by a car to explain why she needed to stay out of the street.”
“Told her she could get a ‘bad boo-boo’ she understood and we never had that issue again.”
“Then I was able to explain other times why she needed to do things for her safety as well. Stay buckled or you could get a bad boo-boo, don’t touch the wood stove, she decided to learn that one the hard way.”
“That probably helped cement the lesson. Luckily she was very timid about touching it and she didn’t get burned but it definitely hurt.”
“She was a particularly anxious child tho. Still is pretty tightly wound but she’s got a lot of baggage for an elementary school child so I’m sure that didn’t help.” – Ellendyra
“NTA. The world isn’t sunshine and rainbows and sheltering kids from obvious truths that could actually hurt them is dangerous.”
“You did the right thing, sometimes brats need a good scare in order for them to listen to the facts about life.” – Venomseri
“NTA. When my kids were 6 and 4 they tended to run out into the street. It was impulsive and the street was quiet… but it was important that they learn to respect the street and cars.”
“So I sat them on the curb with my wife and ran over the Halloween pumpkins in front of them.”
“The younger one did repeat ‘pumpkins smashed’ a few times… but they stopped running the street.”
“They both seem fine today by the way.” – RaederX
“NTA. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but when my niece was around the same age I told her if she did something (very dangerous) she could hurt herself and possibly die if it were extreme.”
“I got screamed at by her parents for telling her she’s going to ‘die’.”
h”She never did it again though sooooo lesson learned.” – Fast-Cheesecake6412
“NTA. I think the Belchers [of Bob’s Burgers] do it best with the song, ‘buckle it up, buckle it up, buckle it up or you’ll dieeeeeee!’.”
“Anyway, SIL is being totally irresponsible by not explaining the importance of a seatbelt.” – cakeisreallygood
“NTA. If it were my child, I would absolutely tell her the same. It’s the truth.”
“Car seats are so important. It’s not being cruel or gross to make sure your beloved family member does not die in your care.” – mushroomrevolution
“You should show your brother and SIL some of these replies, even the graphic ones.”
“Because what your sister in law is doing is dangerous, and she’s not helping her daughter at all, all your SIL is doing is telling your niece its okay when she misbehaves.”
“Your SIL is effectively undoing all the discipline your niece gets, and that’s not fair on anybody.” – Aggressive_Theme7229
“NTA. I do that with my 3 and 2yr old. They need to know what could happen.”
“I even explain that mummy and daddy can get into a lot of trouble and not be able to go for drives anymore.” – Mum_of_rebels
“NTA. You told her the truth – she really could die. Being seatbelted can mean the difference between surviving a car crash with minimal or no injury and being killed or greviously injured.”
“I think I understand why she behaves badly, if her mother thinks explaining the logic behind a simple rule to protect her safety is inappropriate.” – Ettina
Though the sister-in-law didn’t agree with how the OP spoke to her daughter, the subReddit found him to be totally in the right.
It’s generally better for a child to know and understand why some things are off-limits, so they can behave more appropriately and stay safe.
Without a doubt, knowing “something bad” could happen in the car is a much stronger argument than “because I said so.”