The battle for the steering wheel


Nico and I have a running battle these days.

Nico wants to drive. Yes, like DRIVE THE CAR by himself. He sits in the front seat, asks for the keys, and when I refuse he pushes every switch and button he can possibly find. Wrenching him out of the driver’s seat is nearly impossible. He is a hulk of a 2 year old and you would be shocked at his strength.

I try speaking to him rationally. I tell him that he is welcome to drive in 14 years. I tell him it’s actually illegal and the police are going to arrest him. I tell him he needs to get into his carseat or I’m going to get mad, very mad.

But he just grins at me and turns on the windshield wipers.

I tried the Zen approach several times. I waited him out, pretended I had all the time in the world. I waited for him to be bored with the driver’s seat and say, Okay, let’s go! But no. Even after 45 minutes he was still happy as can be.

It always ends badly.

It ends with me saying, “Okay Nico, you have a choice. You can either get into the backseat by yourself or I’m going to carry you back.” He is silent so I repeat myself. “You. In backseat. Or I come get you.”

He considers this for a moment and then answers in a whisper, “I drive.”

When I grab him he kicks and screams and I pray that no one is in earshot of his wails. I put him in the car seat and he goes as limp as possible, slinks out of my arms and scrambles to get back into the front. I grab him again and put him back in the seat with all my strength. I can feel my blood boiling and I am SO FRUSTRATED that I have to fight him, that even after being patient for 45 minutes, it still ends this way.

I’ve resorted to bribery

But yesterday I did an experiment. I took the coveted gummy vitmains we normally give the kids inside the house and brought them into the car.

“If you want some gummies get into your seat!” Both Ben and Nico scrambled to their seats. They were practically strapped in before I could blink. Worked like a charm! I tried it again when I picked Nico up from school. Score. Slam dunk. That kid was in his seat in 2 seconds flat.

It’s a small thing. But for today (or however many days this lasts) I will not have to wrestle a 2 year old into his car seat. And for me, that is HUGE. And I know it’s bribery, and it’s basically candy, but WHATEVER. Even if it works for one more day it will be worth it.

Just 14 more years Nico. Just 14 more years.




  1. Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    You did what was necessary! Sometimes, bribery is the only thing that helps you keep your sanity! Blessings.

  2. SueB
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I give in to the bribery as much to get results as to spare my daughters from the anger and frustration on my face and in my voice. I’m working to rein in that outward ugliness when I lose my shit. It ain’t pretty. But I’m also open to trying new ways to change the girls’ behavior. Surprisingly, I found that just asking my four-year-old what she would do if she were me brings us ’round to a solution. Not every time. But sometimes, and that’s good enough.

  3. Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Wresting a resistant 2-year-old sucks. I caught my partner letting our girl climb in the front seat to play before going in the house one night and I totally lit into him. “Do you know how hard it is going to be for me to get her in the house for the next week???”

  4. Dr. S
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh man! I don’t suppose it would help anything if you got him a little car of his own to drive? Like a Radio Flyer dealie? I can’t remember whether we’ve seen one of those in any of your pictures.

    More importantly: power to you, Superhero!

  5. Dr. S
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    And maybe don’t ever get a car that actually starts with a push button… :)

  6. Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I totally feel your pain. I’m usually a postive-parenting, no bribery kinda gal, but my twins really really love to play in the car. I, too, have had those “do you want to climb in yourself or should I help you?” conversations. Thankfully, they rarely end in screams, though one boy is adept at turning himself into a human plank. So we have a lot of good reasons to get into their carseats: to see Daddy, to drink milk, to play in the neighbor’s backyard, to find out what’s in the mailbox when we get home…and then I’m just glad when they clamber up without insisting on playing in the car. Sometimes I can put off the urge by saying “you can play in the car when we get home.” At least at home I’m more relaxed about things taking forever! Good luck.

  7. Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Why do we use words like “bribery” in this context as though it is a bad thing, something we have to apologize for or feel bad about? No way, girl. You did what you had to do. You gave them something they would have gotten anyway just in a different place and at a different time. I applaud your creativity. And I’m sure you will be equally creative or more so in the future. You rock, girl. And you are a fantastic mother.

    Besides we “bribe” ourselves and each other all the time. If I exercise first, then… If I do laundry now, then… If I get out of bed go to work, then… If I close my eyes and daydream, then… (Haha!!!) It’s all a part of life, at least as far as I can tell.

    Again, good for you, smart Mama.

  8. Karina
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    This is why I keep chewing gum in the glove box! Ha! ;) whatever helps you keep your sanity, i say

  9. Posted June 27, 2013 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    I can only imagine how frustrating that struggle must be … Please permit me two observations even though I am not a mother.
    1) your resourcefulness is unbounded … Whatever works for both of you is the *right* thing

    2) Nico’s fierce tenacity will serve him well later in life – believe it or not, it will be one of his most prized attributes and you will know he is doing the *right* thing and taking care of himself when he is on his own. Believe in the guidance you give him through love and example!

  10. Posted June 27, 2013 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    I forgot to add this – once in a coaching session you asked me who I admired as a mother. You were just incubating Ben at the time. I can say with conviction now, YOU!!

    You continually inspire me.

    Thank you!

  11. Chris
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    You probably already have one and perhaps he would not think it as good as the real thing but you could get him a toy steering wheel thingy of his own to play with and be backseat driver. MIne moved onto bossy backseat direction giving “turn here!!!!” etc. Such fun (not) the wrestle into the car seat thing…I miss that not at all.

  12. Marilee Pittman
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    so funny ! When I was little I dreamed of driving a car. In reality I didn’t get my driver’s licence till I was 35.

  13. Laurie
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine makes it a game with her two. Whoever gets in their seat the quickest picks the music.

  14. Posted June 27, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Is it bribery or positive redirection without explanation?

  15. Elisa Mikiten
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Too funny!

    He will grow out of it just as Eli grows back into it. 3 years and Eli will have a permit! He’s already over a hundred pounds, and I don’t think a gummy vitamin will get him to the back seat. What’s a mom to do? “Get in the backseat and I’ll get you a girlfriend!”

    Enjoy the vitamin trick while it lasts!

  16. Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Bribery? Maybe… but I like to call it Positive Reinforcement. ;) Sounds so much better doesn’t it?

  17. Leah
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Glad to know I’m not the only one with a strong-willed younger-sibling child. My daughter’s thing right now is pens and pencils and crayons. She draws on every available surface including walls and floors, and chews the crayons.

  18. jen
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    So funny! Id jump in the backseat for a gummy vitamin too. I say do whatever works!!! xoxox

  19. Sarah
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Andrea- someone else may have mentioned this, or you may have already thought of this, but have you tried attaching a toy steering wheel to the seat in front of him? He could “help” you drive? Just an idea!

  20. catherine
    Posted June 29, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink


  21. jen Diamond
    Posted June 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink


    My daughter is the same way. And so dramatic when I ask her to get out of the seat. She has run down the battery twice! So now we have a rule of no more driving. I am so glad the bribery works!


  22. Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I use bribery ALL THE TIME! I don’t see it as bad or comprised parenting when it keeps me calm and her happy.

  23. Posted July 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Its not bribery its reinforcement;) Your reinforcing the good!

  24. Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    OMG. I could have written this post. My son is 3 and has been trying to drive the car since he was very very little…and the story unfolds exactly as yours does. Its so frustrating and so hard to wrestle him out of the drivers seat (after you’ve gone the patient route, the negotiation route, the “you don’t have a license, do you?” route).
    I feel ya, mama. Thanks for writing this and making e feel less alone with my mini-car jacker.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *