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Child safety locks: When should you disable?

My daughter and I are having a disagreement lately. She thinks she’s old enough to have me turn off the child safety locks on the back car doors. I say not yet. Much to my dismay, this has turned into a minor battle of the wills. Thing is, she’s only five.

Car Lock

I can’t give my daughter a clear answer on when it will be time to turn off those locks and let her exit the car on her own. I don’t remember, exactly, the ages of her older brothers when I offered
that same freedom and responsibility – and every kid is different anyway. I do know it’s an interesting decision to navigate.

Clear rules for car seats

While there are clear rules for car seats, there are no rules or guidelines for car door child safety locks. They are available on most four door vehicles as a safety feature so that your young
child cannot open the door in traffic or other unsafe situation, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Some kids might be ready for unlocking this child safety lock earlier than others. Some later. While I can’t remember when, exactly, I turned off those locks for my boys, I do remember my
apprehension. Keeping them safe was my priority, after all. It turned out fine for them – but I didn’t have this daily challenging of my decision, either.

Too much freedom?

Since moving my daughter to a regular booster seat just before her fifth birthday, she has more freedom to buckle and unbuckle herself into her booster seat. I love this. It means we can be faster
in and out of the car on a daily basis – and that big car seat was getting a little cruddy after several years of intense use (and in spite of regular cleaning).

But this doesn’t quite translate to full freedom to open her closest car door. She’s just a little too eager to open doors for herself and will move across to her brothers’ side of the car and try
to exit that way before I have the chance to check whether it’s clear and safe to do so. This tells me she’s not quite ready. I know she wants it, I see she wants it – she just has to show me she
can handle it.

When are they ready?

Every child and every situation is different, of course, but I’d say there are a few guidelines to let you know when you can turn off that child safety lock:

  • Can your child buckle and unbuckle himself from their car seat or booster seat?
  • Does your child understand when you talk to him or her about safety around cars and other vehicles and in traffic?
  • Does your child listen consistently on traffic safety related issues?

My daughter has two of these three down, but not the last one. She as yet so eager to get out of the car that she is sometimes unsafe doing so.

Set some goals

Since this has become a big issue for my daughter, I have set some goals for her. First, I will not consider turning off the locks until she is in Kindergarten (just weeks away). Second, she must
show me she is ready by listening at all time in and around the car. Third, she must stop questioning me daily about why I can’t turn off those locks.

The last goal is the hardest. I see and understand that. But it may also be the most important. A little patience may be just what I need to see that she has the maturity to handle no child safety
locks on the car doors.

I’m hopeful for her – for both of us, really – that she can meet her goals. It would be nice for her to be able to have that bit of freedom. We’ll give it a try sometime soon – and I can always
turn the child safety locks on again.

For more tips on car safety:

  • How to prevent back-over accidents
  • Top 10 car seat safety tips
  • When can kids move to the front seat?
  • Are you wondering when to move your child from the car seat to booster seat? Find out what other moms think
    on our SheKnows message boards.

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