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Safety First: What Do You Do When Families Have Different Safety Rules?

Safety First: What Do You Do When Families Have Different Safety Rules?

I’m the mom that follows the rules when it comes to safety, or at least I try to. Cue the eye roll. There are times when I feel like a broken record telling my kids to put on their bike helmets for the 100th time or to buckle up before we leave the garage. There have been a few occasions when my kids are on their scooters without a helmet because I’m not there to remind them, but overall, I’m pretty good about staying on top of the idea of safety first. But here’s where enforcing safety rules has recently started to get a little tricky – when other children (or sometimes even other parents) are involved.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s 7 year old daughter climbed into my car for the long ride to our house for a play date. I was prepared. I had an extra booster. By Massachusetts standards, based on her age, height and weight this child is required to be in a booster, but she immediately (and repeatedly) told me that she doesn’t need a booster. It was a bit of a battle, but eventually she gave in. She isn’t the first child to challenge me on this. In another instance, it was a parent who made enforcing the rules a bit tricky. She offered to pick up my daughter for a playdate. When they pulled in the driveway, I could see my daughter’s friend bopping around in the back seat. No seatbelt and certainly no booster. When I casually asked the mom if she had an extra booster or if I should get her a spare, she laughed and said she hadn’t used boosters in so long it never even occurred to her. Needless to say, my daughter was buckled into the car, in a booster. Her friend rode home with neither a booster or a seatbelt.

Bike helmets pose another safety challenge. Bike helmets didn’t exist when I was a kid, well, unless you were riding a dirt bike down treacherous trails and even then, it wasn’t the norm. We didn’t wear helmets skiing and we certainly didn’t wear them ice skating. But we’re smarter now and we know that wearing a bike/ski helmet can and will protect you. My kids don’t challenge us on wearing helmets – to them, it’s just always been the rule. Riding a bike, a scooter, a motorized Jeep, skiing. Helmets are just like any other equipment you put on to participate in the sport of the moment. However, recently, one of my daughter’s friends insisted she didn’t have to wear a helmet while roller skating and went on to tell me she only wears a helmet on the ski slopes when it’s really cold out to keep her warm.

There are many reasons I’m strict about using the right car seat/booster, seatbelts and helmets regardless of what my kid’s friends say. The obvious is that accidents do happen, often when you least expect it. The other reason is, in our family, the rules around this are ones I have no intention of bending on. It’s very clear, safety first.

I’m curious though, how do other parents navigate this? The best thing I’ve been able to come up with is to constantly remind my kids, and on occasion their friends, that different families have different rules. And in our home, we wear helmets, we wear seatbelts and we use appropriate car seats/boosters. Is your family strict about this and if so, what would you do when challenged by other kids or even other parents?

Bike riding with helmets



  1. Erica Boos May 2, 2014 at 8:17 am

    We have had the same issue. We have also addressed it with every family has their own rules and these are ours.

    Once while my son was with another mother, she broke one of our rules and left the kids in the car while she ran into the store. When she returned, my son told her that she just broke the law and his mom was not going to be happy. At least I know he was listening to me.

    Stay strong, even as the kids get older and it is harder. Your rules could someday save their lives.

  2. Kris-Ann (Progressive Mom) May 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Booster seats are one thing, but no seat belts? I don’t think I’d let my child ride in the car with that parent any more, even if I did provide a booster seat and seat belt. I agree, every family makes its own rules, but your child’s safety still has to come first and I’d wonder what other unsafe (in my opinion) behaviors were happening while my child was with that parent.

  3. Heather May 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    We have had booster seat and helmet issues, too. My daughter rides her scooter with the boys next door and is the only one in a helmet – and it makes me proud that she doesn’t question it. We talk a lot about how there are different rules in different houses – but I think that now I’ll add that there are some rules that are the same for our family no matter where we are and who we are with.

  4. jennifer May 5, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Our Son is only 20 months old but I have already seen this as a future problem. For example, my best friend has a 2 year old and she does not follow many safety guidelines for him. Her son’s car seat faced forward when he turned one. I know that is not against Mass law and is not recommended. She also decided not to baby proof her home (no plug covers, etc.). When we got pregnant we often talked about taking each other’s kids for a weekend to let the other have a mini vacation. There is no way we will be leaving our son with her.

  5. Media Mom May 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Wow — lesson for me. My kids are 7 and 3, and I haven’t run into the booster seat or helmet issue with either of them. I’m not surprised that there may be kids who try to fake you out, but I’m stunned that those are not completely enforced equally by parents at that age. SO glad it hasn’t been an issue for us. But Jennifer’s comments about outlets, does make a good point that, especially when you send your children to other people’s houses (including grandparents), you need to know your kids and your tolerance about things like outlets, gates on the stairs, how medications are stored, are there guns in the home, etc. You may need to learn to be flexible on some issues (depending on your own child), but can’t be shy about sticking to those things you won’t waiver on.

  6. Kate May 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Great topic and discussion. I agree that this can be very tricky to navigate, especially since safety rules have gotten so much stricter since we were children. I also agree that it is up to us as parents to (1) determine the rules, and (2) know the environments that we are sending our kids into. Obviously they cannot be protected from absolutely everything, but we do the very best we can. Thanks for posting!

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