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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from parents who are having difficulty with their child’s behavior. Today’s question comes from Amanda, who writes:

“Is there a specific protocol that should be used to decrease hitting and pinching in general?

My biggest concern related to hitting and pinching is how to keep everyone safe in the car. Occasionally my son will hit the driver. Is there some sort of adult sized 5 point harness that can be used so my nephew can’t reach the driver? Or some method of child-proofing the buckle so that it must be unfastened by someone else? (Like a toddler seat, only my son is bigger than me!)

Any advice you can give for car rides would be greatly appreciated!”

Amanda this is a fantastic question (or 2 or 3 questions in one!). You are not the first person to ask me about safety while riding in the car.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a standard protocol for hitting, pinching, or any other behavior. We respond to behavior based on its function or purpose. My first question would be “why is your son hitting on pinching?” My guess, based on the information you have provided, is that he is hitting for attention. Right? The driver is busy and not attending to the child, the child hits, and attention comes almost immediately.

Sooooooo, make sure you and whoever is driving refrains from giving him attention when he hits you while driving. You also want to make sure you give him lots of attention for good behavior while driving. You can also comment on things you see or use music to distract him.

Safety is a completely separate issue. All children should be safely secured in a moving vehicle.  If he is coming out of the seatbelt, then you may want to consider a different type of car restraint. However, if he is bigger than the adult, the options are limited. I would try to teach him to stay in the seat belt rather than use a harness. This could take some time. If he really likes car rides, you could pull the car over and stop temporarily for any violation (hitting or getting out of the seat belt). If he doesn’t like car rides, that intervention will not work and a different strategy will need to be used.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

If you have a behavior or situation that you need assistance on, please email me at askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot-com. Thank you!

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