Who decides whether to forward-face a 4 year old?

Nedra

Car-Seat.org Ambassador
I'm wondering if anyone has any guidance for me. My older daughter is turning 4 in March. She is about 32 lbs, maybe 36" and she's never ridden forward-facing before (except once on a plane). Getting her into her seat has been more of a challenge lately, but not because she doesn't like her seats....she's just bigger and more difficult to lift into place. Once she is in the seat, she has never complained about comfort.

We intend to turn her forward-facing in her grandparents' vehicle when she turns 4. They've been patient with us and I'm impressed that we've managed to keep her rear-facing in their car as long as we have.

The question is, should we turn her forward facing in our other vehicles at the same time?

Part of me feels like I shouldn't turn her around unless she specifically asks for it. I know that rear-facing will always be the safest option (as long as the seat is appropriate), but if we were resolute about keeping her rear-facing until she outgrew her seats she would probably be 7+ years old. There's nothing wrong with that, but it just feels a bit excessive and probably a pain in the butt.

Another part of me feels like it would make our goals more transparent if we specifically offered it at 4 years old. She might not realize that it's a possibility in our cars and never ask for it -- and might even be mad when she finds out it was a possibility and encourage her younger sister to ask to be turned around too. I also don't want to scare her by implying that she is safer in our cars than she is with her grandparents -- and saying "You may be safer if you continue to rear-face in our car, or you may be equally safe in either position, we really don't know because there isn't much research on the relative safety benefits of rear-facing versus forward-facing after age 4," isn't really an explanation I want to burden a 4 year old with.

Any guidance on navigating this transition? I feel comfortable with the safety of forward-facing a 4 year old.....I just don't know who should make the decision and how.
 

lgenne

New member
My 4 year old rear faces in one vehicle, forward faces in the other. I think I told him the car seat in that car can't be turned around. (It's a TWE, which can't be tethered, so close enough to true for my purposes.)
 

MUTigers

New member
The rule at our house is hard and fast. You rear face until 4. Full stop. No debate. DD1 turned FFing on her 4th birthday, she was one good growth spurt away from needing to turn so it worked out. DD2 (who is 2) will stay RFing until 4, no matter what her big sister says to her. And DD2 is the kid that will make her opinion known, if she wanted to FF she would say it.

In your case, I would let her have a say in your car. I wouldn't burden her with the "it's safer" decision, just let her decide. In my opinion, if you're comfortable with it in one car, you need to be comfortable with it in other cars too. (There are times I might waiver on this, i.e. DD1 is in a hhb full time, I made her stay harnessed until after christmas due to lots of night time traveling, and if we take a long trip she might be harnessed for that, those decisions are at my discretion.)


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ketchupqueen

CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
I wait until circumstances dictate or they persistently ask but there's not a wrong answer here. You made it to 4. She'll be fine either way. :)
 

zeo2ski

New member
It's pretty simple to tell little sister that she is not old enough yet. Especially easy to comprehend if big sister just had her birthday.

Is it possible that you'll be needing to do any carseat shuffling in the near future? Rather than turning the seat in grandparents' car, if you replaced it with something new, a FF seat then it would also be easy to say "this is how this seat installs."

Any reason she can't climb into the seat herself? I couldn't lift my 4 yo into her seat either, but putting her into it FFing I also wouldn't be able to do, I need her to climb and sit.
 

Nedra

Car-Seat.org Ambassador
It's pretty simple to tell little sister that she is not old enough yet. Especially easy to comprehend if big sister just had her birthday.

Is it possible that you'll be needing to do any carseat shuffling in the near future? Rather than turning the seat in grandparents' car, if you replaced it with something new, a FF seat then it would also be easy to say "this is how this seat installs."

Any reason she can't climb into the seat herself? I couldn't lift my 4 yo into her seat either, but putting her into it FFing I also wouldn't be able to do, I need her to climb and sit.
My kid just isn't much of a climber. When she was about 2 she started getting really excited about climbing in on her own, but since then she has lost interest.

As far as the seat in the grandparent car, I am planning to get them an IMMI Go and shuffle our other convertibles around. So there will definitely be the element of "this is how this seat installs" which I am grateful for.

G is a questioner, though. She wants to know everything about why a change is happening. And she asks a lot of questions about car seats because she knows they are important to me. (Today I overheard her telling her imaginary friend why her car seats use a harness instead of a seatbelt.) If I told her that the reason she was FF was because that's just how her new seat worked, she would ask why her other seats weren't like that, why not all car seats face the same way, and why we didn't get this new style of seat for the other cars.

That's what I am worried about with
whether she will feel betrayed later on if I don't give her the whole story. Not that she will tell her little sister to ask to get turned around now, but that a year from now she will tell her little sister, "mom said the reason they didn't flip me around was because I didn't ask persistently, so you should ask."

I'm thinking that this is what I will do.

1. Switch her seat in the grandparent car to the IMMI Go.

2. When she asks why I will say that now that she is bigger her grandparents have been having a hard time getting her into her seat (true) and so we are going to try this new seat.

3. *If* she asks why she is not FF in her other seats, I will say that her other seats could be FF, but that young kids need to be RF and that's why we have never used them FF.

4. *If* she asks whether she can be FF in her other seats now, I will tell her that since she is 4 years old, she could be safe in either position and that if she'd like to try FF we can find a time to flip one of her seats around and see what she thinks.

That avoids scaring her with the details while also staying honest. If she doesn't ask any questions, I won't bring it up. But if she does, I won't fight her on it if she wants to try FF. (She's also pretty stubborn, so I think if I tell her that in our family 4-year olds get to choose for themselves, there is a strong chance she will try FF but choose to stay RF....but if I try to put off the question or refuse to switch her seat she will for sure dig in her heels.)


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featherhead

New member
At 4 I would just tell her it is now her job to climb into her seat because she is so big.


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Nedra

Car-Seat.org Ambassador
At 4 I would just tell her it is now her job to climb into her seat because she is so big.


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Meh....I'm not super invested in her climbing in on her own. I'd rather just lift her in than have her get her wet boots all over the seat.


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babyherder

New member
I had my nanny girls rf in my car until they were over 4 and they ff with their parents. I always said it was how the seats fit in my car. Now the youngest is 5 and I have bigger seats. She sometimes asks to face the other way (from whichever way the seat is currently facing) and I just tell her next time I take the seat out I'll put it back in the other way. This easily buys a few weeks and can buy a few months if I'm feeling particularly lazy. If you want to keep your dd rf in your car you can give her a reason other than safety. I think not feeling like Uninstalling and reinstalling seats, not wanting the back of your seat kicked, preferring any whining be directed at the back windshield, eating a cookie that no one can see, etc are all valid reasons to rf.
 

lovemybabybug

New member
I am nanny/sitter and I make the rules in my car. They rear face till 4 and that's that no matter what they do in their parents car. One of my nanny kids moved to a booster in her parents car before she turned 4 because she was "so big" but she continued to rear face in mine. She asked why, and I said because that's how we ride in my car. And there were no issues. Same with my niece who turned forward in her car when she turned two, but rear faces in mine still at 3. No questions asked. I don't think a deep conversation about the logistics and mechanics of it is necessary. " this is how this seat works in grandma's car" should be sufficient"


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SafeDad

CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
I wait until circumstances dictate or they persistently ask but there's not a wrong answer here. You made it to 4. She'll be fine either way. :)
Great advice! If you think your grandparents would have an easier time getting her properly restrained in their vehicle if she was forward-facing, then make the change there first. Then make the choices for other vehicles when your daughter "demands" it or you feel comfortable with it or really whatever reason. At that age and weight, just being correctly restrained in the back seat is the big deal:)
 

laurengt

New member
You might just need to feel it out and see what happens.

Our daughter didn't ask about FF in our main vehicle until about 6 mos after we turned her in our other car. My son was begging to FF at about 2.5 years (we didn't turn him then, it's just when he was asking about it) and he had no older siblings to compare to.




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Nedra

Car-Seat.org Ambassador
Thanks everyone! I am just going to try to go with the flow. I forgot about the fact that uninstalling and reinstalling seats takes time and energy.....so even though I am a planner, the "do nothing" approach will likely be very appealing when the time comes. [emoji10]


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