No matter how independent they may seem, this is no time to be lax when it comes to car safety.
When it comes to children and car safety, you may be encountering several situations:
1. Your child may have the skill to climb into and out of their car seat on their own.
2. They may have figured out how to snap and even unsnap their car seat buckles.
3. You may be worried they are outgrowing their current car seat.
First of all, your child climbing in or out of their car seat on their own (while the vehicle is stopped, of course) may not be a negative. If the design of your car enables your child to complete these tasks independently, embrace it. It will not only give your child a boost of confidence as a person, but may give you just a couple more minutes to get things together.
Of course, never leave your child alone if they are able to climb in or out of their seat. Remember, most children have lots of ambition, but sometimes lack the skill. Additionally, you will need to determine if your child will be able to complete this task independently and within a timely manner. For some young children, using counting as an incentive (“I'll count to 5 and you need to get in your seat, or I will need to help you”) works beautifully. For others, it's all a game and even if you counted to 500, they wouldn't be in their seat. Be sure to set limits, be consistent, and follow through (i.e. if you do get to 5, provide assistance while communicating to your child why you are helping them).
If your child is buckling or worse – unbuckling – their car seat on their own, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If your child has buckled their seat, double-check their work. Remember, your child is still relatively new to this world. They are little. You are the parent. You need to ensure they are as safe as they can be. Double-check that the buckles have locked into place and the straps are properly adjusted. If your child gives you grief as you go through this process, simply respond with “It's my job to keep you safe.” Period.
However, if your child has figured out how to unbuckle their car seat, it's probably time to invest in a new model. There are various types of closures on car seats. There is no need to risk their safety if and when a child decides they would rather be “out” of their seat than “in.” This is especially true when your car is cruising at 65 mph on a highway!
Finally, if you are concerned that your child may be outgrowing their current car seat, whether the size or positioning doesn't seem quite right, take the time to check in with the professionals. Rely on such sources as your pediatrician or check with your local police station. Generally, there are programs in communities that provide trained professionals (generally fire fighters or policemen) on the correct installation and fit of a child's car seat.