Why My Tween Still Sits in the Back Seat {In a Booster Seat}

In my home it has never been something I ever second guessed. Kids go in the back seat. Case closed. At least that is what I thought until recently when two realizations happened. First off, I have a tween now. He is no longer a “kid” by social definitions, but that is for another conversation. Secondly, apparently, I am considered on the “over-protective” side because I refuse to let said tween ride in the front seat.

Up until recently, I didn’t even think twice about the fact that all of my children still sit in the back seat. In fact, they all still have boosters or car seats! Yes, my 10 year old still sits in a booster seat in the back seat and here is why.

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Right now you might be fuming, or laughing, or maybe even feeling sorry for my son. That’s what their father does at least. In fact, his disapproval of my decisions are exactly what made me realize that my ways are not the norm. According to him my boys are getting older, which allows them more “grown up” privileges. Sitting in the front seat is one of those “grown up” privileges that he thinks they deserve.

Every time the boys go to visit their dad, they return with stories of riding in the front seat. Every time we have to have a discussion about why we choose to have them sit in the back seat and why they still need to use their boosters as well. The boosters are another issue with their dad as well. In fact, every time he picks them up from me, he rolls his eyes as he puts the boosters into his car, and according to the boys, never uses them again during their stay.

You might agree with him and I am not here to tell you your thoughts are wrong, but I would like to share why I have my boys sit in the back seat and I don’t have any plans of moving them to the front seat any time soon.

Why My Tween Sits in the Back Seat {In a Booster Seat}

Safety. Pure and simple, safety is the reason I keep my children in the back seat. You see, I don’t really care if its not cool to be in the back seat still at age 10. I don’t even care if it’s not cool to be in a booster at age 10 and here’s why. Car crashes don’t care about “cool”. I could have the coolest kid in the world, but if we get in a car accident, I would miss that cool kid more than anything in the world and that weight is just too heavy to bare. So, I have made it my mission to keep my kids in the back seat as long as possible.

Did you know that according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention everyone is safest in the backseat? The force of the air bag alone can cause severe damage to an adult, not to mention what it can do to a child. We all know that it isn’t reasonable to ask everyone to sit in the backseat forever, though so lets look at a few more guidelines and questions I continue to research to make my decision.

When should kids move to the front seat

When is it legal for my kid to sit in the front seat?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, many states have laws about the age, weight and height of a child before they can be moved to the front seat. In my state of Illinois, the law only states that a child must be more than 40 pounds before a booster seat is removed. However, the state does have guidelines that suggest keeping children in a the back seat until the age of 13.

Okay, so according to this, my children should remain in the back seat based on age alone. Both boys are younger than 13.

How long do my kids need a booster seat?

Again, the laws on boosters and child restraints vary by state, but the recommendations remain similar across states. According to the Child Passenger Safety guidelines, children should be at least 57 inches to sit without a booster seat. The child must be able to sit with the lap belt and shoulder belt should fit properly.

Lets see, my oldest son is very small for his age. He currently is 51 inches tall. My youngest son, who is two years younger than his brother, is 48. Again, according to this recommendation both children should be in the back seat WITH a booster seat.

how old should my kid be to ride in front seat?

Image source: CDC

I know that co-parenting is supposed to have differences and differing opinions. I know that sometimes you have to bend on your ideals to meet in the middle. However, this is one issue I don’t think I should bend on. I want my children to be safe and protected anytime we are in the car.

Keeping my tween (and his siblings) in the back seat until they graduate high school is my way of keeping them safe. Okay, I was kidding on that last statement. I do, however, plan to keep them in the back seat as long as I possibly can (or at least until they get big enough to meet all requirements).

How long should kids sit in back seat

I am curious about your family. Do you let your children ride in the front seat? Do your kids still use booster seats? Why or why not? Lets have a discussion, but lets keep it friendly! Okay?

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43 thoughts on “Why My Tween Still Sits in the Back Seat {In a Booster Seat}”

  1. I’ve never even thought about this. Thank you for doing a post in it. We only have a one year old so this is years off but we do plan on doing rear facing until at least (at least) two. Everyone keeps asking about when I’ll turn him around. Not anytime soon!!!

  2. Jennifer

    My rule is that the kids have to be as big as I am (5’2″) to ride in the front seat. My 19yo and 14yo ride in the front. For that matter, the 19yo drives. 😉 My 11yo is very much looking forward to ditching the backseat, but he’s just not big enough yet. My youngest (just turned 9) still sits in a booster and hasn’t asked about leaving it behind – which is just fine with me!

    1. Troy Moran

      I totally get what you mean. I was 5ft 6 at 11 wearing shoe size 9 and since our car had liitle leg room in the back especially in a booster I was out of it by 7 cause I have always been tall for my age and my feet wedged against the back of the seat wouldn’t of been pretty if we got rear ended. So yeah I was sitting in the front since I was ten. And the law here where I live in Ireland is actually height however the minimum age is 10 but you have to be over 4ft 10 atleast. I passed that at 9 but stayed in the back til 10. Now I am 19 and 6ft 3 I am definatetly in the front

  3. Carrie S.

    Both my boys (8 and 11 years old) ride in the middle section of my minivan and sit on booster seats. No questions asked … They know it’s a requirement to be safe just like always wearing a helmet when riding a bike. They know “NO helmet, NO bike”. BTW, out of all my friends and neighbors, I am considered ‘over protective’.

  4. I completely agree!
    In fact, and some will laugh, my 6 and 7 year olds are still in car seats. Yes, not even in booster seats yet.
    My 7 year old is small for her age, just passed the 40 pound requirement for Ohio to get out of a car seat this past year. There is no way I was going to move her younger brother to a booster and tell her she had to stay in the car seat, so they both stayed. And you know what? They are safer.
    Yes, I plan to move them to booster seats sometime in the near future…and then they will stay in those until they at least meet the height requirements…and then they will be staying the backseat.
    I’ve already had one car accident with them in the car, and was so thankful for car seats! Safety knows no age limit.

  5. When possible my children still sit in the backseat (without a booster seat as they are now all over 5ft. tall). The children still at home are eleven, fifteen, and seventeen. My seventeen year old, who is over six foot tall, still often sits in the back seat (well really the “middle” seat since we have a mini-van). Mainly because we did it for so many years out of safety, that it is just habit. We don’t even really talk about it anymore. They just all get in the middle or back seats. I use the front passenger seat for my Chaplain supplies and other items which means moving things around for someone to be in the front seat. This probably helps enforce this – though I never really thought about that aspect of it until reading your post. Occasionally my seventeen year old will go to the trouble of moving things around to sit in the front seat but that is a pretty rare event. The boys seem to prefer being together in the back to entertain each other than separated one in front and one or two in back. Yes I know I am very blessed and my children are not “normal”. I am grateful for that everyday. 🙂

  6. Moira

    We are backseat all the way and my 6 year old still uses a 5 point harness (he prefers it to the booster). Their father lets both ride in the front seat in his Jeep. His justification is that the back seat is flimsy and he can turn the airbag off.

    That said, I got a lecture about letting my kid sit on the left side of the car at drop off at school, “he should sit in the front like everyone else. ” I educated her on Ca state law and the fact I have two children and the other sometimes needs help with his seat and the right side is easier for that.

    My son knows to wait until I tell him by using the side mirror if anyone is coming and to always go around the back of the car. I ignored the safety woman at school and she never said anything else to me. No other cars were doing this, most had the children, as young as 8, in the front seat. This is also a school who’s kids don’t wear helmets when biking or scootering to school. It blows my mind, I hope it doesn’t blow theirs.

  7. The AAP recommends age 13 for kids to ride in the front seat. I haven’t looked up why in a while, but it’s not a size/height issue; it’s something to do with their bones not being fully fused and airbags being more likely to break their faces. So 13 is our rule. We live in AZ where crazy people are allowed to drive with their children in the back of pickups, but my rule will not change.
    There is a 5 step test to see if your kid should be in a booster or not. I found it very helpful because it’s not based on hitting a specific height or weight; it has more to do with your kid’s body type and your vehicle model. For instance, my daughter has longer legs than my son, so she was able to pass the 5 step test at a younger age than he did. But she couldn’t go without a booster in my husband’s car for more than a year after she could go without a booster in my car, because the seats were deeper in his car and her feet didn’t touch the ground. (I made a 6th step to the test for my kids: feet had to hit the ground flat!)
    Here’s a link to the 5 step test:
    http://www.carseat.org/Boosters/630.htm

  8. Leslie

    My kids wait until they are in 8th grade or around 13 years of age. They are also in boosters until they are at least 8 years old (9.5 for my daughter who is tiny and has arthritis). Safety first all the time.

  9. Jen Evans

    I don’t think you’re over-protective. I hate that word. The only people who have to forever live with your decisions are you, your spouse and your family not a bunch of internet people or “well-meaning” friends. If something were to happen after you went against your own built-in conscience, you would never be able to live with yourself. Live by your own convictions. Good job, Mom.

    1. skl902000@aol.com

      I agree. She’s not being overprotective. When I think of over protected kids I think of kids that’s aren’t allowed to do anything. I think of kids that are missing out on things they might enrich their lives or teach them valuable skills. Riding in the front seat does not take anything away from their lives. It doesn’t prevent them from going places. It only attempts to get them to places safely.

  10. Laura B

    I agree with you and follow those rules with my children. Those rules are meant for safety, not to be mean to your children. Following those rules and laws keep your kids safe. The reason they have to be laws, is because of people who chronically disregard child safety guidelines (i.e.the stupid people)

  11. Michele

    My 7 1/2 yr old is extended 5-point harness solid high back car seat (Britax Frontier 85). She is 51″ tall and 63 lbs (she’s tall for her age). Anyway, the 5-point only goes up to 52″ and then the car seat converts to a solid high back booster (with energy absorbing foam for side impact). Britax also offers the Secure Guard, which replaces the buckle between the legs and securely holds the lap belt in it’s place across the lap (to help prevent submarining and damage to the organs)….which then turns the regular seat belt into a 4-point seat belt. This booster will go up to 57″ tall and 85 lbs. She will outgrow the height long before the weight. Anyway, She’ll be sitting in this booster until she outgrows it, no matter if she exceeds the law of 8 yrs old. She will be in the backseat for as long as I can. I’ve babysat before and picked up one of the kids from school…she’s 9. She opened the front door and started to climb in. I told her to get in the back (there’s plenty of room since I drive a minivan). She thought she could argue with me and said her parents let her. I thought that was sad. Anyway, I told her, my car, my rules. So she sat in the back. Parents really need to educate themselves on the safety of their children in the cars. These kids are irreplaceable. I honestly believe all seats in all cars should have 5-point harnesses instead of these belts they have currently. 5-point is safer. Thank you for the article. You’re not alone in this unsafe world.

  12. Nicola Grimwood

    My kids are very tall for there ages my daughter hasn’t needed a booster since 8 and my son at 13 is 5’8″ so they are lucky in that they can both by height and weight get rid of boosters earlier than many kids and my son can sit in the front more safely than some adults. They had to stay in the back and use boosters until they met the requirements though I think it’s only sensible to keep them as safe as possible for as long as possible, my son sat in the back until leg space became an issue.

  13. Ann

    I have a 9 year old that weighs 64 lbs, but is only 51 1/2 inches tall. He is in the back seat and will be for quite some time.

  14. Janna

    Thank you for this posting. I just want to add that my son gets motion sickness and the booster helps him see outside which lessens the effects. He’s about to turn 11 and I’m happy to see I’m not the only mom with a tween in a booster! He actually feels uncomfortable riding without it. He always gets sick without it (in taxis) and just feels more secure in it. I’m luck he hasn’t resisted yet!

  15. Rachel

    I drive a regular sedan size car with three children ages 13, 11, and 8. No one could even fit in a booster, so no one uses one. (The law in my state is 8 years or 80 pounds.) My son usually sits in the front seat, but if he isn’t along the girls usually take turns sitting in the front. My passenger side air bag turns off. I understand the back seat is safest, but really we would be most safe never driving at all. For me it is a risk/benefit balance of increased peace in the car.

  16. This is such great advice and I’m glad you shared it.

    My 10 year old is very small for her age and is definitely in a booster seat in the backseat. And I think she will be for quite some time.

    However, most kids in her class at school no longer seem to use boosters. Some of the kids – girls especially – are quite tall and it makes sense that they shouldn’t be in them as they’re tall enough to sit comfortably in a seat belt without a booster.

    But I did notice on a recent school field trip that other kids who I thought were still on the short side were not using booster seats.

    I do think that around 10 years old is when lots of parents start letting kids ride in the front seat, but to me it seems smarter to keep them in the backseat as long as possible.

  17. Monica Long

    I’m very strict about this topic! I have a lot of the same feelings and views. My son had to ride in the back until he was 13 and my husband and I did not see eye to eye on the subject.

  18. Nicole

    I have 4 children. A 7 year old, a 5 year old, a 4 year old and a 2 year old. They are all between the 7th and 9th percentile for high. The older 2 are still in high back boosters (are though I wish they were in 5 pt harnesses) and my younger 2 are in 5 Point harnesses front facing.

  19. Mac Sherbert

    http://csftl.org/boosters-are-for-very-big-kids/

    “Fortunately, we know that the law is not enough to keep children safe. NHTSA, Safe Kids, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that children between 8 and 12 years old continue to use a booster until they fit the belt correctly alone, usually around 4’9″.”

  20. I wish boosters for older kids had been around 15 years ago, when my then ten year old daughter had her neck broken when we were rear ended. Yes, she was sitting in the back seat. But a booster would have saved her from being forcefully struck in the back of the neck by the parcel shelf of our hatchback. Good for you, keeping your kids safe. Your ex is a fool. Mine was too. You stick to your guns and keep those kids safe.

  21. Amy K.

    I’m definitely considered a ‘freak’ in that my tall 9-year-old is still in a 5-point harness! We have one that fits extended heights and weights as a 5-point before needing to convert to a high-back and later backless tern (the Britax Frontier 85). Being at the legal requirements does NOT speak to safety.

    I used to work on the Safe Kids Campaign and realize that this is the biggest thing I can do to keep my children safe. So while I get pressure from others (including my husband), knowing that bones do not fully fuse and calcify until age 10 means that I’ll do what I believe best. I’m not a helicopter mom–my kids are encouraged to take risks, go explore, get dirty, and be kids. But I have no flexibility when it comes to carseats and bike/scooter helmets–these are non-negotiable.

    There are millions of things I can’t do to protect my child, and I have to accept that. THIS, I can do.

  22. April

    We have a 4 yr old so this has not come up yet. He is still in a car seat, with the 5 point harness simply because he still fits. I do have several friends who have kids the Same age as my son and they have their kids in booster seats already…not the high back kind, just straight booster seats and it makes me cringe. My son is very tall for his age (he looks like a 6 or 7 yr old) and still fits within the criteria to be in a carseat with the 5 point harness so these other kids should most definately not be in a booster. We also still have him sitting in the middle in the back seat and I don’t see that changing for quite some time (for one thing he can see out the window much better). My husband can’t wait for me to graduate him to the next stage because he hates messing with the 5 point harness but I just remind him every time he starts complaining that our son is much safer this way and to get used to it. Besides…when their is not another adult in the car the passenger seat is for my purse…sorry kid.

  23. Joy Walsh

    Tell your husband, friends, and family that “He/She was a cool kid” is a lousy thing to put on a tombstone.

  24. Anita

    Mine (2, 5 & 7) are all still in the back seat, but I’ve been fighting off requests for the front since my eldest was 5 and some of his mates (and kids on school trips!!!) starting being put in the front, without a booster. In my mind, it’s such an easy thing to do to protect them that little bit more, so I’ll stretch it out as long as possible.

  25. Melanie

    I’m going to have the same problem with my ex!!! He’s already come home saying I rode in the back of daddy’s truck! ??

  26. My older girls moved out of boosters when they were big enough to sit properly in the seats of our car. They started asking about riding in the front seat when they were 11. So we researched online and confirmed that all of the states that we frequent may have recommendations, but no actual laws about riding in the front seat. Next we checked our minivan’s manual for the recommended height for the front seat in our vehicle. After confirming that they were taller than the recommended minimum, and going over the safety rules (sitting properly, not leaning forward or putting feet on the dash, etc), we allowed it.

  27. Chris Y

    It all depends on the size of your child; when my son was 12 years old he was 5’9″ and sat in the front seat.

  28. Penelope

    My kids have not sat in a carseat since they were 5 tbh they are now 8 9 10 12 13 I might consider for the younger ones because they are much smaller.
    But they already sit in the front,

  29. Autumn

    I love this! I’m pretty sure my 1st grader is the only one in his class still in a 5 point harness and I just recently let my 3rd grader move to a booster seat. None of either of their friends ride in a car seat or booster seat. They ask me why a lot and I just tell them I love them more than other moms love their kids!!

  30. My 10 and 11 year old both ride in the front seat when we are the only two in the car and not going on the freeway. They both rode in the backseat and in boosters until they were 8, but now it would be silly. My 11 year old son is 5’8″ tall, weighs 150 lbs. and wears a size 14 men’s shoe. Can you imagine me putting that in a booster? My 10 year old daughter is 5’3″ and weighs almost 100 lbs. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is 5’0″ and weighs 96lbs. Maybe I should put her in a booster in the backseat! She’s the smallest of the group. LOL! But, I do understand your point, especially if you have a very small tween. But I don’t think I’m an uncaring mom for letting my tweens ride in the front on the way to basketball practice in the neighborhood either.

  31. Kathy Falat

    I read your post with mixed feelings.. I have an 8 year old that passes the required weight and height to be out of a booster seat.. I have allowed her to do that. She does not ride in the front seat at all… But I do find myself feeling bad for you too. I feel bad that you are so fearful.. I know we can think of all the worst case scenarios in everything we do in life. When I was a child there were no seatbelt laws.. My mom held us on her lap and we ride in the back part if our station wagon where there were no seats. I never knew anyone that died or was injured in a car accident growing up.. Yes we have to use wisdom for sure, but I think we have to make sure that fear is not controlling us either.. My mom was a worrier and she passed it down to us. I have 2 sisters that are so fearful it has ruled their lives.. I wish she taught us to be more fearless and to trust God more. I think we all would have went further in life if she did.

  32. Tina

    100% agree!! People think I’m crazy. And I don’t care what they think!!

  33. Katie

    I think everyone should use common sense. Guidelines are there to guide you, not dictate. I turned my daughters seat around at 14 months. She’s always been in 99% percentile for height and by then her knees were almost touching her chest. That did not look safe to me.

    Now if your kids are average – those guidelines are for you. Smaller kids will need the seat longer, bigger kids will grow our faster.

    Last thing though, your anger at your ex is seeping through the post. There might be a chance that you’re taking your frustrations and lack of control on your child. Be careful, over protective is not a biggie. But controlling mama can really screw up a child. Especially a son.

  34. Tracy

    My daughter is 13, petite, and going into highschool. Backseat was never an issue. I told her about the safety in crashes as well as airbags. She lost the car seat later than most, she was ok with it for as long as she was because it helped her see out the window. As for the backseat, when we travel, either grandma or the dog join her in the back. Less distraction in the front for the driver!
    She goes with her dad and she automatically sits in the back with the dog. More space!

  35. Megara

    It’s like you wrote a chapter from my life. I have this issue with my wasband continuously. He had my 7 year old in the front seat with no car seat because his girlfriends daughter wanted to ride with them and my 2 sons. My daughter doesn’t pass the height or weight or age limitations for being out of a booster. I was continually sending copies of the state law and recommendations of the highway patrol to their father requesting that the children ride in the backseat and all in a booster or car seat. I have full legal and physical custody of the kids and sadly the only thing that stopped this me using that to not allow it in order to keep my kids safe when in the car. My daughter is 8 now and is frustrated bc by age in our state she is able to be without a booster, she complains that her friends don’t have boosters. I simple reply that I am not their mothers I am hers and it is my job as a mother to keep her as safe as possible and until she fits all the requirements height, weight and age that is recommended she will be in a booster. I tell my kids all the time my job as a mother, is to love, guide and protect you, the most important responsibility one can have is to raise a child, and if I was to give in bc everyone else is doing it or its the cool thing to do, then in my eyes I wouldn’t be doing my job well or being the best mom I can for you. As young as they are they all understand when I tell them this and are accepting even if they are still totally annoyed, they realize it’s done out of love. So I may not be the norm either but what’s the fun in being normal anyway. Kudos for sticking to your beliefs.

  36. Rachel

    Way to go Dayna! Keeping your child properly restrained is not being “over protective!” The reason we have seat belt and child safety restraint laws is due to the fact that to many people have died because they were not properly restrained. My 52 pound six year old is in a 5 point harness in the middle of the backseat and will be until he hits the limit of the seat then we will transition to just the high back booster. After 15 years in the fire service I know all to well what happens when a person is not properly restrained. A properly fitted child safety restraint is one of the most important parenting tools that we have. Thank you for sharing!

  37. Michelle

    I had some co-workers in my car the other day and they were laughing at the fact that I still use a booster seat for my 10 year old daughter. She’s 54″ tall. I plan on keeping her in the booster until she is 57″ tall which probably means about 12 years old. They thought it was embarrassing for my daughter. I think it is all about her safety. It’s good to know that other parents are concerned about safety.

  38. I argue this for my stepsons. Their mother has let our 10 year old ride in the front. As he’s only ten and just reached the 5 feet mark, I don’t approve and have argued for his safety’s sake. I desperately want to forward this to their mother. Thanks for posting.

  39. Isabelle

    I have 2 kids. Both in the back seat at all times, and both will stay there until they are at least 12 y.o. My 48 pounds 7 year old uses a booster seat. My 39 pounds 5 year old uses a mix of booster seat when riding around the city at lower speed and a 5 points harness for when we go on the highway. But she’s losing the 5 points at 40 pounds, I can’t wait.

  40. When I was younger, I was a nanny for two boys. They were in a car accident and the 12 year old, who had been sitting in the front seat- died as a result of injuries. I have kept my kids in the back seat until 14 years of age. My 12 year old just got out of the booster seat – and only because he meets the height requirements and the lap belt sit on his hips and not his stomach. I do not care about what others think- I just cannot risk losing them like the family I nannied for lost their precious son. My sons used to plead with me to sit in the front or get out of the booster seat, but they knew why I did it and they learned to respect the limit.

  41. Katie

    Before making a final decision, it might help to take a look at the Federal Laws in addition to the individual State laws, and consider erring on the side of caution. Most definitely look at the most recent studies/data. Remember, weight and age are not the relevant factors. In order to safely “graduate” from a booster, a child must be at least 4’9″, regardless of whether he/she is 9 years old or 14 years old, because seat belt placement is what is important. If the shoulder belt is too close to the neck and/or the lap seatbelt is on the tummy instead of the lap, it is significantly safer to have the child continue to use a booster. The child’s feet should rest comfortably on the floor and the child’s back should be comfortably against the back of the seat. This means a child measuring 4’9″ or taller may still need a booster seat if the vehicle he/she is riding in does not allow for proper seatbelt and body placement. Remember, you are the adult. Our job as parents is to make sure our children are safe, whether they like it or not. We can’t shield them from everything, nor should we. We can make sure they are PROPERLY restrained in our vehicles, and hope they do the same with their own children some day.

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