Parking Lots and Car Seats…

In this post, in going to share some thoughts on dealing with one of the most dangerous transitional spaces, parking areas, when one is responsible for a small child or children at the same time. This is of interest to me as I play “daddy daycare” at least one day a week, and will soon have two children under two that will be dependent on me for their safety everywhere we go.

I’ve not yet taken the “Armed Parent/Guardian” series of classes offered by Citizens Defense Research (John Johnston and Melody Lauer), but I’ve heard good things and would like to. As well, Robert and I have kicked this topic around on occasion, so I’ve had opportunity to think about it critically, bounce ideas off of a like-minded friend, and practice what I’ll preach here.

First, it goes without saying that all of the usual ideas applicable to safely navigating transitional spaces still apply. As you approach your vehicle, notice who and what is around. Is anything out of place? Is anyone out of place? Listen to your instincts. The mere act of appearing to look around can dissuade criminals from selecting you as a target. Retreat or remain in the safety of a commercial business or your vehicle if things don’t seem right. Move through transitional areas quickly and with purpose. Lock your doors upon entering your vehicle, and don’t dally in parking lots, especially not in an unlocked vehicle. At gas pumps, lock your doors, take your keys, and use sound tactical principles in choosing where to park and where to stand while pumping gas. All these concepts are fairly universal in classes that focus on personal safety in and around your vehicle.

With that said, being responsible for an infant or toddler changes the dynamic, sometimes drastically. For instance, in an attempted carjacking, giving up my vehicle may no longer be an option if my toddler son is sitting in his car seat in the back. In such a situation, my son’s welfare outweighs any other concern I may have. Even if I were to broker a deal in being compliant with the carjacker that would allow me to ensure my son’s safety, I would have to get out of the vehicle to get my son out of the car and the lack of certainty inherent in that time frame is an untenable option in my mind.

With this framework established, let me offer a few concepts that I use when navigating transitional areas around my vehicle with my toddler son in tow.

  • As always, keep your head on a swivel, and especially when you are securing your child in a car seat or taking them out, keep your head up and look around and behind you frequently while in the process of buckling them in or taking them out.
  • Don’t ever start your vehicle or leave your keys in the vehicle unless you are in the driver’s seat. This is to ensure that your vehicle can’t be taken with your child inside.
  • Carry your child on your support side, leaving your primary hand free to fight and access weapons. It’s not easy, but I can get my gun out when holding my son. As well, while I would never advocate changing your carry position for specific situations, this is an instance where strong side or behind the hip carry may be superior to AIWB, in terms of clearing a cover garment that may be trapped on one side by the weight of a child. Wherever the gun is carried, a one handed draw that aggressively rips the garment up and then tucks the garment behind the grip of the gun is probably the best bet to access the gun.
  • In line with the above point, your one handed draw, pistol manipulations, and shooting need to be practiced and fluid to allow competency when you only have one hand available.
  • If you become involved in a legitimate gunfight, it may be better to aggressively move away from your child, regardless of whether they are in a car seat or a stroller, to draw fire away from them rather than attempting to shield them with your body. Keep in mind, if you are the target of a shooting, and the shooter misses, where are the bullets going to go?
  • If you are with another family member, have them watch your back while you put the child in the car seat or pull them out. Also, have an emergency code word that you can employ to alert your family member that you have noticed something amiss and that they need to immediately follow your instructions. With an agreed upon code word, they can also alert you to danger that you may have missed. In a parking lot or other similar area, instruct family members to move as fast and as far away from you with your child if your gun comes out of its holster.
  • When shopping, park near a carriage return. People hanging out there inappropriately will be more obvious and it minimizes the time you have to take to return your cart. The alternative is to park away from other vehicles. Anyone approaching your car is going to be far more conspicuous if your car is the only one in that row.
  • If I’m alone with my son, I will generally always put him in his car seat before loading groceries into the car. The car seat in my truck is a more controlled environment than sitting in the grocery cart, and I can always lock the doors to my car with my son in relative safety inside while I deal with whatever threat may appear while I’m loading the groceries. Of course, you need to keep your keys easily accessible, yet secure.
  • Going back to the carjacking scenario above, if my son is outside of the car, I don’t care about the car. As long as compliance won’t risk my son’s life (a gamble in of itself), they can have the car. If my son is in the car, then the fight is on. This is where having taken training in fighting and shooting in and around vehicles will come in handy. In that regard, I would hesitate to try to use the vehicle as cover, only because your child is physically inside the cover and is protected by only one layer of sheet metal or glass.
  • I forget where exactly I read it, but it’s true… when your kids are involved, the threshold for employing lethal force is lowered. Think critically about this before lethal force is required. Kids are one instance where protection of others is likely going to be viewed through the lens of being justified.

Saying much more than what I’ve written here would be straying outside of my lane of experience and training, so I’m going to keep this short. Google is your friend. I’m hardly the first to tackle this subject, and I know for a fact that some of my advice differs from others. That’s okay. This is what works for me when I have my toddler son with me.

What tactics do those of you with small children employ to ensure their safety? Feel free to share comments and questions here on the blog or on our Facebook page. As always, thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “Parking Lots and Car Seats…

  1. Trust me it doesn’t get better when they get older. Teenagers can be worse. They don’t want to walk next to you. I was just in London and struggled to keep them on the same block with us. I like to think they’d react like I’ve told them; but training and real world reaction often differ.

    We have discussed a “duress” word to flee and a “fight” word; but that’s also dependent on them hearing past the head phones. I found that having a “rally” point and keeping it current is a great workable option for teens. If we get separated–GO HERE. If your mother or I don’t find you in 20 minutes do “THIS—-“. When traveling in the US, 911 is usually a workable option”. Outside the US, even in “friendly” parts of the world I make sure they carry a WRITTEN copy of the US Embassy or Consulate phone number and address along with a list of family numbers ( traveling with them and at home). Getting them to understand it was important to have the numbers written not just on their phone was tougher than I expected but I think it’s important


  2. Great post, and you will discover that a lot of your thoughts will be validated after Melody’s class and similar instruction. Force on force with a “child” is eye opening as well.

    As children grow, making situational awareness and team communication a game that hopefully transitions into better habits later down the line.

    My wife wrote this article several years ago, and it has paid off several times.

    In regards to teens, every person is different, but earlier this year my older stepson (18) casually but firmly identified that someone was armed and started to position himself to make our escape route. Everything was fine, but I was very proud of him for employing some of the things we’ve discussed as a family.


    1. SBS, thank you for the kind words. I tried to think very critically about this reality, as I do live it every day. I will check out your wife’s article and I do hope to take Melody’s and John’s coursework in the near future, if it’s offered anywhere near me.


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