"I'm Leaving!"

Sep 12, 2016

“I’m Leaving!”

When faced with the frustration of getting a little one to leave school, the playground, a party or a favorite friend’s house, many parents find themselves threatening, “I’m leaving!”

The problem with threatening, “I’m leaving!” is twofold. Little ones are concrete thinkers; they take things literally. They accept what people say at face value.  Fearing abandonment, most children will hustle their muscles and follow you out.  

The other reason to avoid threatening, “I’m leaving!” is that it speaks to your credibility. If time and again, you say, “I’m leaving!” and then don’t because it’s simply unsafe to leave little ones alone, your child will learn to doubt your words.  It becomes nothing more than an empty threat. 

So what can you do instead? Here are a few suggestions from our Parenting Educators:

  • Give a 5-3-1 warning. Most children need time to transition from one activity to another-some more than others- so it’s helpful to give them advance notice. First give a 5 minute warning. “In 5 minutes it will be time to leave.” Two minutes later give the second reminder. “3 more minutes until we leave.” 2 minutes after that say. “Finish up. We’re leaving in one minute.”  Be sure to leave after that minute.  Eventually holding up five fingers may be all your child needs. 
  • Be playful. “Let’s pretend we’re sharks and swim to the car.”
  • Give a choice. “Would you like to hop or gallop to the car?” If such a choice is met with resistance, narrow the choice, i.e., “You can walk or I can carry you, you choose.” 

When all else fails. Pick up your child and go! Some days, no matter how cooperative your little one usually is, nothing seems to work. At these moments, remember you’re the parent and it’s your job to make the decision to leave. As you carry your (like frustrated and unhappy) child out of the park, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that your child is learning that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. You’re doing a great job!

Category: Parenting Topics