Teaching Leaving Successfully

QUESTION:

How do I transition for one event to another without resorting to bribing my kids? I tell them that we’ll go to the play land after all my errands are done, but they never get through the errands without a meltdown, then I’m not sure if I should still let them go have fun. So, do you have any advice on how to handle this?

Answer:

When Aidan was born, I decided I didn’t want to spend time wrestling three squirmy and screaming kids to the car. I explained that if it wasn’t fun for me, too, I wouldn’t provide as many chances of fun for them; the availability of fun shouldn’t make that much more work for mom. We had to spend several months working on two important things: “Leaving successfully is part of coming again next time,” and practicing before we go in that they will say, “Yes, Momma,” when I say it’s time to leave.

So, we would talk before we went in somewhere. We’d remind about the rules, including “Listen to mommy’s words,” and then I’d add, “And what do we say when Momma says, ‘It’s time to go?'” I taught them the answer was, “Okay, Momma.” We’d practice a few times. “Time to go,” “Okay, Momma.” And they went from grumbling it to saying it cheerily. (I’d prompt them, “Oh, can you say that with a little more of a smile?”) Now I just remind them and they do great. If I forget to remind them, I can also prompt them, “Uh oh, what do we say when Momma says it’s time to leave?” and they quickly respond.

I would also remind them, in the midst of struggles to leave, “Leaving successfully is part of coming again next time. Please don’t make this so much work for me that I don’t want to come and have fun.”

This now allows me the freedom to decide to let them have fun because I know I won’t have to be wrangling kids. And, as soon as it becomes work, I announce that we’re leaving and off we go.

Eventually, I had to say we were going no matter what and let the anxiety calm down over a few times, then I was able to set a rule about going. The rule was, “If we can’t get along with our family, we can’t be around other people.” This took the power for their behavior away from me (where it was when I was threatening) and put it with them (I could ask, “Are you getting along?” and prompt them towards better behavior). Also, this rule involved me. I had to get along as well.

Now, in your specific situation, I have a few thoughts. First, when you’re out running errands would it be possible to break them up with the play land place? Is it possible you’re asking too much from your children before they get to do that?

Another thought: Are your kids afraid you will take away the “fun trip” if they aren’t just so? When I was threatening with not going places, I found the mornings of those activities much more full of anxiety for the kids – they were never sure if they were going to get to go or if I would decide they couldn’t.

Also, are you considering the errands an adult activity that your children are along for, and the reward for the work is the play time? What about ways to make the work more fun? Are there ways your children can be involved with the errands so they’re not bored? I know I tend to get focused on the adult stuff and it ends up annoying me that my kids want to be kids. Then I incorporate fun into it all, and we do a lot better.

 

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