If the same thing keeps happening over and over, it’s time to be a “problem-solving family.”
1. Talk with your child – even a toddler. Let her know that there has been a problem leaving the park or other public situation. The two of you together need to make a plan so that there is no longer a problem.
2. Ask her what she needs to be able to leave without a fuss. Odds are she’ll surprise you with her reply. If she doesn’t have any ideas offer several options. Do let her know that you will give her a warning when it is time to go. One option may be to let her know she has time to do three more things. Or, you can set a timer. Together decide what your “warning” will be. But do prepare her for departure. Not doing so is unfair to her.
3. Together determine what will happen if she decides not to leave without a fuss. What the consequences are for not following the plan do not really matter. What is important is that the consequences are “transparent.”
- Your child knows what she is expected to do
- What you will do if she does not do it.
- When you will do it.
For example, you may decide that you will give your child a warning so that she can do three more things. Once she has finished three more things you will count to three.
- “One do you want to walk to the car? Or I will carry you. You can choose.
- Two, you can choose to walk to the car.
- Three, you did not choose to walk to the car so I know you decided that I would carry you.”
These words reinforce that her actions caused what happens next.
4. Follow through. “Now it’s time to go.” If at this point she insists that she will walk to the car, you have to say, “I’m sorry. You made a choice. Next time you can make a different one.” Then do what you said you would do. This is not being “mean.” It actually creates a sense of trust for your child. She knows what to expect. The rules do not change. She’s on solid footing.
It’s likely that you will only have to pick her up and carry her to the car once or twice before she realizes that you do, what you said you would do. She also knows what will happen, and when if she does not comply. As a result she will decide to do what she’s supposed to do, and a meltdown departure will become a thing of the past.