It’s inevitable, but I loathe hearing my kids say, “But I don’t want to leave!” What makes it worse is when they attempt to follow that sentence with a temper tantrum. It seems to come out of nowhere. Kids are behaving perfectly, I’m feeling like a stellar parent, and then BAM! It’s time to go and we all melt down. I have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t struggled with this to some degree.
Here are some ways that we have battled the situation and actually won. First off, we tell our kids how long we will stay somewhere before we even arrive. This helps them understand that their time at whatever place is not unlimited, and are not as surprised when I tell them it’s time to go. Even though young kids might not be able to completely understand the concept of an hour, they can understand that it’s longer than a minute, but shorter than a day. While we are out I give the kids reminders of their time. I will say something to the effect of, “We have been here for a whole hour! How much more fun can we have in the next hour?”
I am also a big supporter of the 15-5-1 minute warnings. At fifteen minutes, we start to clean up if that is appropriate. Five minutes is just the reminder that we are going, and finally one minute is the “let’s get our shoes on” timer. Nine times out of ten, this will get us a smooth transition to go home and no fussing. When it does, it is absolutely beautiful! However, as with many parenting tricks, it doesn’t always work. To fix those instances, when the kids are having so much fun that all the warnings and calm reminders in the world couldn’t make the transition smooth, we have the “You fuss, no return bus” rule. It sounds ridiculous, but does the trick. Essentially, if the kids act in any way that I don’t find attractive when it’s time to leave, whining, crying, shouting, “but I don’t WANT to leave.” Or even just ignoring my efforts to get them out the door, their return bus to bring them back next time breaks down. They don’t come back the next time. This in itself is an amazing rule.
If they cry when it’s time to leave, next time we just don’t go. As with all things parental, consistency is the key!