The kids are running around, laughing and simply having a blast at the playground. When you suddenly look at the time and realize you have to leave. You know your kid is not going to take it well because she’s having such a great time.
You sit and think how can you get your child to leave without fighting and without having to experience a dreaded tantrum…
After all, no one wants to drag their child screaming out of a playground.
For a long time I felt like I had no choice. I would give my daughter a time warning and let her know we were leaving in 5 minutes, but the reality is that a young child doesn’t understand what 5 minutes really means.
Most of the time they just want to keep on playing. It doesn’t matter how many time warnings you give them, they’re still pretty upset when they have to go because they just don’t comprehend the concept of time.
But, there is a way to end a play date, a party or an outing without going through the emotionally draining experience of having an upset child that doesn’t want to cooperate.
All you have to do is ask your child:
We have to go soon, what is the ONE last thing you’d like to do before we leave?
This simple phrase is so powerful because instead of just stopping them half way through an activity you’re letting them chose one more activity they’d really like to do. You are giving your child control and enough time to process that they have to leave.
When I started telling my daughter this phrase about 2 years ago, it took about a couple of weeks for her to grasp the meaning of it. But once she did, it was amazing – she stopped crying.
We have been using this phrase for the last 2 years and I cannot even remember the last time she was upset about leaving a fun event or activity. She now tells me what’s her “one last thing”, does it and then comes up to me and says we can leave.
There have been times when she asks me if she can do two “last things” and if we have time, I’ll say yes but if we don’t I’ll remind her we have only time for one last activity.
Once my child is done doing this activity, she is mentally and emotionally ready to go. She ends and we walk to the car without crying, without fighting and I get to drive away with my happy child.
Why does saying “do your one last thing” work?
Imagine if you were having the time of your life and someone tells you you have to go now, or someone tells you you have 5 minutes and we’re leaving. You would probably be very upset too.
You’re an adult so you don’t throw a tantrum but that doesn’t mean you’re fine with leaving so abruptly when you were having a blast.
By asking your child “what is the one last thing you’d like to do?” you are empowering them to make a decision, you are letting them know they matter and most importantly you are giving them enough space and time to process that they’re leaving.
You’re letting them feel they have control over their lives because they are choosing what they want to do and this is why when it’s time to leave they do so peacefully and happily.
I encourage you to try this phrase from now and try it every time your child is having fun and you have to leave. Make sure you use it about 5 or 10 minutes before you actually have to go so you don’t have to rush your kid through their last activity.
Once they’re done remind them they did their one last thing and you’re all leaving.
If you do this consistently every day for a few weeks you will notice the change in attitude in your child and you won’t have to deal with an angry child anymore. You too will get to leave with a happy child!
That is it, one simple question: “What is the one last thing you’d like to do?”