Avoiding Kids’ Tantrums About Leaving

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Avoiding Kids' Tantrums About LeavingWHETHER IT’S TIME TO HEAD TO A PLAY GROUP, DAYCARE OR HOME, sometimes kids would rather stay put. Here’s how to avoid those tantrums.

As young children, Victor and Rita Garbin used to love afternoon play dates at their neighbour’s house. But when their mother, Jen, rang the doorbell to pick them up, she braced for a fight. “They never wanted to leave. It was always a huge scene,” says Jen, who lives in Milton, N.S. She and her husband, Gianni, had to develop some strategies. They started warning the kids when they were getting close to the time to leave. “That helped,” says Jen. “I also told them, ‘If we don’t leave, we can’t ever have the fun of coming back.’ That usually made them think.”
Making transitions is a common challenge for kids and adults alike. Whether it’s leaving a party or play date, heading to school or going to bed, some people simply have a hard time shifting gears. Caregivers, just as often as parents, deal with this several times in the course of a day, says Kathy Kemp, an ECE instructor at Mohawk College in Brantford, Ont. “The more that children are enjoying themselves, the more likely they are going to make a fuss.” Here’s her advice for making those transitions as smooth as possible:

GIVE A WARNING. Let your child know that in 20 minutes you’re leaving so there are no surprises, then remind them at the 10-minute mark. Let them know what is about to happen or tell them about the next events in your day so that they can look forward to something. If you’re going grocery shopping, get them excited about helping you find something there.

BE CONSISTENT. Focus on doing the same thing every time they lose control. A big mistake parents often make is giving in to the pleas for “just five more minutes.” If you give in, even twice, it will get longer and longer. It’s ultimately a game for the child. To that end, don’t keep adding on time either.

DON’T LOSE YOUR OWN TEMPER. It’s frustrating and can be embarrassing when a child refuses to listen to you. But it’s even more embarrassing if your tantrum is worse than your child’s! Do what you have to do to keep your cool, whether it’s counting to 10 in your head or taking several deep breaths.

ASK FOR HELP. There’s nothing weak about rallying your resources. If you’re at a daycare, ask the professionals for advice. If you’re trying to leave a birthday party, you might coordinate with other parents to leave together. Keep in mind you’re trying to make your child leave a fun situation. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you can to keep the peace.

Published May 2010

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