I love taking my son to the park or somewhere fun, because I know he’s having a great time. It’s even better when we meet friends for a play date, because then my son isn’t the only one with someone to play with.
One of the places I love to go to is the playground near Target at the Irvine Spectrum. The area is family friendly with fun things to do with the kids. You can shop, grab a coffee, and then sit under a shaded area while your kid plays.
I’ve made friends with quite a few moms there. It’s a great place to meet people outside your neighborhood.
Of course, this isn’t the only place we go to have fun. There are many others, but what I dreaded most about going to these places is having to tell him his fun is over. Once upon just a couple of years ago, he used to fight and scream whenever he knew we were going to stop the fun and go home. Then we figured out a little trick called “The Art of Negotiation.”
The Art of Negotiation
To do this, I have to get him prepared for the bad news. Of course I can’t just tell him it’s going to end, I have to let him know that if he handles the bad news the way he should (quietly), he could then get something positive out of it. Why?
Sometimes the 5 minute countdown can still result in a loud session of screaming and misbehavior. So explaining the consequences in a tone he is sure to understand is very important.
Here are suggested steps to negotiating with a 4 year old
1. Make sure he’s paying attention by setting him aside and being eye level with him.
2. Calmly let him know what’s going to happen. Your voice and tone is everything and this will help keep the situation calm: “Honey, we’re leaving in 5 minutes. You need to get all your jiggly play out and do whatever you want for 5 minutes. When mommy says zero minutes, we have to start walking back to the car. If you argue or disagree with mommy after I give you the number zero, then there won’t be a countdown next time we’re out having fun.”
3. Ask to make sure he understands what you’re saying. This is very important, because little 4 year old boys are sometimes too distracted by what’s going on around them.
Begin your countdown and make sure he hears every number. Be sure to keep an upbeat, happy tone in your voice when you say the number “zero.” If he knows you’re happy, then he will most likely not want to change your mood.
Steps to negotiating with a toddler
Toddlers are a little more challenging to negotiate with because they don’t always understand you as well as you might think. In addition to that, they’re of course a lot more moody than a preschooler, simply because they get frustrated about not being able to communicate clearly with you. However, this IS a good time to introduce numbers to them. Children can begin to learn numbers earlier than a year old.
The countdown strategy certainly helps and if you can add on a fun game with it, you will stand an even better chance. For example, most toddlers are small enough that you can do a fun “throw in the air” action whenever you say a number. So when 4 minutes comes up, you grab them by the arms and do the quick “throw in the air” body action they love! My son used to absolutely squeal with laughter! Sometimes he would be the one to countdown to the number just so he can get a quick “throw in the air.”
When the number zero comes, you give him a few extra “throws” to keep him distracted from having to get into the car. Your battle might start once it’s time for him to go into his car seat. So the airplane song was very handy for us. What’s the airplane game, you ask? Pretend your finger is a plane and you fly it around in front of him and land it on his tickle spot. Get him laughing so he’s not crying.
Remember that all kids are different. These are just suggestions that worked on my little guy and seemed to work on a few of our friends’ kids, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily work on yours. It’s certainly worth a try though, right?