What A Child Hears When We Say, ‘Okay, I’m Going Without You.’

By Melody

Have you ever been frustrated because you’re away from home with your child/ren, needing to leave, and your kidlets are refusing to budge? If you’ve ever parented a toddler, you’ve undoubtedly been here several times over. We all have. 

Have you ever then said to your child, ‘Okay, I’m going without you then,’ to find that they suddenly jump into gear, usually with tears, and hop to it? Success. You got them where you need them to be, rushing to follow along behind you. 

The incredibly important thing to note here is that when you say, ‘Okay, I’m leaving without you,’ your child believes you. It works because they believe that you could and would leave them behind, and their tears of distress are a clear expression of this. Saying these words (or similar) may create what appears to be a ‘win,’ but at what cost? 

Even if a child doesn’t appear to be stressed, the belief that a person they trust could leave them behind, is hurting them. Causing them trust issues, a sense of fear and vulnerability, and even a sense of abandonment. This sounds super serious you say? That’s because it honestly is. Children who experience this fear may understandably begin to question whether you will always have their back, or if you could in fact abandon them, leaving them to fend for themselves in an enormous and unfamiliar world, or in the very least, to make their own way home. We know we wouldn’t actually leave them behind, but telling our child, ‘I’m going without you,’ is telling them that we would.

We often glaze over common parenting phrases and methods. Surely if they’re popular, they must be okay, right? We’re learning more and more as a society that this is unfortunately not the case. That children often bear the price for what ‘works’ in the moment. 

These types of phrases need to be questioned for their long term effects, especially on children. It’s imperative that we ask ourselves what our words and actions will mean for our kids, and the impact they may have on their trusting and vulnerable selves. Our kidlets trust us as their parents and caregivers. We are the people who protect them, and they believe what we say, taking our words at face value.

Instead of causing a child to fear that you would leave them behind, try asking them what they’d like to do on the way to the new destination. It’s important too, to acknowledge the fun they’ve been having and the reason they don’t want to leave. Kiddy communication is key (try saying that ten times fast). Verbal car games or songs (or the same while walking) can be a big hit. Ask them what they’re looking forward to once they’re there. Perhaps you could allow them to choose a treat (this can be a healthy treat or activity). 

Some would call this bribing, but I don’t see it this way. I think giving children choices helps them to feel considered, and provides a new focus, as well as the impetus to go where you need them to go. You can work out what works for both of you. Don’t give up if your first offerings fail to appeal, and show yourself some patience here too.

Motivating a child by using fear, including abandonment, has far reaching consequences. Maintaining a sense of safety, value, consideration and trust also has far reaching consequences, in the right direction. Let’s choose what works for our children, and for us. Respectful parenting for the win/win.

What’s your win/win when it comes to motivating your children to go with you? Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration and a deep breath.

If you’re in need of a listening ear for any and all matters relating to parenting, feel free to book a one-on-one phone session with me here https://velvetcouch.com.au/bookings/

With much love, Melody

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