Dear Momicillin Momma,
My kid FREAKS out every time it’s time to leave the playground! Help!
Freaked Out By Freak Outs
Dear Freaked Out,
I hear you sister! I remember hauling my twins kicking and screaming from the playground to the car looking like some sort of linebacker with two stuck pigs under my arms. Not pretty. Not fun. And I hate to break it to you but there are no quick solutions to this problem. Well, that’s not entirely true, but assuming you’ve ruled out muzzles and sedatives, then, yeah, no easy answers here. BUT the good news is that Junior Freak Out will outgrow his trantrums! YAY! And if you can muster up the energy to follow a few rules, he’ll outgrow those freak outs a lot sooner. Just remember: every time you leave the playground, you’re going to battle—and you must win every battle . . . okay, maybe not every battle (because that’s impossible) but shoot for like three out of five. Battle rules:
Rule 1: Warn Junior Freak Out at least twice before leaving. Give him a heads up about five to ten minutes before you want to leave and again when you start to pack up. (Tip: Don’t start with the warnings too soon because you might end up just extending the freak out.)
Rule 2: When you say “Honey, it’s time to go,” that means, unequivocally, it’s time to go. He may kick, he may scream, he may spin his head around 360 degrees and spew green vomit, but you’ve got to go. While Junior Freak Out is doing his impression of the spawn of Satan, stay calm. In your mind, find your happy, quiet place and stay there while you carry on with whatever you need to do to get Damien to the car. If you can speak—even if it’s through gritted teeth—remind him: “Mommy said it’s time to go. That means it’s time to go.” (Oddly, most children don’t understand ‘Mom’ lingo.)
Rule 3: No matter how ugly he gets, don’t be afraid! Toddlers are like dogs: they sense fear, and when they do, they get a lot uglier. Stay cool Momma and focus on the task at hand: get the little beast to the car.
Rule 4: When you go to the playground again, remind him before you go that the last time you left the playground, he freaked out. Then ask him, “Did we stay at the playground because you cried?” In case he gets the answer wrong, quickly add: “No, we didn’t stay. We left. When Mommy says ‘It’s time to go,’ it’s time to go.”
And there you go: problem solved. Not really. Okay, not at all. But if you pull this off more often than not, Junior’s freak outs will grow fewer and farther between. If not, maybe you should revisit the muzzle idea.
Stay cool Freaked Out and good luck!
Hugs and kisses,