Exit Strategies for When It's Time to Go Home

A Graceful Exit

Step 3: Make It More Appealing

If you were lying on the beach in Hawaii, would you be excited about getting on the plane to return to your usual routine? Probably not. It's the same for kids! When they're having the time of their life soaring through the air on the swings at the playground and you interrupt to tell them that they have to go home to get ready for bed, don't expect them to be thrilled with the idea. A surefire way to head off a confrontation: "Children this age have a hard time resisting a game," says Dr. Grosshans. "So instead of shouting that it's time to leave right now, make a game of it." Things like racing to the car, playing "name that tune," or singing silly songs provide a distraction for your child so he won't feel like he's -- well, like he's leaving a beach in Hawaii to go to work.

Step 4: Be Understanding

Is your child still putting up a fuss despite your zaniest efforts? Say something like, "It looks like you had a lot of fun with your friend. Do you want to say goodbye or wave to her?" Harris explains, "When your child feels you understand where she's coming from, she'll be more likely to cooperate with you."

Step 5: Keep Your Cool

After you've tried everything and your child still refuses to leave, move into action mode. "Do what's necessary to get him where he's supposed to be, even if it means picking him up and carrying him," says Dr. Curtis. "But don't threaten never to take him anywhere again; it'll only escalate the situation."

By the time you make it to your next destination, things will probably have calmed down. You should then briefly discuss what happened and allow your child to tell you what he could have done differently. And hang in there: "Kids typically start making transitions more easily once they're in elementary school because their day becomes more structured and predictable," says Dr. Curtis.

Originally published in the March 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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