Have you ever threatened your child you’re leaving without him or her?

“Come on now. It’s time to go… if you don’t come now I’ll leave without you!”

Have you ever told your child you’re leaving without him or her if they don’t come when you ask? God, I know the feeling when it’s time to leave the playground, and they just refuse to go or the time when we’ve all been grocery shopping together, my two toddlers running up and down the isles and me running after. We’re all tired, in desperate need for a snack or more, and with five grocery bags in my hands one of the kids just stops dead in his tracks and refuses to do as I ask which, in my opinion, is the only sane option. The threat is not far away, I’m tired, and we need to get home quickly where we can recharge our batteries.

The strategy of threatening to leave without them is efficient and serve the goal to make them come along instantly but to a very high cost, namely trust. While we know we would never leave our children, but they don’t. They believe what we say, and they obey due to fear. Children are well aware of their incapability of being alone and taking care of themselves without adults.

As you probably know trust is an essential part of relationships. The fear of being separated from your parents is real, and it can be extremely frightening. Parents are children’s safe haven, and that is nothing that children should doubt.

It’s easy to find ways and methods to make our children do as we say. After all, we know best, right? Well, at least we most often know the best solution to reach a certain point, like when my children and I had been shopping I knew that continue home would be the best solution to meet our needs. What we don’t seem to consider though when we’re using strategies like telling them that we’re leaving without them is the long-term consequences that we instill in them. Our strategies will work, they will come along, they will do as they’re told but obeying due to fear is nothing I would like for my children.

When my son stopped dead I knew I’d pushed it too far, his needs had not been met and he just had had enough and he clearly demonstrated it. After asking him to come along I had three choices, 1) threaten to leave without him and make him obey due to fear, 2) bribe him with something he wants, 3) meet him with respect and find out what he needed.

I put down the bags, kneeled beside him and asked him what was wrong, and after some hugging, I found out he was hungry and tired. So we found some newly purchased peanuts in the grocery bag, sat down and ate some while we talked about what to do next. After the little break, he followed to the car without hassle where he fell asleep as soon as we left the parking lot.