Toddler Tricks – 40: Saying Goodbye

Ways to trick your baby:

Problem: Someone is leaving. Whether it’s someone they love dearly, like their father, or someone who’s been playing with them, or someone who has been visiting me, this is almost always a cataclysmic event. Young children seem not to understand that time is passing during the day day and that people have other obligations to attend to. Their world revolves around them, and they have trouble accepting that other people’s cannot. If not handled correctly, someone’s goodbye can turn into an ugly scene of tears, yelling, pleading and toddler pools of flop on the ground. You don’t want that to be the final scene someone remembers as they leave your home, so what can you do?

Solution: Involve them in the goodbye preparations. Get them in on the ground floor. As the last 15 minutes of the visit or time left in the house approaches, explain to them that so-and-so will be going soon, but they’ll be back soon. Brace yourself. This won’t go over well. Quickly recover by saying, “oh, but not yet! First we’re going to do this really fun thing with them.” This way, the babies are distracted by said activity, but in the backs of their minds they’ll have the seed of the leaving thought ruminating. As the time draws nearer, make leaving itself a game. “It’s time to get ready! Can you find my friend’s shoes / your father’s briefcase?” They’ll want to resist, but the call to find something for you will be great…possibly too great to overcome. Then have them give the person a big hug as they leave, first in the house, then at the door. Make it seem as if they are missing out on this important last step if they cry and toss about. “Hurry, give such-and-such a hug! They’re leaving! You’ll miss your chance! Quick, come here! Big hugs!” Usually they’ll come running over to hug the person, figuring they can tantrum in a minute, but they can’t miss the hug. After that ceremony, I’ve found they usually don’t tantrum, but simply go on with their day. But even if they do, at least it’s just in front of you, and not in front of your guests.

Ways your Baby Can Trick You:

Problem: You are leaving a place where you’ve been having a good time. Be it just outside, petting the neighbor’s dog, or the pool with friends, or a restaurant, they know they’re going home, and they just don’t want to.

Solution: If you are interacting with anyone at the time, have them leave (or at least pretend to leave) with you. This way it seems to the babies as if we all are leaving, and sure, we could stay behind, but then we’d miss all the fun things the others are doing after we go. It gives a united front to the leaving possibility. If it’s the dog in the backyard, we tend to do a variation of the ritual above, where the owner takes the dog inside, but before the dog goes, they give him big hugs. If they have to leave the dog, nothing doing. If the dog has to leave them first, they seem to understand better. If we’re leaving a fun place and have no one to aid us, we try to lead them out with promises of the next fun thing we’re doing, or appeal to their sense of routine. You cannot make something up because your kid will be heartbroken if you tell him you’re going to the circus and you end up back in your driveway, but if you promise him a few bites of ice cream at home, he may take the bait, and there’s no harm done.  A combination of these tricks usually works about 70 percent of the time. The other 30? God help us.

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About parentwin

Parent of twins, blogger, writer and journalist. I write things. Sometimes people even read them.
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