Begging, Dragging, Reasoning, or Abandoning? What do you do to get your kid to come with you?

09/03/2010 By Shawn Burns

Erin has discovered a new game. It’s called “Coming Daddy!” and there are variations like “I’ll be right there!” or “In a minute!” I ask her to come with me, or indicate that it’s time to leave wherever we happen to be, and rather than immediate obedience accompanied by a salute, I get empty promises and lies.

Not living on a compound in the middle of nowhere has its disadvantages: I have to go places, and I have to take the kids with me. However, in addition to Babbly McTalkerson the 3 1/2 year old, I also have Tiny McTripperson, the 1 1/2 year old who I still tend to carry around. This means that when I’m going grocery shopping or to swimming lessons or to the liquor store or anywhere that the length of the transition from car to location and location to car is not enough to warrant the backpack I tend to have my arms full of baby, with no room left over to just pick the recalcitrant mite. And so I find myself in a jam.

I’ve tried reasoning.

I’ve tried begging.

Impatiently, I’ve tried dragging.

More patiently, but also more jarringly, I’ve even tried limited abandoning, where I say to her that I’m leaving and she needs to come along and then actually leave.

I won’t say that nothing works, because they’ve all worked. But they’re also all failures on occasion. Sometimes the best consequential reasoning, the most ardent pleas fail to motivate her. Often taking her by the arm and walking her out leads to wails of “Why do you have to hold my hand?!?” and suddenly I’m not Loving Dad but Impatient Asshole to everyone who is suddenly watching this interaction, and it’s a physical imposition in a world that needs less of those. And abandoning? Well, it’s kind of my favourite move, because I think being consistent about your expectations is important. But it’s also the one that might evoke a fearful response, and that’s not the one I want. So I have to use it sparingly, and execute it correctly (let her see which door I’m going toward, for instance, rather than just disappearing; make sure that the route between my exit and her location is not littered with things to trip on because she tends to come running).

I want there to be a better way than to just go through the repertoire each and every damned time. This is the first time I’ve raised a 3 1/2 year old. I hope to come away from this with the answer, because I’m going to have to do it again in two years.

What is your favourite motivational tool to get your kids to come with you? You’re all experts by now, right?