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

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?

35 thoughts on “Begging, Dragging, Reasoning, or Abandoning? What do you do to get your kid to come with you?”

  1. I'm certainly no expert and my oldest is only 2, but I'll toss in my two cents.

    I'm rather fond of scowling while counting to three, followed by the glare of death and growled promise of impending punishment. Think Old Testament God. ;)

  2. I've found if you make a fist and say…come here or else…that works, unless they're quick and say "Or else, what?"…at that point, I have nothing. Because "Or else I'll stomp my feet, throw myself on the ground and cry" doesn't hold near the fear that the unknown does.

    1. Don't believe her. Her kids are models of awesomeness and good-behavior, flying swiftly to her side when called. No, I'm not the aunt-that-spoils-them-unconditionally. Why do you ask? :^)

  3. Mostly I stick with the leaving, or starting the car, but my kids are 6 & 7 now so I feel a bit more comfortable letting them out of my sight in various situations. I've been doing it since the youngest was 3 so they know I mean it. I ask once for them to come along now & if they don't I just say "Leaving now, gentlemen" and walk away. They may wait a couple seconds before looking around but never more than 5 pass before they come after me.

  4. some things I've tried.
    Making a list of all the things we are doing and in what order and making sure the thing that is after what "I" need to do is something that the boys want to do, with limited access to their ability to stay behind. So say we have to go to the liquor store? we aren't going to go to the playground after? but we might go to the grocery store for meltable ice cream? or cookies that we can't have until we get to our car seats? (cheap cookies! budget can't have the cookies taking away from my liquor store budget)
    So we'll go to the playground first? in order to get to the next place? we'll give them 10minute warning and have that 10minutes be exactly 10minutes, not 10 mommy's talking to another adult minutes. They learn that 10minutes means 10minutes. I do though struggle with that one when it's 10 computer minutes.

  5. Oh man, I hope someone gives you a great answer because I am totally going through this right now with my three year old, except…when I tell her to come HERE she runs THERE. No matter where we are. I have yelled, begged, bribed, threatened and yanked privileges. I have started and abandoned sticker charts. I have carried mini-marshmallows around with me and used them to tempt her like a hungry stray puppy.

    I KNOW that the more emphasis I put on her listening to me the more likely she is to do the exact opposite so…I pretend I really don't care whether she comes with me or not…and sometimes it works.

    Good luck dude.

  6. My boys are now 14 & 16. Sorry but this this faze just goes on and on. I'll share my favourite trick for grocery shopping when they were little though. I always took them just before snack time. I'd get 2 carts. I pulled one behind me and put both kids in the other which I pushed directly to the bakery. There I picked up buns from the bulk bin. Next stop the fridge section for cheese sticks & small milks. While they picnicked I shopped. On the way out we paid for empty bags & bottles but so what? Best part by the time we got to the eye level candy they were too full to even think about it, never mind ask! Later on, when they were both walkers, I would sing a song (come follow follow follow follow me……) which was apparently sooooo embarrassing that they would appear instantly!

  7. I use time-outs and/or took away things my kiddo liked, if I didn't have time to give the child time-out right then, all I had to say was "you owe me 3 minutes when we get home for not listening, and if you want to argue about it, I am tacking on more time".. and I follow through when i get home.. my son is 5 and I still use time-outs and he hates them, on the rare occasion timeouts don't seem to be working, I take away things he likes, either no tv, no computer games, or no toy trucks etc…..

    My daughter is 26 mths old and I have started getting her used to the idea of time-outs… hers are short (2 minutes) but she also hates them….so I figure I am going to keep doing it.

  8. I try a combination of things. Part one: give fair warning of a change (we'll be leaving in 5 min), then let them know periodically how much time they have left. This works best when needing to leave home or when leaving a really fun place. Part two: say, "it's time to go now". If there's no response or a "in a minute", I go with one of two options — count to three (with my 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 year olds, I only have to get to 1 or 2), or say "easy way or hard way". They know by now that the easy way is compliance and the hard way typically includes dragging by the arm or some other painless but awkward movement out the door. I've had to do this when we need to leave from daycare — talk about embarassing — but all moms and dads have had to go through this, so as long as I'm not smacking my kids (which I never do), no one seems to mind my dragging/guiding my now crying child to and out the door. Good luck!

  9. I abandon, and while I would like to call it something else, I'll stick with your term which is, after all, true.

    I tell my 4 year old that we're leaving in 5 mins, then 2 mins, then 1 min. Then I ask her to take my hand and I turn to leave. She sometimes throws a fit but we've done this since she was two so she knows the drill, I mean what I say. I have actually "left" her, but always made sure she was safe (ie. not near a street or parking lot, large crowds etc.) and she's ALWAYS come running after me, even if she's still throwing a fit.

    Yesterday my 1.5 year old started running away from me at the library when I told her it was time to go and my four year old called out to her "Better turn around Ellie, or Mommy and I will LEAVE YOU HERE!". HA!

  10. Nah. I'm on the 4th kid, and still pretty much begging, dragging, reasoning and abandoning. But really – dragging. Yes, people stare, but yes I mean what I say, I have four kids, and I said let's go! I guess I use all methods – depending on the situation, but I try to Do What I Said I Would… and that's the stickler. The mouth writes checks…

  11. I am at the same exact phase with my 3 1/2 year old, which I despise because I don't get the sweet little "Coming Mommy!" but the "NOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOO! I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE". I usually end up making a spectical of myself, carrying her out crying and screaming to the sidewalk or car where she will sit in time-out and I will try to comfort my 1 year old.
    I feel like I need a drink just talking about it.

  12. I've been a child care provider for over 30 years. Rule #1 is consistency. Always follow the same pattern, and always, always follow through with threats. That being said, get a book called "1-2-3 Magic". It's the very best parenting book I've ever seen and used. If you are consistent with it, it really is Magic.

  13. Thank god your readers have some good advise. My 4.5 year old still needs to be dragged kicking and screaming out the park every once in a while. Abandoning doesn't work anymore if a) he's a place he feels comfortable in, b) he knows I'm just waiting around the corner, and c) he's just too engrossed in his play to notice that I've left. Don't even get me started on getting dressed every morning.

  14. Even though I have "dragged" "reasoned" and "abandoned" three kids through that age, I have no advice, other that every day is different and you might have to have a different trick each time. I also like bribes: "Lets go get in the car, so we can…"have a cookie, watch too much tv, have some money…." whatever works.

    And here is a little story told by my mom from when my brother was that age, and he wouldn't move while we were in a busy mall. She tried the OK, then we are leaving and started moving. And the helpful 5 year old that I was, I started screaming "DONT LEAVE my baby brother!" I think that was the only time that I actually acted like I cared about him. But, in that busy mall, my mortified mom, scooped up my brother and ran for an exit.

  15. First a warning that it's time soon. Then beckoning. Then, "I'm going to go put your brother in the car, please be ready when I get back" then counting, with the result at the end of non-compliance being to pick up and carry with my now-free arms. This last bit only works from home to car but it's pretty effective most of the time. kids like their independence.

  16. At 3 1/2 my daughter's world was turned upside down because her brother arrived. She did a bunch of things aimed at taking my attention and time to focus (and re-focus) on her. I recommend making sure that every day you have some daddy/daughter time, just to make sure there is a venue for you to talk one on one without being interrupted. And then I recommend talking to her about safety and responsibility. Specifically that you are responsible for keeping her safe and that it is not negotiable. Where safety is concerned she must stay near you, she must hold your hand, she must listen to your words. It is her responsibility to do these things to keep the family safe. It worked for our family in public. At home, another story all together…

  17. beatings seem to work well.

    (kidding of course. however, nothing works on 8 or 10 yo boys so if you figure something out, let me know.)

  18. Totally late to the party on this one, but when you posted this my ipod wouldn't let me use that miniature window to post a comment. I'm an abandoning father. I know it makes me cruel and evil, but my girls have learned that when dad says he's leaving, he's definitely leaving and you better get your ass in gear if you want to come with.
    Their mother also remarks that she doesn't understand why they'll leave when I tell them it's time, but when she says anything they more or less dare her to follow through.
    It's all about the consistency and follow-through. Also, you don't mess with dad.

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