How many times have you been in a store and overheard a parent say these words to their child? “Okay, I’m leaving.” Some will go so far as to say, “We’ll see you when you get home,” or “Let’s hope they leave the lights on for you tonight.”
Often, these words are said in jest, but not always. You can imagine a child who’s engrossed in whatever toy or book has caught his eye. If he hasn’t been trained in first-time obedience, he has learned that it’s okay to ignore his parent’s voice. Then what is the parent left to do?
My issue with the “Okay, I’m leaving…” crowd is that it’s a giant, empty threat. Our children know that we wouldn’t leave them in the store. This empty threat might work the first two or three times, but after that, our kids figure us out. They know that these words are meaningless. They know that we won’t walk too far away or turn a corner and leave their sight.
The problem with this scenario is that the child isn’t listening to the parent in the first place. By issuing empty threats, we are only making it worse. Whenever we say something we don’t truly mean, we are teaching our kids that our words mean nothing. We are teaching them that it’s okay to say something you don’t mean. We are teaching them not to listen.
So what is a parent to do in this situation? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix in parenting. The solution is to train your child to listen, to obey. Before you enter the store, explain what you expect, and have the child repeat it back to you. Give the child some empathy and say that you know how hard it is to tear ourselves away from the things that interest us. If you still have an issue with the child not coming when you need to leave, simply pick them up (if they’re little) or take them by the hand. Then if you meet resistance, use your stern mommy voice, and simply say, “It’s time to go.”
If you’re having this problem with a child who’s too big to pick up or guide sternly by holding a hand (perhaps beyond the age of 6 or 7), then you might have bigger problems on your hands. And rather than leaving the child home whenever you leave the house, work on your obedience training at home.