Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:
- Be cooperative
- Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative
Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:
- Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around
The possibility of allowing choice C is what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.
Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to C and reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.
Here We Go…
Parents often will feel powerless and defeated when trying to get their kid to leave a public place with them. By public place, we mean any place outside of your home. This maneuver is perhaps the simplest, easiest thing in the world for parents to pull off, yet we often make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Getting kids to leave places causes so much stress for parents when it does not have to. This CAPP will show you how to keep it simple and allow your child to learn through suffering instead of trying to teach with words that will likely be ignored.
What Not to Do
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Let’s peel away everything that doesn’t work: DO NOT warn, lecture, yell, threaten, bribe, intimidate, punish, or give in. In short, you are done talking. It’s time to take action.
What to Do: Setting the Limit
On the way to a public area, apologize to your kid. Let them know that you are very sorry for having lectured and warned and annoyed them about leaving from public places when it was time to go. Let them know that it won’t happen again. Let them know that from now on, you will just tell them that it is time to go once, and that after that, there will be a consequence if they don’t leave immediately. Tell your kid that whether or not they leave immediately will demonstrate whether or not they can be in public places in the future.
What to Do: Intervention #1*
*If you have already had terrible situations with trying to extract your kid(s) from a public place and don’t want to put yourself through the situation again, feel free to completely skip all interventions and go directly to consequences. This is particularly true if you are dealing with an older child who is definitely going to be particularly belligerent. Always start with consequences if you think that it is likely that you may have to use the police officer part of the intervention for big kids.
If the situation and location lend themselves to this intervention, give a choice about when you will leave. Make sure that either choice is OK with you. For instance, if you need to the leave the park by 6:00 in order to get to your mother’s house for dinner, give the choice to either leave at 5:55 or 6:00. Don’t give the choice to leave at 6:00 or 6:05.
Accept whichever time they choose. If they refuse to choose, choose for them.
What to Do: Intervention #2 (For Little Kids Whom You Can Carry)
Once it is time to leave the public place, walk within arm’s length of your kid. Position yourself so that you can, if need be, physically stop your kid from running away without you running yourself.
Simply say to the kid, “It’s time. Let’s go.” If your kid does anything besides come with you immediately (and if you feel that you need to read this, he probably won’t), say, “Which would work best? You can either walk to the car, or I can help you fly there.” If your kid does ANYTHING besides come with you immediately, say, “Flying it is!” Pick up your kid and walk to the car. If you plan on walking home, walk home.
Do not say ANYTHING to your child. If necessary, sing a pleasant song while carrying your kid so that you don’t say anything else and so you don’t say anything that you will regret.
Put the screaming kid in the car seat or booster. For kids who can get out of their car seat or booster, have another adult present to put their hand on the seatbelt or car seat latch. Plan accordingly.
Once home, let the kid know that there will be a consequence later. Allow your kid to go about living his life for the rest of that day as if none of the day’s previous events happened. Review “What Not to Do”.
TO BE CLEAR: Carrying the kid out is NOT the consequence, and unless your kid calmly allowed herself to be picked up, there needs to be a consequence. If this happens more than once, there should always be a consequence no matter how quickly the kid changed his mind and became compliant after the refusal.
What to Do: Intervention #2 (For Big Kids Whom You Cannot Carry)
If you are lucky enough to be reading this while your kids are small enough to carry, and you use the interventions and the consequence in this CAPP, you should never have to consequence your kids for this when they are big. If your kids are already big, they may have to suffer mightily, but probably only once, before they will learn to come with you every time. Here’s the intervention.
Keep in mind that, if we have gotten to this point, we have apologized, we have promised to not remind or threaten or use anger, or warn, or punish and we have even given a choice about the leaving time. In order to live up to our word, we are left with only one option besides warning, punishing, yelling: all of the things that we promised not to do. By the way, ALL of those options will make the behavior worse in the future, so better to not use those tactics anyway.
The only option is to say the following: “Oh, no. This makes me so incredibly sad. This is really bad for you. I am going to (leave/start walking home/walk towards the car) now. If you are with me, that would be great for you. If you are not with me, I am going to call the police, ask them to come retrieve you, and they can bring you home. I will meet you there. I love you so much. I’m walking to the (house/car) now. Feel free to join me.” Start walking. Do not break stride. If your kid doesn’t follow within 10 seconds, stop and stand where your kid can’t get by you without seeing them, and call the police.
You should have a conversation in advance of this call with the police if you think that your kid might not be cooperative even with the aforementioned interventions. Ask the police to please not attempt to scare or intimidate your kid, or to lecture, or warn them. Just ask that they remove your child from whatever area they are in and deliver the kid to your house. If your kid refuses to go with a police officer and has to be physically escorted by him or her, you obviously have a very, very, serious problem on your hands. You may need to check with a psychiatrist to see if your kid is having any kinds of breaks with reality. Of course, none of this is meant to supplant psychiatric services if you suspect that they may be necessary. Otherwise, your kid has gotten what they want to such a degree that, though these interventions and consequence will still work, your kid will need to suffer mightily from those consequences over an extended period of time in order to not eventually lead a life of crime, terrible relationships, and unemployment.
Once your kid is escorted to your house, if they are calm, thank the officer. If they are not, the officer is trained to stay with you. Make sure that he does. At that point, take your cues from the officer about what needs to be done. Just stay sad, not mad. Again, do not resort to any of the tactics described in “What Not to Do”.
What to Do: The Consequence
Everything up to this point has merely been an intervention, not a consequence. So far, all you have done is to create interventions to make sure your child leaves the area in question while not accidentally reinforcing the negative behavior by utilizing the ineffective strategies contained in “What Not to Do”. Even if you have to utilize the police, them transporting your kid is not a consequence.
Later, and for any kid over five years old it could be days later, you can give the consequence. When all is calm, you can let the kid know how sad the situation was and how sad similar situations have been for you. You can let them know that in order to allow them to go into public, you have to know for sure that they will listen and do as they are told. Tell them that their recent actions have communicated that they do not currently have the skills to be in public. Instead of going into public, they are going to remain in private (in your home) and train themselves to act like a person who can go into public. How long that will take will depend upon how long it takes for them to act like a respectful, responsible person. Emphasize that everyone is different, and that some people take a long time to learn, and others take less time.
Note: Not going into public means absolutely everything except for school. No birthday parties, no visiting grandma. No vacations. No basketball practice. Their life has to stop for a while now so that breaking the law doesn’t result in their lives stopping on a permanent or semi-permanent basis later.
Let your kid know that you will be noticing whether they are acting respectfully, responsibly, and are listening to and complying with what is asked of them. Tell them that the more you notice them doing what they are supposed to be doing, the closer they are getting to being in public. Simply say that you notice what they are doing when they are not causing a problem. “I notice you being respectful to me.” “I notice you doing the dishes when asked.” “I notice you being kind to your sister.” If they ask if they are ready for public, simply say, “Nope. But you’re getting closer! I’m proud of you.”
A five-year old who you had to carry out of the splash pad may only have to do successful practice for a day. A ten-year old who refused to leave his friend’s house and had the friend’s dad tell him to leave may have to practice successfully for a month. A fifteen-year old who had to be escorted from a skatepark by a police officer may need six months of successful practice.
Once again, either you can use consequences to train your kids to be people who can be in public, or the police may have to do it later at a much higher cost to your kid.
If at a friend’s house, if your kid refuses to leave, before you use any of your interventions, you could have the owner of the home do an intervention. You could have him or her say to your kid “Your parent has asked you to leave, and now I am telling you that you are no longer welcome in my home. Leave immediately. Thank you.” Just like if your kid refuses to go with an officer, if the owner of a home tells your kid to leave the house and he refuses, you have a major problem. On the off chance that this doesn’t work, continue with the suggested interventions. Note that this is an intervention, not a consequence. If we get to this point, the suggested consequence must follow at some point in the future. In this case, a report from your kid on the successful listening practice should be given to the owner of the home, along with a request for re-entry to the home before access is granted.
On the incredibly unlikely chance that your child becomes belligerent with a police officer, that officer will be giving your kid some serious consequences. You STILL need to give your kid the above consequence for a long, long time.
Stay safe. When carrying a kid, make sure that you are indeed strong enough and in good enough shape to carry him or her. Carry in such a way that you avoid injury as much as possible. Keep in mind that every kid has an eight-pound ramming tool at all times: their head. Avoid the forward or reverse head butt to the face by never putting your own face behind or in front of your kid’s head.
Remember, when in doubt, get sad. Be empathetic.
Feel free to invite people to subscribe to this newsletter to get this CAPP in its entirety. DO NOT verbally share this plan in a haphazard or anecdotal fashion. Simply telling someone to call the police if their kid won’t leave a friend’s house without that parent reading about all of the interventions and empathy involved in this procedure would be misleading and would not be helpful.