Dear Kid Whisperer,
I have a concern with my five year old son. About a year ago, he started refusing to hold my hand when crossing the street and when walking in parking lots. I try to convince him to hold my hand but nothing works. I don’t want to be the kind of parent who yells at their child or forces them to do things, but I worry about his safety. He has run away from me in the parking lot a couple of times recently. What should I do? –Shannon, Louisville, Kentucky
You seem like a nice parent. Being as nice as you are can make your kid dead.
Let’s first get one thing crystal clear. You seem to have a huge misconception about something. Yelling at your kid and forcing your kid to do things have absolutely nothing to do with one and other. If you don’t want to yell at your kid, that is great and a good plan. Not wanting to “force” your kid “to do things” is ludicrous. OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO FORCE YOUR KID TO DO THINGS. You are his parent! You are the boss. A five year old’s brain doesn’t work yet! He does not have the cognitive or emotional abilities to make important life-and-death decisions yet. THAT IS YOUR JOB.
You are endangering your kid’s life by allowing him to walk in dangerous situations without holding his hand. I would rather drag my four year old daughter across the parking lot like Linus’s blanket than allow her to not hold my hand. It doesn’t have to come to that, however, because I know that I am in charge, and that I am quicker and stronger than her. Also, I have a Calm/Assertive Procedure for safety on the street or parking lot. This is how I would solve your problem as your kid and I approached a parking lot:
Kid Whisperer: Would you like to grab my hand or would you like me to grab your hand?
Kid: NO! I have the right to freedom of movement under our country’s Bill of Rights which clearly states….
Kid Whisperer: Grabbing your hand it is.
Kid Whisperer gently and firmly grabs Kid by the hand or wrist and walks across the parking lot with Kid safely in tow.
If Kid has Ezekial Elliot-like quickness and might make a break for it, I subtly get a finger around a belt loop before giving my initial choice. If there is too much of a struggle, Kid Whisperer picks Kid up and carries him.
Kids have a great sense of the inevitable. After a few repetitions with this, your son should be resigned to the fact that this situation isn’t one in which he has any say. Very soon, you should just be able to silently put out your hand and your son will simply take it.