How to get your kids to leave the park—in 10 easy steps

Kids refuse to leave the park? The 10 real-life steps it takes to finally get home.

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Photo: iStockphoto

If you are like me, you have probably spent a significant amount of time at the park with your kids this summer.

We are at the park on almost a daily basis, but no matter how often we go, we always run into the same problem: The kids never want to leave. We go through the same song and dance each time we are at the park, with our daughters convinced we are shortchanging their time at the park.

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The argument is always the same: I say it’s time to go, and they beg and plead for extra time. I have been through this routine so many times that I am now an expert on how to deal with this situation.

So I have created a 10-step guide for how to successfully handle the departure from the park with your kids.

Step 1—Give the five-minute warning
When you give a five-minute warning to somebody, it doesn’t actually mean five minutes. Like when my wife tells me that she needs five more minutes to get ready. Or when I tell her there are five minutes left in a hockey game. It ends up being more like 17 or 18 minutes.

So when you tell a child they have five minutes left at the park, you are actually giving them about 15 minutes. While your departure from the park is not imminent with this approach, it does plant the seed in their tiny brains that the clock is ticking on their time at the park.

Step 2—Give one-minute warning
Now this means they actually have five minutes left at the park.

Step 3—Give them one more ride
“Can we just go down the slide one more time?”

“Can you give me one last push on the swing?”

You will be tempted to stonewall your child in this situation, but it’s probably best that you just give in and let them go down the slide one more time. If you argue them on this point, by the time you convince them to leave the park, they could have gone down the slide three times and you could have been at home and consuming your second alcoholic beverage.

Step 4—Lie to your child
Say something sweet and reassuring like, “I promise we’ll come back to the park after dinner” or “I will bring you back here tomorrow,” even though you really have no intention of following through.

Step 5—Use idle threats
The problem with trying to get your kids to leave the park is that at some point you need to switch from good cop to bad cop—all by yourself. So after trying to play nice for a few minutes, you need to start getting tough. This is where idle threats can be a nice transition into the “bad cop” phase. You can go with a small approach like, “I guess you won’t be having a Popsicle when we get home.” Or for a more dramatic effect, you could tell your child, “You won’t be coming to Disney World with the rest of us.”

The nice thing about idle threats is that the possibilities are endless.

Step 6—Pretend to leave
The “fake out” is a classic move in a parent’s playbook, when you announce you are leaving the park with or without your child. “Well, I’m leaving the park now. I guess you can just stay here by yourself.”

Then you proceed to take 20 steps toward home, while constantly checking over your shoulder to see what the child is doing. It’s the worst game of chicken ever—and usually ends up with you back at Step 2 or 3.

Step 7—Blame the weather
At some point, you need to get this show on the road back home. Point to some clouds in the distance and make a vague reference to a tornado watch. That should get your kids’ attention.

Step 8—Give a one-minute warning
But this time, it actually means one minute.

Step 9—Physically remove them from the park
Sadly, you could have skipped the first eight steps and come right to this one—especially if you have a child younger than three. Simply grab your child and awkwardly force them back into their wagon/stroller/Barbie car—while simultaneously trying to buckle them in. Why this isn’t an Olympic sport is beyond me.

Step 10—Handle the walk of shame with dignity
For the final step, you get to walk back to your house with a screaming child while all the neighbours are on their lawns and silently judging you. Nobody will really make eye contact with you, but you have to keep your head held high if no other reason than you will be in this exact same situation tomorrow.

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Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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