Saying This Common Phrase To Hurry Your Child Can Actually Be Harmful

The empty threat feels all too real to children.
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We’ve all been there. You’re trying to leave the house, the park, the supermarket and for one reason or another, your child just won’t come with you. They’re happy where they are and no amount of cajoling or bribing them works so you find yourself stooping to the threat of “OK! Bye! I’m leaving!” which, to be fair, usually works a treat.

However, according to experts, we need to stop giving this empty threat to our little ones as for them, it doesn’t feel empty at-all and can leave lasting harm.

Kristene Geering, director of education at Parent Lab says that when we say this, we’re very likely doing more harm than good because this method of parenting is fear-based.

According to Geering, when children experience feelings of safety and security, they have a mental working model of the world that is a safe place which gives them the freedom to explore, learn, and grow. When we make this offhand empty threat, we run the risk of taking away this model for them.

Geering added, “They will literally start to wire in a way that makes them more reactive, which can translate into having more anxiety, being more clingy and in extreme cases, negatively impacting their overall development.”

It’s also worth considering that children, especially young children, lack impulse control so if they’re having fun, it’s hard for their brains to comprehend why they’d want that fun to stop – especially if they’re going to do something that they perceive as boring such as going back into the car.

What to say when you want your child to hurry

Of course, knowing all of this doesn’t change the seemingly stubborn behaviours that our children convey during these times and we still do need to get them to hurry now and then so what is the right thing to say?

Geering recommends finding new ways to represent time. Instead of saying “five more minutes” or “OK I’m leaving!”, she recommends that we ask our children “what are the last three things you want to do before we go?” or “You can swing until I finish this song” and then sing a song that they enjoy. This gives them a much better grasp on the passage of time and an endpoint to work from.

As kids get older, it’s always good to share some of your process—in this case, the reasoning behind why it’s time to go or hurry along. Discipline or holding a line is ultimately all about learning and you want your kid to know how to set and hold their own boundaries as they move toward adulthood, you might need to adjust your approach.”

Of course, if you’ve used the phrase “Bye I’m leaving” or find yourself slipping up and saying it again, this is perfectly normal and you’re not a bad parent – just know there are potentially more effective approaches.