As I've been writing all week, parents are in charge of the structure of a family and that requires us to set some limits.
Sometimes it seems that our kids don't respond well to a limit. Wouldn't it be easier if they looked at us and said, "How wise mom, that you're taking me home even though I want to stay at the playground. I'm hungry and tired, and even though I'm having fun it's time to go!" Of course, it's more likely that they'll melt down when we say no to their request to stay just a little longer.
When this happens, we often feel like failures. It can be awkward, embarrassing, and frustrating to handle their tears, complaints, and resistance when we really want to go home to have lunch and give them a nap. And we sometimes feel frustrated with them, thinking they shouldn't act this way. But it's normal.
When things get difficult, you don't need to try to control, diminish, or change their emotions, you can just accept them. By allowing their feelings and staying connected with your child, you help them to know that their feelings are okay. Being upset, sad, or even having a meltdown will not threaten your child's connection with you. Your child gets the chance to feel loved and accepted even though they aren't in control of whether or not to stay.
And you also don't need to argue, negotiate, or convince them, even if they try to draw you into it. You can stay calm and clear, sticking with your expectation that it's time to go. This helps your child to know that they can want to stay without necessarily staying. Feelings and desires are just feelings and desires, they don't always need to be indulged.
It may take longer to leave than you want as you navigate the emotions in a connected way, but it's worth it. You are sending the message that they are safe, you are in charge of the overall structure and that their emotions are safe with you.
As a mom (to 2 teenage sons), wife, and person in the world, I have been on a long imperfect journey. I have made many mistakes, but with mindfulness, emotional reflection, and lots of support I have learned enormously from those mistakes.