Archived Story

Organize a calm, orderly departure

Published 6:34pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

QUESTION: When I’m trying to get my children out the door to get to an event, they seem to scatter in all directions, the very opposite of what I want and need them to do. Any suggestions?


ANSWER: I remember when my oldest was three and we’d need to leave the house, I’d say “Hurry, Justin, we need to go.”

I’d be so exasperated because instead of coming to get his coat on, he’d run to a chair and then to the piano and then around the table. I’d say “Justin, hurry!” and it just got worse until I chased him down.

My husband observed this challenging process and commented, “He’s doing just what you’re saying; he’s “hurrying.” I found when I said more calmly, “Justin, it’s time to put your coat on,” held it out and waited, he cooperated.

Child psychologist Kirk Martin, author of “Celebrate Calm,” shares his experience with giving directions to his children. He talks about marching into the living room and yelling, “We’re leaving for the pool in five minutes! I need everyone upstairs now! Put your swimsuit and suntan lotion on. Grab your towel. Come on, move it!”

What happened was chaos; the kids would start fighting each other over who got into the bathroom and who got which towel.

So, he changed his strategy. He would put a beach towel around his neck and go sit by the front door. He just sat there. One by one, the kids would see him and go change. They knew exactly what to do.

Try sitting down the next time you feel like stomping through the living room, yelling directions. Sit down the next time you feel compelled to lecture or hover above your child. Sit down and color the next time your child is really upset. There really is something peacefully powerful when you sit. Sitting changes the dynamic between two people, adults and children. Sitting calms upset people of all ages.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out


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