mshanklin
Monday 3rd , 2014
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If your child has never thrown a “Five Alarm Fit” you can stop reading now, this blog post is not for you.  For the rest of us, mortal parents, who have been on the losing end of a child’s fit because they do not want to leave their favorite place, this post is for you! 

Although my kids are 14 and 11 now, the memories of their epic tantrums over having to leave before they were good and ready are still very fresh in my almost healed psyche.  My wife and I did the “Smart” thing and waited five years before having kids so we would be studied up and “Ready”—HA!  While we both brought our own designer parenting baggage from our families, we thought we were going to nail this parenting thing.  We thought that, until our first tantrum our toddler threw because she didn’t want to leave our friends’ house.  The fact that they had a life-size Yoda proved too much for her and she never wanted to leave his side.  And so the Five Alarm Fit began when we were ready to leave but she was not.  Have you ever noticed when this kind of thing happens everything goes south fast?  She was mad at us, we were mad at her, my wife and I were mad at each other… only Yoda remained cool headed.  This is when angels of infinite wisdom appeared in the form of our friends and shared a golden nugget of parenting goodness.  They shared this one bit of sage advice that has worked its magic time and time again, helping our family to have Fit Free Goodbyes. 

The magical answer to saying goodbye to one of our children’s favorite spots was to pull out the Benadryl, and dose them up, just kidding!  We would give our kids time to transition from an enjoyable environment where they were clearly having fun to the next page of our day.  Imagine our kids at Kidspace needing to go home… our transition would look something like this:

Me: Hannah, have you had fun today at Kidspace?
Hannah: Yes!  I love this place, especially the tricycles.
Me: You did a great job of riding them today.  We are going to need to go home in five more minutes so let’s play with one more exhibit before we go home.   
Hannah: I don’t want to go! I’m having so much fun.
 Me: Five more minutes is all the time we have today. [Hannah starts playing with one more thing…]
Me: We have two more minutes until we have to go.
Me: One more minute, start wrapping up.
Me: It is time to say goodbye to some of your favorite things at Kidspace.  Let’s say goodbye to the snake. [Walk over to the snake]
Hannah: Goodbye snake.
Me: Let’s say goodbye to the dancing water in the courtyard. [Walk over to the fountain]
Hannah: Goodbye dancing water.
Me: Let’s say goodbye to the beautiful kaleidoscope. [Walk through the kaleidoscope]
Hannah: Goodbye kaleidoscope.
Me: Let’s say goodbye to Kidspace.
Hannah: Goodbye Kidspace!

This little routine has saved our family a lot of fits and has served us very well.  The bottom line is that our kids need enough time to transition from a place of happiness to a new portion of our day.  Giving them the countdown helps them in many ways.  It helps them learn to gauge time.  It helps them know that they need to wrap up and it helps them mentally and emotionally adjust to something else.  My wife and I were also advised to let our 5 minutes be 5 minutes and not 2 minutes or 20 minutes.  This will help your kids know that when you say it is time to go, it really is.  How many times have I said, “This is the 10th time I’m going to ask you to… [which was 9 times too many]”?  Saying goodbye to their favorite things helps them to have closure.

My office at Kidspace happens to be right at the entrance and the exit of the museum.  I almost always hear children leaving the museum who are not ready to go.  As the CEO of the museum, this tells me we are doing a number of things right but it also tells me that we can help parents avoid the Five Alarm Fits.  I hope the ideas presented work for you and your family.  It did for ours!  Now does anyone have advice on making algebra relevant?  This post has been brought to you by the number 5 and the letter F.

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Michael Shanklin, Chief Executive Officer, has been with Kidspace since August, 2011.  He holds a MA in History and BA in Art.  His museum experience has included positions with Discovery Gateway in Salt Lake City and the Omniplex Science Center in Oklahoma City.  He returned to his native Los Angeles area following three years as the Executive Director at the Discovery Science Center in Tyler, Texas.