Routines – they’re not just for getting the kiddos to bed, but also for stopping an activity.
Instead of abruptly yanking the child away from their fun, try warning them first, then start counting to 10. Every few numbers repeat that you’ll be stopping the activity soon. This allows the child to disengage from what they’re doing, mentally and emotionally.
Sometimes you’ll get all the way to 10, and then when the activity must stop you’ll have no tears, and sometimes you’ll only have to count to 4 or 5 and your child will disengage right away.
It may take a few tries for your child to be on the same page, but the main thing is that eventually there are no tears or tantrums. They know what’s coming, it’s not a shock and it doesn’t come randomly out of the blue with no warning.
We’ve been doing this since my twin girls were 2 yrs old. All the time I get compliments from amazed parents on the playground at how “well behaved” my girls are when they “obediently” stop their fun and are ready to move on.
And you can also use this method if the kiddos are getting a bit wild in some way on the playground. Just start the countdown and then warn the child that you’ll count faster if they’re naughty, and slower if they’re good.
(Of course, for serious naughtiness, I just announce that there’ll be a count of three and then a time out if they don’t cease the naughtiness)
My twins have caught on and have learned to start playing more nicely so that I slow down.
We also use the countdown for taking turns with a special toy. We all agree on the number we’ll count to, then while one girl plays, the other will count. Then we switch.
I’ve mentioned this to other parents, and one mom whose child is on the Autism Spectrum mentioned that she thought this would be very effective with her toddler, who sometimes gets so focused on something and gets a bit shocked when it’s time to change to something else.