Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Stop Your Toddler From Running Away

I like to tell people that the best way to stay in shape is to have a toddler. Some toddlers stick to their parents like glue and others think that it is constantly a game to try and run away from people. 

Over in our Toddler Approved Positive Parenting FB Group we've been talking about toddlers that like to run away when they are outside or in public places. We discussed some helpful tips that I thought I'd share with you. All of theses suggestions focus on positive parenting tips, so many include consequences but not punishment.




My youngest turns two in about a week and is a big ball of energy. He is the sort of kid that disappears if I turn around for a second and is off running down the street. He definitely keeps me on my toes.

Although it is pretty funny to see his little legs running the opposite direction, most of the time he chooses to run when it isn't safe or when I don't have time to be chasing him all around the neighborhood. 

Typically when we are out in busy or unsafe places I either strap my toddler into a stroller or carry him. I love to give him learning opportunities though, so I try and find times during our day when we CAN practice listening and being safe and NOT running away and I'll let him down.

Ways to practice listening and being safe could include...


  • Playing Red Light Green Light (teaching kids to STOP when they hear you say it)


  • Practicing walking holding hands in safe places like on sidewalks and indoors at the mall




  • Choose something else for the child to practice holding on to while waiting or walking (side of a stroller, mom's leg, side of the car while waiting to walk into a parking lot, etc.)


  • Freeze Dance and practice listening for someone to say stop when the music stops.


Here's what works with my toddler most of the time...


Before we go anywhere I ask my almost 2 year old if he wants to walk or if he wants to be carried/go in stroller. He always says "walk!" because he is super independent. I tell him he has to stay with me if he wants to walk (and not run away). The second he starts running away from me he gets picked up or put in the stroller. I just stay calm with no expression and that helps too with him not thinking it is a game. After being consistent with this for awhile now he doesn't run away as much. I also try and give him lots of running time during the rest of the day so that helps too.

I think it is important to focus on what I WANT my toddler to be doing instead of repeating what I don't want him to be doing. I try and remind him to hold my hand and to walk on the sidewalk or go get in the car instead of saying, "no running" or "don't go in the road." Toddlers often only hear what you say first, so make sure what you say first is what you want them to do. 


Another mom mentioned that she says "HAND" and holds out her hand and waits as soon as she gets to the door and her toddler has to hold her hand before they are able to leave. If the child won't hold her hand, he is picked up. This works great with kids who really want to walk because they are motivated to listen and hold hands in order to get the opportunity to walk.


The main thing I have learned with trying to stop toddlers from running away is that you have to decide how you want to handle the situation and then you need to be consistent. 


Toddlers aren't going to always love the consequence of having to be carried or having to sit in the stroller if they run away, but if you consistently set the limits and follow through right away (no repeated warnings), they eventually figure it out... although some take longer than others. My toddler will protest and cry and yell, "walk!!!" when I put him in the stroller or pick him up and I'll wait for awhile, remind him of my expectations,  and then I'll give him another chance.

Here are some suggestions I've heard from other moms of toddler runaways...


Moms I have talked to have mentioned how they have special snacks on hand for when their kids are good listeners and walk to the car (instead of running the opposite direction into the street). The kids are then excited to get to the car because they know something good happens once they are in there.

Several moms I know have mentioned the leash backpacks or having some sort of ring that their child holds on to. Some parents use the leash backpacks respectfully and some don't. If parents are yanking on the leash or dragging kids, I don't think they are at all appropriate, but I have watched some friends use them with their very active kids and have seen them used respectfully while also teaching children to listen, stop when asked, and hold hands... so that once the leash is no longer used kids still are able to know the rules and behave appropriately. 

Many moms recommended using a carrier of some sort and wearing toddlers instead of letting kids down to run around. My kids hate being in carriers once they are over one-years-old but I know several toddlers who love it!

When we are in the grocery store I try and find the cart that has a car on the front of it with seatbelts. I give my toddler the option to sit in the cart strapped in or the car section. Occasionally I'll give the toddler an opportunity to get out and help me with my shopping list but I usually make it very clear what he is getting out to help with and that he is going back in the cart afterwards. I keep small snacks on hand to give to kids who are good at listening and not running around or away from me.

Several moms have mentioned to me that before running errands they will take their child to a park or somewhere so that they can run around for a bit beforehand and get some energy out. Then, they're a little more tired out and more willing to stay close by.

In addition to consistency, practicing appropriate behavior is really important. If toddlers are always strapped into strollers or carried they won't learn appropriate behavior for being out in public.  


With really challenging kids, I would give them opportunities to practice safely several times a week and then also give myself a break and avoid taking them out with me sometimes too. If I know that a specific location is going to be a set up for my toddler, I'll avoid taking him until he is older and more capable. 


Lastly, although we want to teach toddlers how to behave appropriately and we want to be consistent with enforcing limits, we always want to remember that this is a stage. The less we react and the less emotional we are, the quicker most kids will move through the stage and outgrow it!  

Do you have a toddler who runs? When/where do they usually run? Do you have any additional respectful and kind tips to add?


PS- Don't forget to sign up for our FREE Positive Parenting webinar!

31 comments:

  1. I have found that our toddler is more apt to hold our hands when needed for safety when we also think to hold hands fairly often as a friendly companionable act even though not needed. Time for a book and a nap? Hold hands while walking over to the bookshelf or nap spot. Dinner ready? Instead of just calling the kids in, go in and collect them and hold hands as you go in to the meal.

    I've used the toddler tether in the past in crowded and unfamiliar places or if I know I will have my hands occupied or will be distracted, using it more like the safety chain on a bracelet than a leash - we still usually hold hands but know that it is there in case that little hand slips out or the child's arm gets tired of being up in the air (both parents are tall!).

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have the same problem, but I have 19 month old twins. They're both very independent and I can't risk one having a tantrum, because the other will run off if I let go of him. Have you got any suggestions how I can safely teach my toddlers not to run?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have twins. they are now almost 3. the risk and difficulties sure multiply quick with multiples.
      I decided early on that running was not an option. period. I started in safe but public places (the sidewalk next to the quiet street near the park). I put one in the carrier and the other would walk. In the beginning always holding hands but then working toward not holding hands and understanding boundaries. (curbs, etc.) the raw truth is when you have two you can't always be holding their hands. Also practicing things like holding on to the car or cart.
      If they ran away from me I would say 'do not run from me' then I would firmly grab their upper arm and bring them to the ground. I was careful not to hurt them but in their mind they fell down. I gave sympathy and would say, 'it is not safe to run from mommy. we have to stay together.' you have to be very consistent. the same thing happens if they run in a parking lot or if they run from you in a safe place like the play ground or even in your own living room. no running. ever. this works best if you start early because the key is to be able to catch them. if they are faster than you it becomes a game and you loose.
      the other thing I did if they continued to walk away or not listen well, I would insist that we hold hands and when holding hands if they pull away I hold on firmly or roughly if that is what it takes. staying together is the number one priority when we are out.. groceries, carts rolling away, people thinking I am a bad mom because of a temper tantrums... none of that matters.
      I don't know if any of this will work for you. there is a site called twin stuff with twin moms with lots of experience with the special challenges of twins. you might find other ideas there.
      I do know whatever you do starting earlier will make it easier and find a way to do one at a time. It will get easier. my kiddos are now three and they still go in the cart for groceries and stuff. But we can walk most places safely and I don't feel like I crossing every parking lot is risking our life.
      Oh and get a back pack if you don't have one, and a hook to attach your keys to a belt loop or bag strap. it won't free your hands all the time but it can help.

      Delete
    2. I'm a Grandmother of a 2 year old and I come to this site for up to date tips.
      I found a way to let the child out and about a bit by playing follow the leader by pretending to be a choo choo train (or what ever your toddler enjoys most at the present time.Stopping and turning and blowing the train whistle. Not meant for any long shopping trip- just those run in quick & pick trips.

      Delete
  3. I am a Grandma and tell my grandson to hold on to me tight so I don't get lost. He is 28 months old and that has worked so far when we walk on a sidewalk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's adorable

      Delete
    2. That's exactly what I do...works like a dream :-)

      Delete
  4. Thank you, Kristina, for this wonderful post -- I love these peaceful and fun suggestions. My brother was killed by a car as a pedestrian, so I feel so passionate about this important topic -- for us, it has been sharing about my children's uncle that has helped them connect with why we stay with mom in the parking lot and street -- but we should try some of these fun ideas too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Denise Lorae DohertyOctober 22, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    When my son, Bryandon was a toddler, I constantly had to be on my toes for him playing "catch me if you can." However, he is Autistic and ADHD. I got a service puppy for him. I would hold the "leader leash" and he would have a shorter red leash. He thought he was just helping mommy walk the dog and I never had issues with him dropping the leash and running. He learned that mommy would say, "stop" when we would come to a curb to cross the street and he would help me and the puppy look both ways and for me to say, "ok, go."

    ReplyDelete
  6. While I love the post and most of the suggestions I'd like to point out the use of food as a reward for good behaviour. Is this developing the type of relationship we want our children to have with food? Personally I don't believe food should be used as either positive or negative reinforcement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts Anonymous. This article shares many many ideas. Definitely pick the ones that work for you or that you feel comfortable with and skip the rest.

      Delete
    2. You could always have a healthy snack, or have a coloring book or certain toys that are only for the car.

      Delete
    3. My children, now 21 and 22 were given fruit snacks or goldfish crackers while we shopped. Or if they were well behaved during errands we stopped at the corner market and they received a half pint of chocolate milk. Neither one has an eating disorder or obese. They were also athletes and a dancer. Food is fuel!

      Delete
  7. Great article, thank you ! However the video of the song can't be seen be people out of USA, that's so bad !!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I watch a little girl who is almost 2 and the moment I give her an inch of freedom, she takes off. If you yell for her to stop, she will do 1 of 2 things: either keep running, or stop and scream with high-pitch shriek and yell "NO NO NO NO". With my kids, if they ran off, they went right back in the stroller. She will continue the shrieking. I find it hard to take her out in public anywhere. She will hold your hand for a few minutes and then will try to pull away, yell, fall on the ground, etc. It's exhausting. On the flip side though, I can do what I can do, but if her parents don't do anything at home (they don't), my efforts are worthless.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My eldest son was a runner. I was very pregnant with my second child during this delightful toddler stage. I suddenly realized that it was all in the footwear. By putting the heaviest, clunkiest footwear you can find on them (think work boots,snow boots, rubber galoshes, Doc Marten type shoes. I also realized that slightly over-sized shoes slowed my son down as well. So the next time your toddler begs to wear their two sizes too big cowboy boots to the store, say 'Yes!'. However, over-sized pants is not advisable. I'm pretty sure that every store in our city has seen my son's Scooby Doo underwear by now ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a runner and don't think I'd use this technique as Little Miss Independent would run anyway and end up tripping and hurting herself. BUT I did have a chuckle at this. Hilarious! :)

      Delete
    2. 😂😂😂😂😂😂👌🏽 the shoes part killed me

      Delete
  10. I used a leash with my son when I was 8 months pregnant when walking in our neighborhood becuase we had to walk on a sidewalk by a very busy street. We held hands but every once in a while his little hand would slip. I couldn't catch him if he headed to the street --- it was about 2-3 feet away. Better safe than sorry. I also taught my kids to sit when I was out and about with all 3 of them. They would be running/walking away from me but if I said sit, they sat wherever they were. This may sound stern to some parents but at one point, it kept my 3 year old daughter from running in front of a car in a parking lot when I was distracted by her younger sister.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have given my grandchildren the "Job" of keeping me safe by holding my hand. This makes them feel important about taking care of me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My little terror is a full blown nightmare. I rarely use his stroller, because I can barely fit it in the car and don't' have the money to upgrade. Although i would consider him an extremely clingy child, he has no loyalty whatsoever when we're out. If I walk away, he will literally take off in the other direction for as long as he likes. If I try and put him in a stroller/trolley it's a full on battle to get him in, and by then, he's hysterical - and we haven't even got inside the shop yet! If I let him walk, I always start off by saying 'Be a good boy?' He likes to be a good boy, so I try to keep him in that mind-frame. It never lasts. I've used reigns, no good, he just falls to the ground and refuses to move. If when naughty, I pick him up. He squirms, kicks, hits so much I can barely keep hold of him. I threaten to take him back to the car. Still naughty. I follow through by returning to the car and ending his outing. It does nothing. He does the same thing next time. I consider myself a stern mother, who has always tried to nip things in the butt before they develop - but going out with him is a nightmare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way! I have 4 kids, and my 3-y old is still a runner. We've tried everything! I do consider myself a stern mother as well, but nothing works with him. People always have an opinion of what I should do and how and I stopped trying to explain. If we go anywhere, we make sure we have a designated (able to run fast) adult specifically for that child, just to keep him safe. Hoping for him to start understanding more and more as he grows...

      Delete
    2. My son was much the same, still can be. What worked for us one warning eg " holding hands please or you'll be carried" (or pram)he hates this rule and would scream, hit ,bite,and kick but we would do our best to quickly restrain him and leave. Nowadays he`s much more cooperating. It a rule we don't react to his "in shop" antics it takes a bit but works eventually .

      Delete
  13. I do touch car, I make my son put his hand on the car, while I get things out. I actually had a friend, ask why do I do that, and I told her that helps me know where he is and to get him to stop.

    We also, encourage hand holding in the parking lot, and we tell him, when we're in the parking he has to hold someone's hand, and we encourage the grandparents and aunts to do the same. I think its important that if others who may have your child for the day or moment, that they encourage some of the same things you do.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for sharing your blog Kristina. Your tips really helps with lots of mother's out there.

    Have you Piggyback Rider Stand-Up Child Carrier ? I'm sure yo will enjoy having this carrier especially in a trip which allows parents to adventure farther and longer.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just make sure I'm always wearing sneakers. Then I tackle him if he starts running away.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yesterday me n my sister were discussing this, I was telling her I need to get my two years old girl those doggy walk thingies. I reall cant take it anymore. The minute we out of the house shw goes crazy and wild and this really scares me as we live not far from the main road. So there's car moving up n down constantly. We always keep the gate locked because now she know how to open it if its not lock. She's a little terrorist.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Starting at about age 3 I taught my daughter that she could get out of the car in the parking lot, but she must immediately put her hand in the square shape of the fuel tank door. This worked for us because my tank is on the driver side so I would get out there too. She could stand there with her hand in the square while I picked up my purse etc. But if she tried to step away, I explained she would have to go back to waiting in the car and not move until I opened her door and let her out. She was never a runner though. I just didn't want her to step away from the car before I was ready.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Some really good suggestions. I like how you mention to tell your toddler - what TO DO - rather than what NOT to do. I agree with you - toddlers only hear the first thing out of your mouth!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have three kids, 6, 4 and 2. The 4 and 2 year olds have a tendency to wander. We use a karate belt which everyone holds on to while we are walking. We call it the "kid train" and I tell them that it's kid powered. It won't go unless everyone is holding on. I let my oldest go in front and I take the back. If anyone lets go, I put on the brakes. I have found that having something to hold on to besides my hand gives them the independence they need while still keeping them close and safe.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have an issue with my two year old and it's at home. she runs straight into the road or down the sidewalk and won't come back. I tell her to stay in the yard or she's going in and I follow through with the consequence. I'm being pressured by family and friends to spank and I reluctantly tried it for a week and she knows what will happen but it doesn't even phase her. I've never wanted spanking to happen, and have quit and apologized to her but I need something that will work.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! Please know that if it isn't kind or adding to the conversation, it won't be shared. I moderate each comment, so you won't see your comment show up immediately when you post. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog.

Related Posts with Thumbnails