Advice For Toddlers Who Run Away!

I was searching online for some advice on how to control my two year old who constantly run's away. I've copied and pasted it into my notes and will try all of the suggestions included here they are.


Why toddlers run away

No sooner do you lift your toddler out of the car, set him down on the sidewalk, and turn to wrestle his stroller out of the trunk than he suddenly darts away. When you finally catch up with him it's clear that he doesn't want to ride in the stroller today — he wants to walk on his own.

That's the desire at the heart of this problem. He's not running away to be bad on purpose or to defy you. He simply has a new sense of independence combined with legs that can run. "Toddlers love the feeling of being free and running around," says Patricia Shimm, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York and co-author of Parenting Your Toddler. "You can encourage it as long as you can control where they run."

What you can do about it

No amount of teaching will ensure that your toddler is always as cautious as he should be, so it's vital that you take responsibility yourself for keeping him safe. That means being hyper-vigilant about always creating an environment that's safe for your child.

Stay close to him. If you're in a safe, open space where you can see your toddler and he can see you, it's okay to let him run ahead of you. Most of the time, if you don't yell or run after him, he'll stop on his own, turn around to see your reaction, and run back to you when he sees you're not coming after him. But don't take any chances if you're in a crowded area or around cars. "You have to keep up with your toddler," says Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "Children this age love to hide, and letting them out of your sight is just too risky." You'd never forgive yourself if he were lost in the crowd.

Show him where he can run. Let your toddler explore a safe area (like a park, where he's safe from cars and you can see him from a distance) freely and at his own pace. Even in a park there are places you'll want to stop him from running: into the bushes, for instance, or through the mud. But he'll accept these limits more easily and learn to police himself more quickly if there are lots of places that he is allowed — and even encouraged — to run. The message you want to convey is that running is fine as long as he runs in the right place at the right time.

Engage and entertain him. Toddlers often try to cut loose when they're out doing errands because they're bored or miss your attention. Try to engage your little one in the chores you do together to make them more fun. One mom's secret: "I ask my daughter to help me push her stroller. It makes her feel like she's doing something important." Another mom says: "I con my toddler into holding my hand by saying that I don't know where I'm going and I'll get lost otherwise. Now that he's slightly older he's glad to help — while falling on the ground laughing at me." Try slowing your child down by bringing along his favorite pull toy. "This is also wonderful for your child's motor skills," says Leiderman. Or, ask him to help you pick a bunch of bananas or show you where the apples are. "Toddlers love to be helpers," says Shimm.

Explain how you expect him to behave. Tell your toddler how you expect him to behave before you begin an errand. But make sure you really spell it out for him. Instead of saying, "Can you be a big boy and hold my hand?" say, "Remember, you need to hold my hand when we're in the mall." "expressions like 'big boy' often backfire," says Shimm. "Toddlers turn around and say, 'I don't want to be a big boy!'"

Encourage him when he does well. When he resists the urge to run wild, reinforce his good behavior by telling him what he did well. But again, be specific. "It's not enough to say, 'You behaved like such a big boy today,'" says Leiderman. "Encourage his actions by saying them back to him. Say, 'I really appreciated that when I called you, you came back to me.'"

Keep him in his stroller. While the running-away phase lasts (it usually resolves itself between the ages of 18 months and 2 ½ years), it's best not to let your child walk until you can leave crowded streets for somewhere more child-friendly, such as a nearby playground. Strollers are invaluable for keeping your toddler close, and since he must be strapped in to ride safely, it isn't like you're "tethering" him the way you'd tether a dog. Plus, there are plenty of ways to make your little guy feel like a passenger instead of a prisoner. "Bring a toy for him to play with," suggests Shimm. "And take him out of the stroller when you stop for lunch." But keep his needs in mind. "Sitting for long periods of time can be quite challenging for some toddlers," says Leiderman. If you know your little guy isn't good at it, try to find a way to do your more time-consuming tasks without him.

Play "Catch me if you can." One 21-month-old's mom told us, "When our son runs away, rather than chase after him or yell at him, we call his name in a funny, animated voice and say, 'Hey, can you catch Mommy?' Then we turn and slowly 'run' the other way — we only go a few inches, but it's enough to entice him. He immediately comes running. We let him catch us and then we scoop him up and make a big deal out of his accomplishment. We clap and celebrate and then go on with what we were doing." This is a great way to turn the situation around — as long as you scoop your child up before he asks you to catch him. "Toddlers love to be caught because it makes them feel secure," says Shimm. But you don't want to make this a two-way game in a busy public place where your toddler could easily get away from you.

Use a carrier or harness. If you or your toddler needs a change from the stroller, two other safe options are a backpack-type carrier (if you can carry him comfortably) and a toddler harness. Some people feel that a harness demeans or imprisons toddlers; others feel that they're the best possible means of providing freedom and safety. "Most children don't mind wearing harnesses as much as other adults mind looking at a child in one," says Shimm. If you're uneasy about the idea, don't try to compromise with a wrist strap. If your toddler is walking at its 3-foot extent on a crowded sidewalk, someone could easily walk between you without noticing and send him flying.

Take him home. Taking your toddler home because he's made a break for it won't necessarily help him understand that he's done something wrong. He might see going home as a reward, or miss the connection altogether. Still, if you're really anxious and terrified about how he managed to get away from you, it's a good idea to take him home until you feel better. "Do what you think is best," says Leiderman. But don't assume your toddler will see the link between his running away and your returning home immediately. He may be too young to understand this as a consequence instead of a normal chain of events.

Don't waste your time on warnings. It's an age-old tactic for parents to give their children three warnings before punishing them for whatever they may be doing wrong. But there's no sense in trying this on toddlers — they're too young to understand the significance of a series of warnings. "For children this age, one warning is fine, but a countdown is futile," says Shimm.

Teach him safety stories and songs. Read your toddler books about the importance of staying close to you, or make up a song about safety to press the point home — but only after you've tried everything else. "These types of activities are a last resort because children learn best by doing and playing," says Leiderman. "There are so many more wonderful ways to teach your toddler to stay near you when you're actually out and about."


Hi this is commongroundseekr again, I also have been trying a few tricks with my son for his running away problem. I have been taking him for walks and playing games such as redlight greenlight, we are still new to this game but I'm hoping that he will catch on. And another game is follow the leader. I did use the count down method on my twins when they were that age and went in opposite directions. I know that spanking is contraversal but I would count to three and if they didn't listen they would get a spanking everytime and they listened very closely to the countdown method in no time. I also would try to entice my children by saying okay bye and turn and walk a few steps in the other direction too, it does help. But when I'm out paying bills or running arrands or in a restaurant I'm thinking that getting him a harness will be my best solution until we've mastered his self control techniques with the games that we've been working on. I will definately try everything suggested here, and try to get him to hold my hand willingly. He is  a difficult case because he does not like to hold my hand and he squirms out of my arms. But consistancy is the key. Maybe youtube will have some clips that can be useful as well.

I also foud a site that suggests both parent and child hold onto an certain toy such as a rubber snake, kind of like the children in daycare who are all holding onto the rope when walking together. Also try putting the child up on the counter when banking and or at the grocery store might help, I've tried it and he only wanted down, and it's not easy holding onto a child as you are writing your signature either keep your money in your hands to make it easier on you to pay what you need to quickly.

SealedWithAKisss SealedWithAKisss
36-40, F
8 Responses Feb 27, 2010

you can handle your kid through by HelloSpy

you can handle your kid through by HelloSpy

My threenager of a daughter used to run. We took her out with her stuffed bear which we placed in her push chair. If she ever looked like she would run away we'd say 'oh no! Rolly-Polly is feeling lonely, maybe you should cuddle her!' And she'd come running back to help Rolly-Polly.

My two year old son has 'toddler reins' as they are known. When he's good, we give him a sticker and he loves the harness as it's got all his stickers on and we even made a special label for him (my husband is an artist so it looks pretty good). He loves his harness and we have sine control over where he goes!

Have you tried rains or them back packs that have like lead for mum or dad to hold on to so the child feels and thinks free but still knees they ate safe. My niece loved hers as she could walk on her own but felt safe as we still had hold of her know she three and won't run away even if your not holding her hand. And won't go far with out you.

I should make this notewrothy. Is this product is akin to a harness style meaning two over the shoulder straps additional one around the tummy. The leash is attach too in the bacj area of the child. Thus, the toddler can not release him or herself. Child proof buckles.

If I was you. I would purchase this little outfit for your toddler to wear that has morw or less like a dog leash style tetter attach to him. Some of these outfits have a cute cuddely bear or other animals with bright colors. Now! Mom or dad has control i.e. the toddler can only be a certain distance away from you. No more running around wildly.

When I was about that age, my mom used a harness on me.

And I turned out just fine.

This really shed some light on an aspect of caring for a kid, that I've never thought about. They do like to run away, but I never thought they'd keep going.