26 answers

How Do I Get My Toddler to Stop Running Away from Me in Public Places?

Hi moms, I have a 2.5 year old. She is over all a very well behaved child. We only have one behavoral issue with her. Sometimes when we are out places (a store, or the park etc) she will just bolt and run away from me like its a game. It doesn't happen that often, but its a safety hazard. We went to a birthday party tonight at a bowling alley. She was so good the whole time, then she just bolted and ran down one of the bowling lanes (towards the pins at the end), I yelled STOP, but she just giggled & ran faster. My first instinct was to run after her, I got halfway down and my fell on my butt (I was wearing nice dress shoes, and they oil those lanes!) I got my foot stuck in the side rail and hurt my foot pretty good (not to mention the embarassment of falling in front of my family and the whole bolwing alley). How do I get her to listen when I yell "stop"? We have played "stop and go" at home to try to make her understand, but in the excitment of the moment she doesn't listen. Like I said, this only happens occasionally, but she could get hurt someday. I'm lucky it was me that got hurt tonight and not her. Anyone else ever delt with this issue and can give me some guidance? Thanks in advance!

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My toddler likes to walk on her own and there are places where she can and others where she can not and she MUST hold hands and this is not an option (like in the stress or malls) if she doesn't want to then to the stroller or go home.
Places like the bowling party are hard at the beggining because you can't hold hand the whole time or put her in the stroller for the whole time, in places like this is all about to be constant like any other milestone. When she runs away you get her on her level and tell her she can't run and make her sit for a couple minutes. Most of this skills/milestone take some time and the key is to be constant but also understand that they are learning just like they learned to walk, talk eat, it didn't happen in a day.

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I swore, swore, swore that I would never use one of those crazy child leashes. It never was an issue with my first son. Then my daughter came along and when she was a toddler, she wanted to run everywhere. I bought a cute monkey backpack thing that had a "tale" you could clip on. She wore it when we went places and the first signs of "bad behavior" I clipped the tail on. She didn't like to hold hands either so it left me with little options. At one point, we were hiking were it was known to have black bear and cougars and I just couldn't let her run down the trail...........

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My first child wouldn't leave my side more than 2 feet. My second is just over 3 and today she said in the car drop me off here, I want to go for a walk. In an area she didn't know at all. She has no fear and just assumes I am watching her. I have said to her you are going to get lost if you don't stay with mommy. The only thing I can do is carry her, hold her hand or put her in a cart.

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More Answers

Bolting off like that ISN'T funny and she dang well needs to know it.
You're going to have to get a little mean about it. Sorry.
This time, someone did get hurt. No....not her. She didn't learn anything the hard way. Did you?
You have to be careful popping your kid on the butt in public, but she needs to know you are TICKED OFF when she runs from you.
At the bowling alley, once you caught her, I would have told your husband to get everything gathered up and then taken her into the bathroom and swatted her on the butt. I would have told her that it was for running and not stopping when you said and now you were leaving.
I then would have taken her directly to the car. If she wanted to cry and freak, so what? I would also tell her on the way home that next time she runs away like that, she will get popped on the butt again. And the next time and the next time.
The thing about swatting a kid is it usually only has to happen one time.
I know parents are against "hitting" and I'm not talking about using a belt or a stick or beating a kid. I am talking about a good firm hand popping a kid on the butt. One firm swat.
And let them know you'll do it again if you have to.
It's okay for a child to know they are in trouble. It's okay for them to know Mom is really mad.
That's how they learn things aren't funny.
Mommy falling down in front of everyone isn't funny. Mommy getting hurt isn't funny.
STOP means STOP!

"Honey...don't run. It's not funny. You might get hurt."
Those are just words until there is some meaning to them and you don't want the "meaning" to be a truck running over her or getting sucked down the chute at a bowling alley.
It's either that, or a harness.
It would be nice to go to a birthday party or the park without her having to wear one, but if she has to be restrained for her own safety, oh well.
I would be tempted to get one and put it on her a couple of times and just tell her it's because she won't stop when you tell her to.
If she hates it, that's even better.
It's either stop, or wear a harness.
It's stop or a pop.
At her age, there is no point in trying to reason with her, sweet talk her, or negotiate or try to explain what could happen because of danger.
Get FIRM one or two good times and that will likely be the end of it.

Best wishes.

7 moms found this helpful

There's a time and place for running and playing - play grounds, back yard, etc - and other times and places when running and playing is dangerous - parking lots, stores, malls, etc.
Toddlers have zero impulse control. They chase the ball and don't look both ways before crossing the street. They see something that catches their eye and off they go with nary a by your leave while your heart jumps into your throat worrying about cars, getting lost and hurt.
When my son was this age I HAD to put a leash on him for his safety and my sanity.
Nope - child isn't a dog - a child is more important. If leashing a dog for it's safety is a reasonable measure to take - why wouldn't you do the same for someone who is even more important than an animal?

7 moms found this helpful

I just make sure my kids were holding my hands when they were too young to understand that they *had* to stay with me. Once my daughter tried to run off and I just said 'ok, bye!' and made like I was going to go in the opposite direction. She stopped DEAD in her tracks and bolted back to me. She's never taken off since. My older 2 are 4.5 and almost 3 years.

If there's no shopping cart to put her in or stroller, just hold her hand. If she refuses, then go home. You might have to do a few 'trial runs' going to places you don't *need* to go before you get your point across that, if she runs away then you're going straight home. But it'll be worth it.

I personally don't agree with the leashes...but that's just me.

5 moms found this helpful

My daughter went through this phase as a 2yr old as well. Like you it was not an all the time occurrence, but when it happened it was not funny. The hardest part for me is that at the time she became a runner I was 8 months pregnant. The worst day was when I picked her up from preschool and she bolted away from me as we went out the front door. I was never so scared in my life as she ran toward a busy street of traffic. As I yelled for her she too giggled and kept going. Amazingly enough I did catch her just before she went too far but it was a close call. What I did is explain to her that what she had just done was run away from me and that she is not allowed to do that and explained why. From that point on, I made sure to hold tightly to her hand any time we were out. When she tried to squirm or cry her way out of it, I reminded her that some times she runs away and that is not safe so she has to hold mommy's hand now. After making sure to hold her hand for enough outings that she knew what I was going to say, I let her walk beside me with the warning that if she did not listen she would go immediately into the stroller, cart or have to hold my hand. Eventually this process worked, she figured it out that if she wanted to get her way she had to play by my rules. Just stick to your guns if the promise is that if she walks further away than the cart she gets in it, then make sure that is the case. I know it is scary, even though it does not happen all the time, she is old enough to learn. (By the way, I never even considered the leash, it may work for some, but I thought they were awful, she is my child not my pet)

4 moms found this helpful

Sorry if I am repeating someone. The leashes or harnesses for kids work great. I had twins running opposite directions at the mall one time and it scared me to death. I found some that looked like our girls had stuffed animals riding on their backs. One was a monkey and the other was a bear, I think. I put them on their backs at home without the leashes attached to practice and they loved them. I got them at Wal-Mart. At first I worried about what other people would think and soon realized who gives a c**p. Their safety is more important than what other people think. I was surprised when people began asking me where I found them because they wanted them for their own toddlers.

Edited: After reading Julie AC's comment I started thinking about the whole leash thing. I realized once again, who gives a c**p what other people think. I witnessed my Yorkie getting hit by a car last year and had nightmares for a long time after. I can't imagine the horror of having my child get hit by a car when moments before I was running behind her yelling I'm gonna whoop you when I get hold of you! Sometimes there are no second chances.

4 moms found this helpful

I would rather use a leash than have to bury my child after a traffic accident.

4 moms found this helpful

ALL THE TIME!! I look at other people with their toddlers, and they are actually shock horror, facing in the opposite direction, and their toddler is *gasp* not running off. My daughter, if I even take my eyes off her for half a sec runs off, she also did the bowling lane thing not so long back - but managed to stay on my feet!
I want to know - is it the kids that are just generally calmer, or is it our parenting style that causes them to run off. I know that I can never take my eyes off my daughter, so I don't. I never allow her to get far enough from me that she could run somewhere that I can't catch her - only happens to you occasionally? happens to me every day! - I have a runner, what can I say
leashes do work, Also hold her hand a lot, or the hood of her jacket, I carry her a lot, and have her strapped in to whatever is available.
And what a ridiculous comment about your child not being a dog - if it is a safety issue, then we should use it

4 moms found this helpful

When my children were younger, I got them both both toddler-sized backpacks which I loaded up with their favorite toys and coloring books. I had them wear them everywhere we went because I found that they couldn't run very fast or very far when they had something heavy like that to tote around. The other good thing about it is, because there's a lot of things for them to do or play with in there, it always gave them things to do when we were at a restaurant or a doctors office -- basically places where they have a lot of sitting down and waiting to do (think bowling alley).

I would also recommend maybe putting her in time out or the naughty corner for 2 minutes. As you correctly pointed out, it is a safety hazard although, right now, she is thinking it is a game. If you put her in time out for running away, she will learn that it is a big no-no with mommy. There were two things that my children got automatic time-outs for when they were younger: physical agression and breaking a safety rule. I wanted to impress upon them the seriousness of the infraction so that they would be less likely to do it again.

Hope this helps.

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