15 answers

How Do I Keep My 5 Year Old from Walking Too Far Away in Public?

My five year old walks way too far away from me at stores and other public places. She generally doesn't want to hold hands while walking down a sidewalk and isn't very mindful of driveways. We have been talking to her about driveway and street-crossing safety for years. She is excited and energetic most of the time so forgets to be careful. Obviously my main concern is for her safety, but in the case of stores, she has jumped in front of many an elderly person. I need advice on this and am extremely concerned because she is starting Kindergarden in the Fall. The strange part is that when at home, she doesn't leave my side and follows me everywhere. How can I get through to her that safety is a real issue???

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for the responses. My husband and I have read through them all and have found them very helpful. Also, thank you for the "Mommy I'm Here" idea.

Featured Answers

My son was a wanderer when he was very little-2 to 3. I explained to him one day in a very serious voice that he is a very cute child and there are not nice people that would love to take him to their family and the he could not be with us any more. I asked if he wanted another family, because I could arrange it.
Then I also set up the rule that he is not allowed to walk on the blacktop (street, parking lot, driveway, etc) unless he is holding my hand. I made it a little fun by telling him he was a baby duck and I was the mommy duck. For a few days we waddled around quacking through parking lots. He got the idea and at 9 still holds my hand but now he drops it as soon as we're on the sidewalk.
If he ever wandered away I told him that I couldn't trust him so he had to sit in the baby seat of the shopping cart with the seat belt on and I put him in there or take a stroller he could be strapped in. A few times of this and he got the idea.
The fake scare works best a day or two after you have a clear talk about why it's important to stay with mom. That way it's fresh enough in her mind to make the connection not just "mom abandoned me." She'll get that she was the one that took off not the other way around.
Good Luck.

More Answers

While safety may be the REASON that you need her closer to you, the actual ISSUE imho, is that she's not listening to you at all.

With my son, he didn't get a choice from the beginning, so we won't use him as an example. One of my closest friend's child, who I watched for 6 months last year (at 5), would NOT hold hands to cross the street, stay near us in stores, ran ahead and hid, ran ahead and RAN... oh my GAWD, talk about a HUGE pain in the keister. He would literally run out into the street into oncoming traffic, or through a store knocking things over as he went.

So I MADE him. He would hit, spit, yell, cry, and throw a fit... but he either held hands or was carried. And then we went home, for throwing a fit, but darnit... we crossed that street.

His parent's didn't believe that children should be "physically coerced" (aka picked up and carried if they were misbehaving or doing something dangerous) because it would make them feel "small". The also didn't believe that the adult should react to fits or being hit/kicked. (AKA, no punishment for it. And I'm not talking physical, I'm talking no time outs and no talking to and no going home from the park.) They believed that their child should be reasoned with.

Now I'm all for talking and explaining (Laughing... we do that A LOT as parents don't we? Like breathing, we're explaining the why's and why not's, how's, when's, where's, colors, numbers, history, my gawd do we ever shut it?) but I'm ALSO of the opinion that I can be explaining that we don't hit other kids as I'm strapping them back into a car seat and going home. Tie into a little remorse in that conversation.

I can be explaining that cars and strangers are dangerous, and that it is MY responsibility to keep them safe and there is NO WAY I'm setting them down to run off again. If they want to try holding hands, then they can try on the way home.

By the end of the six months the little boy would hold my hand crossing the street, stay within 5 feet of me in stores (and not knock things over), stop when I said "stop" and wait for me (driveways mostly), and come running back across the field when I whistled.
He also quit hitting other kids at parks, and throwing fits to get his own way (ha, okay, the caveat on that is on ridiculous things that he knew was wrong, like throwing fruit at people at the grocery store... or crossing the street without me).

BUT guess what? All of that still happens with his parents. He runs ahead out into streets, hits other kids on the playgrounds, screams at the top of his lungs, gets lost in stores and listens not. at. all.

I didn't teach him how to DO those things. I taught him how to LISTEN TO ME, and that BOYOHBOY things were super fun when he listened. He doesn't have to listen to his parents, so he doesn't. To this day a whole year later at 6 he still acts like a 2 year old screaming, hitting, biting, and running away from them. But with his au pair, he holds hands, listens, asks nicely, and isn't a bully on the playground.

Did I ever hit him? Nope. Hurt him? Nope. Yell at him? Well when he ran away, one has to yell for distance, but yell at him when he WASN'T far away or his name when he was about to do something dangerous? Nope.

Just clear consistent consequences and results. Stay close, or hold hands. Hold hands or get carried. Fit = Going home. Not listening = not getting what you want. His au pair does the same thing. His nanny did the same thing. And he still listens to all 3 of us. His parents? MY GOOD FRIENDS, his parents? Nope. Doesn't listen one bit. They've never given him any reason to.

4 moms found this helpful

Just out of safety, and if she is a "bolter" suddenly going away from you.. .there is a device called the "Mommy I"m Here" child locator... it's used for children as safety if you are afraid of your child getting lost.
BUT, you can use it to "alarm" your child as well, if suddenly she steps off the curb or into a dangerous situation...or if you are afraid she will get lost.

Here is the link for it: http://www.mommyimhere.com/

I got this for my daughter, who is going on a trip with my Husband... for use at Disneyland. (which is also what parents use it for and for when in large crowds). It works real well, and it emits a loud "alarm"... I got mine from Costco... which is cheapest for a set of 2. (just click on the "where to get it" link for the website, and then click on the Costco link).
www.amazon.com also sells it... and you can read the reviews on it there. It works real well, and I am happy that I bought mine for my daughter. It is an award winning safety product.

Or, perhaps, take her to your local Police Department, and maybe they have a community service department and maybe an Officer can talk with her....

Just one idea, for prevention... hope this is a usable idea for you,

2 moms found this helpful

Ditto to Jen. I did a 'controlled scare' and it partially worked - you may even let store security in on it. What really cinched it was for them seeing a real lost child and witnessing that scene. Not something you can arrange, but a definite teaching moment. As for walking in front of shopping carts, they get one warning and then they have to spend the rest of the trip with one hand on my cart. When walking on the sidewalk, our rule is no one walks across a driveway unless I say it's clear - if the rule is broken, we go home. Safety rules generally do not get repeated warnings, after-all they are for their safety.

1 mom found this helpful

My first thought is a controlled scare, purposely lose her in a place you can be sure to keep your eye on her. Its a form of natural consequences and allowing her to be a little worried about her losing you. Again, I'm not advocating really losing her, but if you can safely set it up where she can't find you, you have a very powerful situation to use as an example of what can happen when etc. etc. There are some times when she will just need to hold your hand. Period. You can let her know you want to keep her safe and as she is so wonderfully energetic and until she learns to be careful, she will need to hold your hand in specific situations. Congratulations to you on a safe five years: )


1 mom found this helpful

Whoa! Jen L's post reminded me of my mom's 'controlled' experiment on me at Knott's Berry Farm. I remember it well because it was my 5th birthday. I know now that she had her eye on me the whole time. I remember always being careful to be aware of my surroundings and keep her in my sight from then on (not in a freaked out way; just aware). Hope this helps.

The controlled scare idea sounds like a great idea. Wish I had thought about it last year when I was going through this issue with my two children. What I did was had them hold my hand or onto the grocery cart whenever we were out in public. If they wanted to go check out a toy or something else nearby, they had to ask permission to and tell me where they are going. And during each of these outings, I would remind them repeatedly of our rule that when we are out in public, they have to stay close to me and if I can't see them and they can't see me, they have gone too far. Our rule also is that they have to always walk when we are in a public place - no running. I have a son with communication and social delays and a daughter with an adventurous spirit, so I started this process early and was pretty strict about implementing it. They are 5 and 6 now and pretty much understand our public safety rules so I've been able to relax my hold on them, so to speak.

Hope this helps.

She is old enough to have a conversation about it. My 4 (almost 5) year old had the same wandering issue. He would also take off running in a parking lot making me have to scream, "freeze" to get him to stop. He doesn't want to hold hands all the time either. So... I made a deal with him. I got to his level and told him that if he stays close to me while we are walking or gets permission before walking away from me, he wouldn't have to hold my hand the whole time we are out. It actually worked. It has been a month now and he's only strayed once. I quickly snatched him up and made him hold my hand the ENTIRE time. He hated it and I haven't had a problem since. Keep in mind, though, I remind him of our deal every time we go out (so it's top of mind for him). Give that a try. You may be surprised how mature she will be if given the chance. Good luck! :)

I believe it is your responsiblity to make sure your child is right next to you at all times, and is aware of her surroundings. Keep reminding her every few moments to say by you, or look for cars. After a million times of reminding her, it should come natural.
Good luck!

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