5 Year Old Wanting to Run Away

Updated on March 29, 2007
D.H. asks from Saginaw, MI
6 answers

Help!!!!. My 5 year old all of a sudden has come home twice this week from school wanting to run away. I have never had this problem with him. Tonight he wanted to run away because I would not buy him McDonalds. This is extremely out of the ordinary for him. He is a happy go lucky boy. My husband and I are frustrated by this. When we ask him why he wants to leave he tells us heard it from an older kid at school. I don't believe he understands what he is saying. Tonight he actually took off down the block. Any good advice as to how to handle this situation.

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answers from Detroit on

Hi D.,

I understand your frustration. I have a 12 year old and 6 years old and my oldest tried that for a similar situation at 5. If you can do this tactic I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that he will never do it again.

Tell him that mommy and daddy love you very much and we are here to protect you from things and take care of you but since you are all grown up and dont need us anymore we hate to see you go. You need a poker face and not sad but melancholy look for this whole charade! Pick up the phone and call Santa and tell him that he no longer lives there so he need not bring any toys. Have a phony conversation like.."..I know he cant get gifts anywhere else but here but its his decision." Then call the clothes store and tell them you no longer will be buying clothes from them because your young man is leaving. Call the grandparents and tell them they no longer have a grandson he left. Be sure he cant live there either...he can only visit if he still lives at home. Now call the adoption agency and tell them you need a little boy whos not all grown up to come and be their son. A child who will appreciate the love mommy and daddy give and understand that he cant have everything he wants all the time but he will always have everthing he needs like a good home, food, nice clothes and parents that just love him to no end. Act like they are sending someone... but keep a straight face. Get excited call Santa back and tell him they are sending you a new little boy. Your son is going to freak out I promise. If that doesnt work then try this one. Tell him he can go but he has to go NAKED because you own everything and since he no longer lives there. I told my daughter she could have a Farmer Jack bag to cover herself and a picture of mommy and daddy so that everytime she got cold or hungry she could remeber how much we loved her. I told her no shoes, no socks, no clothes, no food, no toys, no NOTHING! But she was free to go. Needless to stay she is still here. LOL!!! You just beat those little munchkins at their own game. Manipulation. If he cries trust me he wont dehydrate! You want to push it to the point where he is begging you to stay whatever that point is push it. You dont want him trying to leave when you are not looking.

I know it sounds mean but it not. You have to make him understand that the world is cruel and he needs protecting. GOOD LUCK!!



answers from Detroit on

Hi D.,
It sounds like he's wanting attention.At that age any attention bad or good, is good! How is his relationship with his older brother? Does the 11 year old live with you? How is the overall relationship with the older son? With the older sons mother? The reason I'm asking is because I'm also a mom & a stepmom & it can be very difficult at times. I'll tell you a little of my situation: My 15 year old son (he has no contact with his bio father)lives with me & my husband along with my husbands 16 year old daughter & 10 year old son. Originally my husband also had custody of his 15 year old twins (boy & girl & all 4 of his children have the same mother). Long story short the twins caused enough trouble with us,(police, child protective services, going to their mothers & refusing to come home,their mother backing them, etc.etc.) Through the court & because they were old enough to have a say where they wanted to live, my husband gave up the fight & let them go. Fortunately for us our household is under control for the most part. Unfortunately the twins have more freedom than they can handle(we understand they are into drugs & tons of body peircings)The twin daughter has disowned my husband & me. My husband & his ex-wife don't see eye to eye.The problem is that we have rules & she just likes to make the kids "happy". Any way I'm sorry for getting off track & venting. My point being is that at 5 years old he's getting the idea from somewhere, A movie, school, an older sibling. Thats why I asked the questions earlier.I hope this helped a little, I hope
I didn't confuse you.
Good luck, M.



answers from Lansing on


I would talk to you son about what it means to run away. If he is just responding to something he heard at school he may just be doing it for fun. Tell him about how he wouldn't have a place to sleep or any of his toys or even food if he ran away. Make sure to tell him how sad his family and friends would be if he were gone.

I would also suggest reading him some books about running away. There are lots of age appropriate books about kids trying to run away from home. His teacher may even be able to give you a couple of book titles if you ask, but it shouldn't be to hard to find a few, just ask at the books store. Someone in the children's literature section should know.

Here are a few books you may want to consider (you can find synopses of these books at http://www.lib.muohio.edu/pictbks/search/keywords.php?key... )

Alexander, Martha (1972). And My Mean Old Mother Will Be Sorry, Blackboard Bear.
Farber, Norma (1992). Return Of The Shadows.
Heine, Helen (1995). Friends Go Adventuring.
Johnson, Jane (1985). Today I Thought I'd Run Away.
Kasza, Keiko (2005). The Dog Who Cried Wolf.
Kraus, Robert (1986). Where Are You Going, Little Mouse?



answers from Detroit on

**ETA, i just read ambers response. that is wonderful! I love the thought of calling santa! (We must have been posting at the same time!)
Here is what my mom did when my sister told her she wanted to run away.
She helped her pack a little suitcase, let her out the door, told her she would miss her and she can come back when she wants to. When my sister left, she followed her, inconspicously. When my sister got to the corner, she turned around and came home. That was the end of it.
Now...I am sure there are a lot of people taken aback by reading that...but you have to all remember, that as children of the 70's we all survived. I think that now adays we all huddle over our children a lot more than our parents did. Not that it is a bad thing, as there is more danger now adays, but letting your children make their own decisions is important to their growth. She did not let her out of her site, but let her make her own decision that it was not as fun as she thought it would be.
I think the previous post has a good idea, and would try that. But if all else fails, it would not hurt to let him "go", letting him know you will miss him and he can come home, and then not letting him out of your site.



answers from Saginaw on

I think that every child goes through this at some point. It's just a game to them. But, I understand your concern. I would suggest reading him The Runaway Bunny. This would allow him to indulge in his fantasy without endangering himself. And maybe when he starts saying some of the stuff about running away, you can try out some of the things that the mother bunny does, while talking to the little bunny. It's my assumption that by reading the book a few times, and having a few of those conversations, it'll stay just a game, and it won't be so worrisome or hurtful.



answers from Kalamazoo on

I have 4 kids ages 17 15 9 and 7... my older kids are from a first marriage.. I have had the "runaway" thing many times.... I was soooo frustrated and finally my mom gave me the advice that she used.. she said "tam i went into your room with a suitcase and garbage bags.... i packed your underclothes (the law says i have to) into your suitcase and put everything else in garbage bags and said ok lets go where are you running to?" well needless to say i stayed and was too scared to mention it again......

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