Not Easilly Behaved in Public

Updated on February 28, 2009
M.S. asks from Salt Lake City, UT
13 answers

My 27 month old son is getting better and better so I think. I have started being tougher with him due to him wanting to be the boss. I see other children his age in public and they seem so well behaved and are justing hanging out. My son wants to run all over and get into thing and wants to run from me.

What can I do next?

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answers from Denver on

I would recommend the book Raising Spirited Children (there is a separate discipline book too). The first section does a nice job of talking about labeling kids and the book has some good suggestions. Good luck!

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answers from Denver on

Try Love and Logic the Early Years. Make an action plan before going out. For the grocery store. the ery moment he runs or mis baves, say..uh oh, grab him and buckle him in the cart. do worry if he cries and makes a scene. just smile and continue shopping as if it doesn't pahse you. Eventually, work up to giving him choices. Would you like to sit in the cart with the car or sit in a cart facing me so we can talk and play while we shop. Both are fun. then if he mis bevhaves, it is in the front cart area with a buckle and no talking to him. Start there. also, I got overly dramatic with the running off business at 18 months through 3 years. they don't do it now. If he runs off, grab him and go to the side walk. Put him down and look him in the eye and say: I was so woried you did that. I dont know what I would do if a car hit you and you were hurt. Let's try crossing the street again holding hands so I am not so worried. Can you help me out and keep me safe?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

M., someone already suggested Parenting with Love and Logic and I just want to second that. It changed my life! It saved my sanity! It will tell you exactly what to do for every parenting situation. It seems that your son is in control and I know you want to be in control and Love and Logic will help you regain that control in a loving and empathetic manner without belittling or degrading your son. Do not get angry and frustrated... as they say anger and frustration feed misbehavior. I definitely fell into that trap for a long time. If you have access to the library, they have all of their books and tapes there. I just went online and put what I wanted on hold and picked them up when they were ready. Good luck! This book will help!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Please, M., stop comparing! We always compare ourselves (or our child's) worst moments or weaknesses to the other person's best. It does us no favors at all and only frustrates and compares.

I'm sure just about every mom feels like her 2-year-old is the wildest craziest most unmanageable kid in the world at times. That's the nature of 2-year-olds. It's part of the brain development that takes them from being a baby to being a preschooler. Continue to be firm, but realize that he is often doing the best he can, so also be patient. And look for all his good points too. Grab a notebook or an inexpensive journal and write down all the cute stuff you see him do. Write down the amazing things. When you're frustrated with him, go back and read it.

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answers from Denver on

Welcome to the age of 2. First of all I just wanted to add that it has nothing to do with you working. Some of the best kids I've watched are kids with working moms and the biggest pains came from kids with moms at home. Each child has their own personality and they will be who they will. It sounds like your son is adventurous and independent and while this may be a blessing someday, right now it means many challenges for you. My daughter at that age like to test limits all the time and still does at 5. You could try at telling him the rules such as you need to hold mommies hand or you will have to sit in the cart/stroller. If he takes off then follow through and no matter what the fit keep him strapped in for a bit, then you can say lets try again, and each time that he takes off put him back in. I also found that if you are in a safe enough place I would tell my daughter that I am not running after you and you need to come or I am going. Take a few steps away and see if he starts to follow. Usually about the time I would pretend to turn the corner ( I always was watching ) she would come running back to me because I wasn't playing her chase game. The little harnesses are wonderful too, even though you may get some dirty looks, but it kept her safe in busy areas ( we used ours at airports)We also started giving 2 choices, do you want to walk by side or ride. Stay firm with your rules and dont worry if he throws a fit. Feel free to even sit down on a bench or by a wall to give him a time out. ( We will sit here until you can follow the rules) I have sat my daughter down in Walmart on a bench with a time out before. I will guarantee that seeming "well behaved" kids have their moments too. Alot of the time we are so embarrassed by how our kids are acting we dont see that we are not alone. I know when I hear a little one throwing a fit nowadays I think poor mom glad its not me for a change. Best of wishes and your doing great.



answers from Fort Collins on

Hi M.,

I had a similar problem with my daughter, who is 25 months. Whenever we go shopping, she did not want to stay in the cart and rather wanted to run all over the store (which we let her do quite a bit, until I had enough of the chasing).

How I changed things is that I started to make deliberate trips (without really needing to shop). When we get to the door, I would try to put her in the cart. If she refused, then I would say okay, I guess we need to leave. Then, I would go to the car and then her take a tantrum (she likes to shop - so, she was not happy when we left). After she finished her tantrum, I would ask her if she would like to try it again. The first day, this went on for about 30 minutes. Once in the store, if she tried to get out, I would take her to the car again and start the whole process over. However, since the first day, it got less and less and now, she sits in the cart. You have to be really patient - but, if you are consistent, they learn.

Let us know how it goes. I feel like I am dealing with the same issue constantly on many levels because my daughter is so strong willed and wants to have her way. So, you are not alone. Best of luck!




answers from Denver on


First, you are not alone. We've all been there.

Second, relax! This too shall pass.

Third, my main concern would be the running away from you because this could be dangerous. If this was me, the moment it happens (and I catch him!) we would leave the store. No matter what the cart has in it, no matter how badly I need the stuff.

After the first or second time, they will get the picture that you will NOT put up with them running away from you. And that you are not afraid to leave right then and there if they don't behave themselves.

I would also explain the dangers - getting hit by a cart or car, running into a "mean person". You don't have to freak them about strangers, just let them know not everyone is nice and you don't want them to get hurt.

When my daughter was 2 1/2yrs old she got "caught up" with another group at the zoo - (long story...) and I was, understandably, completely panicked since I couldn't find her. When I did find her, I told her how scared I was when I couldn't find her and it was important to stay with mommy so neither of us would get lost.

She got it and nothing even close to that has ever happened again.

God Bless!



answers from Pueblo on

Around this age, we started talking to our daughter about choices. We would ask her if she was making a good choice. When she was crazy, we would remind her that it was not a good choice. (We never said bad choice - as a teacher, you learn to use "positive" language). After a few weeks, it seemed to work as she bought into the language we were using. I think it taught her to think ahead and think for herself.
Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Please do not think for one minute that because you work that is why he runs off! That is crazy! He is a little boy and they have a lot of energy, it has nothing to do with if you work or not! I have seen some of the craziest kids from moms that were home all day with their kids! I have been home since my children were born and my kids can get crazy at the grocery store some days.

What is important is just holding him accountable for his actions.
One thing I have always put on my kids is "there is time out NO matter where we are!".
If he is running all over, strap him in a stroller or shopping cart, make him EARN getting out. Simply saying if you walk with mommy and stay right here then you can get out, if not back in the cart/stroller. Be consistent, mean what you say and he will get it.

If my kids pitched a fit at the store, I simply found a place for them to sit for said amount of minutes while I stood close by. I didn't care who was looking. 90% of the time they calm down within seconds and the rest of the shopping was a breeze.

My kids feed of each other, if it is just one they are awesome, however both can be hairy some days. One does something, the other follows and it is two running off or whatever so I lay down the law before we even leave the house of what I expect of them and what the consequence will be for not listening. They get time out the second we get home most days they pull these stunts or priviledges taken away. Your son is a little young for that.

If they pitch fits or don't listen and we are out doing something fun, I take them home right then and there.
I forewarn both of mine who are 4 and 7 BEFORE we leave the house, "I expect you to listen to me, to not run off, to not ask for things and behave please"...if we are headed to the park I say on the drive over "When it is time to leave you have a 5 minute warning, then if you pitch a fit when it is time you will not get to come back for a week" or whatever works for your son and getting his attention.

As he gets older it is very important you explain why he has to stay with you, like there are people that will take little boys if left alone, that he could get hurt and you not know where he is to help him, he could break isn't scare tactic it is reality. Both of mine have had the stranger talk, what to do if lost in a store and all of that. I think around 3 it is important at whatever level he can take in to explain why you have the rules you do and take some of the power out of it and letting them know mommies have good reasons for their rules.

Consistency and no threats that you aren't willing to back up over and over again will help him figure out you are in charge.
Good luck! Boys are busy in general, my son just now at 4 got the right to walk with me in the store, I give him a bag and he has to help me at the store.



answers from Boise on

To begin with, HE'S A BOY. Boys run around and act nutty because it is in their genes. They will test your limits and see how far they can go before you freak. I think every mom with boys thinks at one time or another that there is something wrong with her boy. They do strange things. So, for that, just keep setting your boundaries with him, and he will learn what's ok and what's not. As for him wanting to run from do have to put a stop to that. It says in your "little about me" that you and your husband both work full time. Well, that could be part of the problem. If you are not with him all day laying down the law be it out in public or just in your home, he is going to challenge you. He is probably not so much that way toward whoever is taking care of him during the day. Of course, as much as I think you ought to be home with him, so you are the one bonding with him and teaching him, I don't want to get the nasty messages from others who think I'm horrible for suggesting that. So, I suppose in your case, you are just going to have to work with him after work and on the weekends. One thing you can do is put one of those harness things on him and go for a walk to the park. He will probably not like it, which is good. Tell him that you will take it off, but if he runs from you it goes back on. You can also play "Stop and Go" with him. Tell him he can run but once you say "Stop" he has to stop. You get the idea. Just make sure he knows you mean business, or he will figure out that you are the weak one and will begin to have no respect for you. Good luck!



answers from Pueblo on

My son was like this at the same age. I always kept thinking: What am I doing wrong? I always felt like everyone else's toddlers seemed so well behaved compared to mine. He's almost 5 now and is still kinda wild, but much better behaved in public. With age he has definitely toned it down a bit. I think being in preschool definitely helped. My daughter is 22 months and she is the complete opposite of my son at that age. She's very shy and quiet. I think in some situations you can do everything in your power on the parenting end, but some kids are just more spirited than others. Sure, sometimes I get those disapproving "looks" from other moms, when he's acting up. I just choose to ignore them and not let them get to me. I know I do everything I can to raise him right. Personally, I love my son's spunk and individuality. I know he'll never be one to follow the crowd. I think that's what makes him so special.



answers from Salt Lake City on

I highly recommend the book "How to Talk so Kids will LIsten and Listen so Kids will Talk." You could find it at the library or buy it cheap online. It's in paperback. It has saved me so much yelling.
It helps me to tell my children my expectations before we get out of the car. You can't just say "be good," because that's too vague. For the grocery store, I ususally say, "I need you to stay right next to me, and hold the list. If you run away, you will need to ride in the cart. If you can stay by me with the list, you can help me choose a treat." Then, I ask them to repeat the rules back to me so I know they get it. Then, I don't keep nagging and threatening about the deal saying useless things like "Uh-oh--you're not going to get a treat if you keep acting that way" and on and on. Such a waste of energy. I just get right to the point and say "I am disappointed you ran away. Please get in the cart."
Defining basic expectations is a time-saver in the long run, even though it takes a few extra minutes in the car.
(And BTW, I have three boys and don't think their gender is an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Children behave like children and expectations must be fair, but improvement requires consistent, friendly instruction, not a sex change operation.)
Good luck!



answers from Salt Lake City on

Yeah, been there done that! My rule with my 2-yo twins is that we decide on the drive to the store if they want to sit in the cart or try walking. I explain that we always hold hands in the parking lot because there are a lot of cars and people might not see them. Once we get to the store, if they chose a cart then they ride in the cart the whole trip. If they chose to walk then they can walk as long as they hold on to the cart or my hand. If they run away, they get a warning that they will be in the cart if they do it again. If it happens a second time, then they are in the cart. If a major tantrum happens, then we pay for the groceries we have and leave, whether I am done shopping or not. I have literally left with one shopping bag, carrying one screaming and kicking child under each arm out of the store. I have no idea how many people stared, or what kind of dirty (or sympathetic) looks I got, I was much too embarrassed - and trying to not drop the kids! - to pay attention to the people around me.
There has been one instance where my kids were throwing a tantrum in the front of the car-cart (where they sit in the front facing forward) in the checkout line; this was around the holidays and I was super tired and stressed, and on the verge of tears. I generally ignore tantrums, and was doing so when the lady in front of me turned and started talking to the kids and got them calmed down. Needless to say I tried very hard, and unsuccessfully, not to cry in public, but she just smiled at me and said she has 3 boys at home and knows what it is like. The point I am trying to reach is that no matter the fit your son throws, I'm sure most of the looks you get are sympathetic. It's just that people - even us moms sometimes - don't know what to say or if you even want help.
No matter the rules you set up for your son, be consistent. That is the key with toddlers, I am learning; if you give in one time out of one hundred, they will keep trying for that one time. Good luck, and don't worry about the other people in the store and what they may be thinking. Odds are they feel for you but don't know how to help. This is such a challenging age, especially when you have to work. Choose your battles; if you give him more freedom and control at home, he is less likely to fight you in public when you "lay down the law".

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