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Running off

(23 Posts)
LiamsMum Fri 26-Apr-02 06:52:41

My 21 month old son is great in most ways except for one particular thing - he runs off as soon as he has the chance. I don't mean just wandering a short distance away... if someone doesn't stop him, he runs off into the wild blue yonder. It's like he's been set free and he doesn't even look back to see where we are. A lot of people say to me, "oh, my child wanders off too", but I never seem to see children as bad as my ds! DH and I have run after him on many occasions and now we have taught him to hold our hand when we are walking along, but a lot of the time he will try to pull his hand away from us and run off. We have tried being firm and discliplining him if he refuses to come to us, but it just seems to be the way he is - I think it's excitement a lot of the time. So we either have to keep him in his pushchair or one of us has to hold his hand all the time. It makes it hard if we get invited to something where the children can't be restrained (such as a park or picnic). We would spend the entire time chasing after him, so it's gotten to the point where it probably wouldn't be worth going. So my question is, am I the only one in this boat??! Does anyone think this will be outgrown in the next couple of years? It's very frustrating... thanks for your help.

Dixie Fri 26-Apr-02 08:32:34

Oh Liams mum THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, I too thought I was alone in this it is such a relief to know I'm not. My views & experience is so exactly the same that I wait for the answers in as much anticipation as you! I too have had invites to the park & picnics, I go & like you end up spending the whole time running after ds. I therefore miss out on every other aspect of the day. My friends also say "oh mine wanders of too" but I've been with them & it is no where near as severe as my ds (or yours by sounds of it). I find it worse as I'm 7 months pregnant & find it even harder to keep up with him, hence my concerns at possible use of a buggy board on another thread...

I'm not offering much advice I'm afraid as I too am at a loss but we have bought him a wrist band strap which seems to be helping us & he thinks he's very important having one on so he sems to really enjoy it.

I hope they do grow out it..not only is it tiring & frustrating but a big worry as to where he may end up.

Tillysmummy Fri 26-Apr-02 08:53:04

I think you can buy these rein type things that you just put round their wrists can't you and therefore they can't run far but aren't totally restrained ?

JanZ Fri 26-Apr-02 08:56:47

I know my best friend, who is a GP, does not like the wrist straps. She's seen too many disclocated shoulders caused by them. Instead, she prefers the proper full reigns. We use the reigns for ds, as he too like walk and have some freedom - but is not so good at holding hands!

mollipops Fri 26-Apr-02 09:48:23

I agree the reins can help in the short-term (to save your sanity and your legs!) but they don't really teach the child the importance of staying close to you and once the reins are off they will go back to running away/wandering again.

Here's some tips from PPP that may or may not be useful:
- Don't stop going out because your child wanders; give them even more opportunities to learn to stay close. Make them short trips (5 or 10 mins) in safe places (parks or quiet streets) until they get better at it.
- Take them when they are not tired or hungry so they will enjoy the walk.
- Explain in advance what you are doing and where you are going, and that they must stay close to you.
- While walking, praise them for staying close to you. Talk about things you see on the way.
- If they start to wander, say "John, stop right there. You are too far away. Come back here please." If your child comes back, praise them. "Well done, thank you for coming back when I asked."
- If they do not come back or they wander a second time, grab them firmly by the hand and say "No you are not staying close to me. Now you must hold my hand for the next 20 steps."
- Ignore protests or complaints. Do not debate it or argue about it. For 10 steps hold their hand firmly, then a little more loosely for the next 10 steps. Then let go. Only use this strategy once during your walk.
- If they struggle or run off again, grab them. Explain, "You have not stayed close to mummy/daddy. Now it's quiet time." Stop walking and sit them down on the verge/step/grass for 30 seconds. Tell them they must be quiet before you can continue your walk. If necessary, hold them firmly so they cannot move (but not like you are "hugging" them). If they still struggle or refuse to sit, pick them up and return home.
- Continue with the praise as you walk and keep using quiet time if needed. At the end of the trip, tell them how they went, ie you stayed close to mummy/daddy almost all the way, well done, let's have a treat/stamp/call grandma etc. If not, tell them you will go for a walk tomorrow and try again, to see if they can stay close the whole way.
- Another suggestion is to take a small self-inking stamper or sheet of stickers and tell your child they can have a stamp or sticker if they stay close while you are walking together. Give them one every 30 seconds/1 minute to start with, gradually increasing the intervals. (This works well in the supermarket when your older child has to walk because you have a baby in the trolley! Stamp at the end of each aisle! Crayola mini-stampers are great for this!)

Another thing I remember from somewhere is to call them by name when they are fairly close by, and then praise them for coming to you. Practise this at progressively greater distances! And as I mentioned on another thread, phrase things positively, ie "Stay close to me" or "Walk on the path please" rather than "Don't go too far away" or "Stay off the road please".

And yes it is a phase really, since the world is such an exciting place to a toddler, and they are easily distracted. But they are also starting to test their limits too, just to see what happens (like when they get too far away!) And this chasing game with mummy is just so much fun! Anyway, HTH, sorry it got so long! All the best

LiamsMum Fri 26-Apr-02 10:27:46

Dixie I'm glad we can at least commiserate with each other... if it's any consolation your new baby will probably be the complete opposite, as children usually are!! (I've seen it happen many times). I think you deserve to have a lovely quiet little child that won't stray any further from you than a few feet. I know what it's like to have your child running across a paddock at full speed towards a busy road, while all the other kids are where they're supposed to be... it's a nightmare. So any words of encouragement from other mums out there would be much appreciated by Dixie & I!!! Thank you...

SueDonim Fri 26-Apr-02 11:17:33

I think at 21 mths I wouldn't take any chances and would keep him on reins, even at a picnic. (You'll get lots of exercise running along behind him, lol!) The thought of an accident doesn't bear thinking about. Mollipops ideas are great but I think more suitable for an older toddler really. I don't agree reins means he won't learn not to run away. Understanding of the issue will come as he gets older because you can explain to him how he must behave. If he objects to reins give him the choice of that or his buggy. Good luck!

tigermoth Fri 26-Apr-02 12:08:42

Picnics - don't mention them! If I do make it to the mumsnet picnic in Bath, I will only be able to talk to people if I leave my toddler behind. He's a bolter, just like Dixie's and Liamsmum's toddlers. And my older son was both a bolter AND a dawdler. Still is to a lesser extent and he's nearly 8 years old. At least he has more road sense now.

You'll be sorry to hear I was hopeless at changing his bad walking habits when he was a toddler. I used to end up giving him piggybacks everywhere, just to keep us safely moving in the right direction.

A suedomim says, I think at 21 months, a toddler is on the young side for reason and reward, but the suggestions in mollipops message sound great for an older toddler. My other son is over two and a half, so I'll use them for future reference.

My toddler does walk better than my older son at this age. His childminder got him used to reins, (my oldest son was never on reins much) so I am now continuing with this. I say 'pushchair or reins', and explain we're near a busy road, so he can't walk by himself.

It's no good making him hold hands, because he is adept at twisting his hand out of mine. Holding him by the wrist works for short distances, but has to be done so firmly that it makes both of us stressed and angry - and I am bending down uncomfortably, making my back ache.

As we go, I make a point of talking to him about the way roads work. I very much like mollipops idea of giving positive instruction here, like 'keep on the pavement' rather than 'stay off the road'. I have to say, though, that dramatic danger warnings pepper my positive comments, too. I am hoping to instill a sense of danger in the bolter.

As your toddler is just 21 months, Liamsmum, you've a way to go before you see some road sense emerging. But, IME, the first signs of this happen sooner than expected. My toddler will now keep to the pavement much, much, more than last summer - but still not enough for me to let him run out of grabbing distance.

As for bolting at picnics - my only suggestion is to bring along some toys to keep the toddler close at hand - even consider a small inflatable paddling pool filled with water from a nearby tap, with some plastic cups to fill - he could help wash up the picnic stuff in it. I spent a fortune buying my toddler cheap plastic toys last summer to keep him occupied when we had to stay together outdoors. I predict I'll be doing the same this year.

Ha, but he's now just old enough for one strategy that worked and still works a dream on my oldest son. When he runs off in the opposite direction, or won't follow, I call him firmly, then, after several warnings I say 'bye bye then' and begin to walk away without looking back. Count to five and the toddler will run after me. My toddler is worried enough to follow me, but not mega upset about being abandonded by mummy. Some toddlers might be, of course. I pass on this tip because it's worked well with my two. And obviously I only do this if there are no roads, rivers etc. around.

Anyway, liamsmum and dixie, you have my sympathy. I'm looking forward to finding some failsafe tips on this problem, too.

MandyD Fri 26-Apr-02 12:47:07

Do I have the only child who's not bothered by the "Bye" strategy?? He's always said "OK, bye then" from when I first started letting him walk free between 18 months and 2 years!

Between 15 and 18 months we used reins, mainly used to pick him up if he fell over, then gradually got used to holding hands. The training runs would always be about 200 yards to the sweet shop and if he behaved he'd get a reward. I've never liked to let him loose in supermarkets though...and I can't imagine taking him on a picnic!

Since around the age of 18 months to 2 he understood the word WAIT, luckily, if he got too far away. And the worst of it was that even on the 200 yard walks he'd want to be carried fairly quickly. Not easy when he weighed 15kg, impossible with bags of shopping, so I suppose I took him out in the buggy more than I should have.

Now he's 3 I don't have so many problems because I tell him he can run "to the next tree", "to the white gate", "to the red car" and he knows he's got to wait for me to catch up.

Janus Fri 26-Apr-02 12:59:20

LiamsMum and Dixie, mine is exactly the same too, to the extent that if I do want to sit down in a park I literally work out where the very middle of the biggest open space is and plonk us there so at least I've got about 30 seconds in each direction where I can see her and get to her!! I marvel at all the other children we go with or I see who literally don't go more than 10 yards away from their Mum and wonder why mine seems so insistent on running, jumping, rolly-polly-ing away from me!! Mine is 21 months too but has been doing this for as long as she could move, she started off as a late crawler so used to literally roll away from me as far as she could get at around 9 months!!!
I try not to take it personally and just think she's enjoying the big, exciting world but it does mean that I miss countless conversations whilst I'm retrieving her! She doesn't bat an eyelid if I try walking in the opposite direction saying 'bye, bye' and I'm sure she thinks, great now I can get on with my exploring in peace!
I don't let her walk anywhere near roads, only in the park, as she is just not able to calmly walk holding my hand and I know she could break free if she wanted to. I have tried reigns but mine screams and whirls round in utter confusion as to why she is restricted so I prefer to stick to in the pram on the road and free in the park but I wonder if this is making her go more mad when she's let loose in the park! We go walking every day so I do think if it was this she would have got used to it by now but maybe not.
I really like mollipops ideas but again I think this is for when mine is a bit older but I will print it off to keep incase she is still bad later this year!
Funnily enough, mine has never really been into toys so any amount of stuff I bring to try and distract her has never worked BUT I do really like Tigermoth's suggestion of something to hold some water in and some cups, etc, as mine does love water so I will be trying to find the smallest pool possible!
A couple of things that have momentarily worked with mine is any kind of ball, she loves me throwing it and if I ask her (maybe a couple of times!) she will bring it back for me to throw again and this can work for a while.
Also, the big hit is bubbles, Mothercare do a bubble machine at the moment which blows out loads at a time and mine loves chasing these and happily (on a sunny day!) they don't blow too far away so this may be worth trying.
I hope it's a phase and will also be reading this thread with interest!

star Fri 26-Apr-02 15:57:54

Message withdrawn

batey Fri 26-Apr-02 18:15:31

Star/tigermoth, what picnic in bath?? I live near by.

tigermoth Fri 26-Apr-02 21:48:57

Star, that's so kind of you. He'll definitely keep you on your toes! I'll do my best to make it to Bath - will hopefully get dh to look after the boys for a day, but if that falls through, I'll come begging. Thanks again.

PS Batey - there's a mumsnet meet-up picnic in Bath in the summer. Star is organising it. There's a thread on it, but can't remember the name of it off hand.

pamina Fri 26-Apr-02 22:00:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Azzie Sat 27-Apr-02 11:20:46

Dixie, Liamsmum etc,
My ds was a runner-off too - I clearly remember dh and I sitting on a beach in Spain when ds was 15 months, watching him head off into the wide blue yonder and wondering how far he'd get before separation anxiety set in. Answer - ours set in long before his, leaving dh to sprint as fast as he could across the sand to retrieve the boy before he disappeared over the horizon. At 4.5yo he is still very active, and still has a worrying tendancy to disappear from sight, but thankfully has a little more road sense and is also threatanable/bribeable. He was very indignant in our huge Tescos the other day when a lady 'rescued' him and returned him to me during one of his wide ranging forays. When we go out to busy places we furnish him with a card with my mobile number on it, and have drilled into him that if he loses us he tells the nearest mummy and gets them to ring the number. Luckily his younger sister, although also very active, isn't so much of a bolter, largely we think because, being competitive, she views being alone with mummy or daddy as a bonus situation!

mollipops Thu 02-May-02 07:46:45

LiamsMum, sorry if my post sounded unsupportive and unsympathetic, I certainly didn't mean it to come across that way. Maybe I *have* forgotten what it is like to have a "free-spirited" almost 2yr old sometime in the last 18 months or so. Still I do feel that children even this young are capable of understanding a lot more than we sometimes imagine. Even though they aren't always saying much, their comprehension level is much greater, and it is easy to underestimate them.

I disagree that my approach (which as I said was from a Postive Parenting course) is inappropriate for this age level, although you might have to be less strict with time-outs initially and settle for the stroller as the alternative. I have actually since found an almost identical reply to another mum's question about her 19 month old son elsewhere. (It also stated it is usually a short-lived thing and only lasts about 6 months, if that helps!)

Basically a young child is like a puppy when it comes to roadsense, ie they have very little, if any! (And a puppy who goes to obedience training will fare much better off a leash than one who is only ever walked on one...) Like a puppy, a child needs to learn not to run away or into a crowd without you, to stay close-by when a situation is dangerous, never to cross a street alone and to come when they are called. It's never too soon to start the "stop look and listen" spiel at the roadside, or to talk about stopsigns and traffic lights (red for stop, green for go etc). They need to hear that you are trying to keep them safe, and that you want to keep them close so they don't get lost or hurt.

So again, sorry if you felt my advice wasn't much use yet, but isn't it worth a try...? Obviously it won't be an instant fix and will take a lot of patience and practice but it will one day get the message across...

Lindy Thu 02-May-02 09:38:25

Janus - had to laugh at your comments about all the other little darlings not leaving their mum - mine (only 14 months and can't even walk yet!) is exactly the same as yours - whenever we get somewhere he is just off (crawling!) - never looks back, just goes! Obviously at playgroups/village halls etc this isn't much of a problem but outside it does mean constant jumping up & down - I just tell myself this is well needed exercise for me! I try to think of it as positive, some of my friends can't even go to the loo without their little one wailing, and at least it means I can leave him with friends/creche as he always seems so happy & confident.

LiamsMum Thu 02-May-02 13:24:06

Mollipops - it's fine, I know where you're coming from. For some time now I have been telling my son that he either has to "hold Mummy's hand" or "stay with Mummy" while we're walking. If he runs away or won't do what I want him to, I either pick him up and carry him (which he doesn't like) or strap him into the buggy. He seems to have cottoned on to the fact that I don't like him to stray far from me. Also I am teaching him to hold my hand and stop at the side of the road, to make sure there are no cars coming, and then we cross over, so I think he is starting to understand this. It's just tedious when we're out sometimes, he gets excited and sees a lot of things to explore and he just wants to go and investigate - that's the hard part, because he is quite fearless sometimes and I constantly have to keep an eye on him. It's hard when I see other toddlers following closely behind their mothers because I just know that my ds is not like that at all!! It's tiring. But then again, he's good natured and quite easy at other times, so I suppose I should be grateful for that...

Jaybee Thu 02-May-02 14:17:30

Will he stop at all? If so have you tried hiding from him? As long as you can still see him and know he is safe, he may get thought that he has got himself lost. Only leave him for a very short time - but enough to startle him. Obviously, this would only work if in a large park or open, safe, area.

LiamsMum Fri 03-May-02 03:20:27

Funny you say that Jaybee, dh and I tried it for the first time last week - we were walking on the beach with ds and we decided to turn around and walk back the other way. DS was busy playing in a puddle of water so we waited for him for a few minutes, then I said to dh "let's just go and see if he follows us." After a few paces I turned and looked out of the corner of my eye and I could see ds watching us, then he stood up and started to follow. I've tried it a couple of times since then, and he does seem to follow if he sees me walking away. I'm not saying it will work ALL the time, but it's a good start.

mollipops Fri 03-May-02 07:56:47

Have to confess here - we tried that with our dd when she was about 3 and consequently lost her at the zoo! The old "bye bye then" and walk away - she just disappeared in no time flat, all those pathways and gardens, not to mention all those animals!!! (We did find her again a short time later...I was frantic and guilt-ridden, she was smiling at the elephants and blissfully oblivious!) I'm afraid the "bye bye" tactic never worked with her, she was fiercely independent (and stubborn!) and had no problem leaving mum. Works well with ds though!

LiamsMum Fri 03-May-02 11:52:37

LOL Mollipops! Little horrors aren't they?

kkgirl Mon 19-Aug-02 10:46:11

Has anyone had any experience of older children running off.
I have a 6 year old boy, who has been a challenge since about 3. He can be aggressive, swears, kicks, but over the last months has started running off if he is either told off or can't get his own way.
Last week he was sent to his room for being naughty and I thought it best to ignore him and was making cakes with my other two children. After 10 minutes I thought he was very quiet and when I went to check he had gone. He had opened the front door and shut it and was standing in the lane in his pyjamas.
Since then I have kept the door locked, he now gets a chair and unlocks it so I have to double lock the door.
Yesterday he was riding his bike outside after going on a long bike ride with my husband and decided he wanted to ride down the hill. When I called him back he just kept going. Luckily my husband was able to jump back on his bike, but by the time he caught up with him he had dumped the bike and had run to a main road.
When we had all calmed down, he said that he was going to where he had been on his bike ride, which is across a dual carriageway.
We are at the end of our tether. It means that we cannot go out at all with the other two children, because it is impossible to manage if he decides to do a runner.

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