Help! Not sure how to address this one... I had my 3 nephews over this afternoon, one is a baby, and DD asked if we could go on a walk, and I said, not now, because not everyone can go. I was distracted by the baby, and she and my DS (2 yo) went out the front door and all the way down the block to the cul-de-sac where there is a grassy area. I looked all over the house because I thought they were hiding, as the other two boys had been doing, and by that time, the mail carrier knocked on the door to tell me where they were. Thank goodness she recognized my kids and knew our house! I hadn't yet gotten to panic mode. I had to carry the baby down the street, leaving the other two boys in the house, to go fetch my two run aways! I was so angry, and told her that, and that we would talk about it later when I was not so upset. So help me with the fine points? Thanks!!
5.5 yo went on walk alone
That sounds like a scary and frustrating situation! When I'm stuck about what to say, I like to start with thinking about the point I want to make. For me, in this case, it would be safety, so that's where I'd start the conversation. I also like to finish what helping determine what my child can do, so, in this situation, I would want to make it clear that while she can't go for a walk outside without an adult, if she's disappointed by my answer ("now isn't a time when we can go for a walk"), she can express her disappointment by talking to me and asking if we can plan a time for a walk, drawing a picture about it, playacting with her stuffed animals about a time when one of them wanted to go for a walk and couldn't, etc.
When I was 4, playing alone in my back yard while my mom was getting my brother down for a nap, a neighbor girl my age (who was often under-supervised) came through the hedge and suggested that we go to visit the nice older couple who lived behind me and 2 doors down, taking a "secret" path through the middle of the block and a bamboo jungle! I was excited by this adventure! When I came home, I was so surprised to find a police officer and my very worried mother looking for me. It simply had not occurred to me that my mother would worry if she found I was not in the yard.
Did your daughter KNOW that she is not allowed to leave the house by herself--is this a rule you had spelled out before, or were you taking for granted that she understood that? Are you sure she understood that you meant NOBODY could go for a walk, or is it possible that she thought you were saying YOU were not available to lead a walk, but she didn't mind going without you and didn't understand that this would not be okay?
The way I'd handle it is to explain that if you don't know where she is, you feel afraid that something terrible has happened to her. Some of the things you think of may be very unlikely, but you worry just the same. ("What if a BEAR ate you?! I would be so SAD!!") When you found out that she was okay, you realized that you'd had all those scary bad feelings for no good reason, and that made you feel angry. Also, you were angry that she didn't listen when you told her going for a walk was not okay.
The next step is to go over what the rules are. If it is simply that she is never allowed to leave the house without a grownup, state that clearly. If there are certain places she can go alone, but only if she tells you she is going, go over that. (For example, my son at 5 was allowed to go up the block on our side of the street to play with his friend, but he had to tell me he was going, because if I looked out the door I wouldn't be able to see him.)
I wouldn't punish her in any way. Just clarify the rules and your expectation that she will follow them in the future.