3-year-old running away in public... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 03-18-2008, 11:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I just posted about this same 3-year-old pooping his pants. I'm posting this separately because I don't think the issues are particularly related, but if you disagree, feel free to check out the other thread.

I have a 3-year-old and a 16-month-old. When we go somewhere public, I typically carry the 16-month-old (either in a Mei Tai or in my arms), and my 3-year-old walks. This has been working fine for a long time. Recently, though, my 3-year-old has taken off running a couple of times. In one case, I was with both kids, and he took off out of a children's store we were in (fortunately we were the only ones there and the shop owner was kind enough to keep an eye on my daughter--who I had let down from the mei tai to play with the toys they kept in the store--while I chased him. After that happened, I made him ride in the Mei Tai for the rest of our trip. A few days later, in happened when it was just the two of us. We were looking at books at Borders (downtown) and my husband called to say he was going to pick us up in a few minutes. I told him he could look at two more books and then we needed to go meet his dad. After two more books, I told him it was time to go. He got upset, and sort of indignant (I'm getting much, much more of this from him lately, which I suspect is just a phase) about wanting to get a book (which is *never* part of the Borders routine for us, and usually doesn't cause a problem but, like I said, I think he's in a bit of a phase). When I told him that no, we weren't going to buy any books today, and that we needed to leave, he took off running, clutching the book to his chest. I followed him, and he ran straight out of the store (still holding the book, which I secretly hoped would set off an alarm, but it didn't) and started down the sidewalk before I got a hold of it. I led him back into the store to return the book, and then we waited outside for my husband. He was laughing like it was a game.

I explained to him all the reasons that him running out of that store was a problem--primarily for his safety (I explained that someone could have taken him or that, had he run into the street, he could have been hit), and that he was also stealing, which wasn't fair or right, and could get him in trouble.

Any ideas on this? Am I right to think this is just a phase that he's going through (people I've told about this have all responded like, "Oh yeah, I remember when _______ would do that,"), or is this (combined with his new indignation and pants-soiling, perhaps) some sort of desperate cry for attention. I don't *feel* like anything has changed with regard to how much attention he's getting, et cetera, but I realize his *needs* could be changing.

Also, more practically-speaking, any suggestions for preventing this? I can limit our outings, but it's difficult to avoid them altogether. During the day is the best time for me to grocery shop, et cetera. I can't really wear him when I have both kids with me (which is almost always) because my 16-month-old can't walk fast enough to keep up and she wanders. Any ideas?
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#2 of 20 Old 03-18-2008, 12:59 PM
 
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I would look into one of those backpack/harness things. 3 year olds are impulsive creatures, and this is too dangerous to mess around with.

ZM
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#3 of 20 Old 03-18-2008, 02:08 PM
 
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I'll have to agree with the backpack/harness. That way he can still explore and be safe. Also, going to the bookstores is like torture for my dd. She wants to bring home everything--so we stick with the library!
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#4 of 20 Old 03-18-2008, 04:10 PM
 
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I actually have very different advice. I would look for as many opportunities to retrain his as possible. I would go out (with babe securely in the mei tai or at home with your dp) to the playground (one that's not on a busy street) and practice A LOT. For example, you start walking s-l-o-w-l-y in one direction and let him follow you. Or make a game of it - where you tell him okay mommy is walking this way now it's your turn to come closer. Play mama duck and baby duck. Whatever it takes.

Think about it like this - there is an invisible thread between you and your child... when that thread is stretched too far it's like a rubber band - SOMETHING is going to bring it back together again, and it's either going to be you or it's going to be your child. Your child has gotten the message that he does not need to worry about stretching that thread too far because YOU will close the gap (run after him, walk after him, keep an eye on him and remind him to come back, etc.).

You essentially need to turn that around so that your child is paying attention to where he is in relation to you. This is a normal state for children to be in, by the way, and I think 3 is definitely not too late to try to retrain him. I completely agree it is in his own best interest to do so.



(As an aside, I think the pooping in the pants could be related if your child has gotten the message that he does not need to pay attention to his own body body because you will do that for him. It's the same underlying issue. If you are reminding your child all day long "do you have to pee? do you have to poo?" "I hear toots... is the poop coming?" "You just ate... do you have to poop yet?" "Are your underpants clean and dry?" etc ETC. your child can essentially shut off his own listening to his body because, hey, mom's doing the work for me. Just like you're doing the work of keeping the two of you together at the playground. I could be way off on this in which case forgive me, but the two actually sounded really similar when you get down to it.)
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#5 of 20 Old 03-19-2008, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Periwinkle, this is a really interesting suggestion, and I can see what you're saying, for sure. The thought of one of these "leashes" crossed my mind briefly, but I seriously HATE this idea. Don't get me wrong--if it came down to keeping my son safe and I felt it was the only way, I'd put one of these backpack things on him for sure. But I REALLY prefer to find another solution, and this sounds like a good idea. I'll have to think about how to integrate it practically--but it sounds like a really good idea.

As for the pooping thing (not the subject of this thread, but since you mentioned it...), that's definitely not the issue. Like I said, he has been going to the bathroom completely on his own for about 6-9 months--as in, I don't ask/tell him to go, and he doesn't tell me he's going; just goes. He would call me when he *finished* pooping to come help him wipe, but that was it (unless we were in public and he needed help getting to/finding the bathroom). I would occasionally ask him if he needed to go before we got in the car for a long (45 minutes+) ride, but that was it. So I don't think he feels like I'm going to tell him when to use the bathroom...I don't know. But, anyway, thank you for taking time to respond to both issues--I really appreciate it.
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#6 of 20 Old 03-19-2008, 07:06 PM
 
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Keep your 16month old in the mei tai/stroller/other choice of containting that child & hold your son's hand/wrist so he can't get away or use a leash/harness on your son. IT may only take using the harness a handful of times for him to get the message that he stays with you or else he gets the harness.

It IS a matter of safety for your son. So far you've lucked out on the situation, it may not be the same next time.

Mar 1 a 3yo was killed in a parking lot. She was with her dad, who was having problems keeping her under control in the store. When they were next to their vehicle he put her down to open the door & she took off. She was hit by a driver going under 8km/h. He stopped & backed up not knowing that she slide under the vehicle & he ran over her again.

My own dd was almost killed when she ran away. It was a similar situation except we were parked on the street & I let go of her hand(and told her stay) to unlock the van doors. I had my other dd in the infant seat on the other arm. My older dd took off across the street. The light just happened to be red. I caught up to her in the 2nd land & grabbed her with my free arm. We went straight to the store & got a harness. I used it 3 times on her.
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#7 of 20 Old 03-19-2008, 11:04 PM
 
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I'm not trying to be insensitive though I am aware this is how it will sound, but this is EXACTLY why you should not teach children to run away from you. The answer (in general) is not leashes etc. the answer is not teaching those lessons in the first place. Even if you think you're vigilant there is always that time when you put the child down or are fussing with the leash or are distracted for one or another very good reasons, and bam, your kid bolts.

It's completely NOT part of children's natural instincts to run away from their parents... it takes training to make them realize they CAN. And IMO it takes training (teaching, retraining, unlearning.. whatever you want to call it) to teach them to stop.

I have three children, none of whom has EVER run away from me in a store or in public, in spite of being three very active normal kids. I sort of fell into this realization (which I later went ah-ha when I read The Continuum Concept (Leidloff) and similar books about how children naturally behave in tribes, cultures around the world) because I had twins as my first children and I kind of freaked about how to go out to a playground with 2 children who could bolt in opposite directions. So I never trained them to run away from me. I was kind of paranoid about it - I was a first time mom and it was twins and I guess that brought out the mama instincts in me that would otherwise have been buried, lol. But... just giving some examples - I never played chase with my kids. I never played "mama's coming to get you" or hide-and-seek (with little toddlers I'm talking, not older... my 5 year-olds adore hide-and-seek but they're old enough to know it's a game and not a way we behave normally, lol). I would slowly walk out of the room into the kitchen and say "come on with mama!" and they'd crawl after me because children at this age naturally do that. Sometimes they'd dally but I would try very hard not to go back to check on them or peek in on them as a rule... they knew if they wanted to be near mama they would need to come to me (we're talking 15 feet away before anyone freaks I'm leaving my kids alone).

I am just saying... I see things a lot about how awful things happen when kids bolt away from parents. But I think people come to the wrong conclusion. People say "oh you should leash them to your wrist" or whatever, not "hmmm... how bizarre that a child would run away from its mother... how do we undo this behavior?"
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#8 of 20 Old 03-19-2008, 11:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Periwinkle View Post
I'm not trying to be insensitive though I am aware this is how it will sound, but this is EXACTLY why you should not teach children to run away from you. The answer (in general) is not leashes etc. the answer is not teaching those lessons in the first place. Even if you think you're vigilant there is always that time when you put the child down or are fussing with the leash or are distracted for one or another very good reasons, and bam, your kid bolts.

It's completely NOT part of children's natural instincts to run away from their parents... it takes training to make them realize they CAN. And IMO it takes training (teaching, retraining, unlearning.. whatever you want to call it) to teach them to stop.

I have three children, none of whom has EVER run away from me in a store or in public, in spite of being three very active normal kids. I sort of fell into this realization (which I later went ah-ha when I read The Continuum Concept (Leidloff) and similar books about how children naturally behave in tribes, cultures around the world) because I had twins as my first children and I kind of freaked about how to go out to a playground with 2 children who could bolt in opposite directions. So I never trained them to run away from me. I was kind of paranoid about it - I was a first time mom and it was twins and I guess that brought out the mama instincts in me that would otherwise have been buried, lol. But... just giving some examples - I never played chase with my kids. I never played "mama's coming to get you" or hide-and-seek (with little toddlers I'm talking, not older... my 5 year-olds adore hide-and-seek but they're old enough to know it's a game and not a way we behave normally, lol). I would slowly walk out of the room into the kitchen and say "come on with mama!" and they'd crawl after me because children at this age naturally do that. Sometimes they'd dally but I would try very hard not to go back to check on them or peek in on them as a rule... they knew if they wanted to be near mama they would need to come to me (we're talking 15 feet away before anyone freaks I'm leaving my kids alone).

I am just saying... I see things a lot about how awful things happen when kids bolt away from parents. But I think people come to the wrong conclusion. People say "oh you should leash them to your wrist" or whatever, not "hmmm... how bizarre that a child would run away from its mother... how do we undo this behavior?"
Ummm.... in the natural world, kids don't get squashed by cars for a momentary impulse. In an artificial world, sometimes parents need artificial aids to keep our kids safe. I think your suggestion is an excellent one for a kid who is running off at the playground, but that's not the situation here. Here we have a kid running out toward traffic. The stakes are simply too high.

For the OP, if you don't want to use a harness, I would shop as little as possible with him until he's matured a bit more. For grocery shopping, put him in the cart and wear your little one.

ZM
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#9 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 08:58 AM
 
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Ummm.... in the natural world, kids don't get squashed by cars for a momentary impulse. In an artificial world, sometimes parents need artificial aids to keep our kids safe.
Well, I'm not sure to which "natural world" you're referring, but life is not nearly as bucolic and safe as I think you think it is. Squashed by a herd of stampeding animals? Falling off a cliff? Being attacked by a wild animal? Getting swept away in a fast-moving stream? Falling into an open fire pit? Wandering into brambles and firethorns? Trampling over a red ant hill?

We do not live in an "artificial" world! We live in a real world... a world with as many dangers and as many temptations for children. There is nothing artificial about a car driving 20 miles an hour with a driver, just like there's nothing aritifical about a charging cougar. Both are great things to avoid and great reasons not to stray too far from mother or go wandering mindlessly out of sight.

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I think your suggestion is an excellent one for a kid who is running off at the playground, but that's not the situation here. Here we have a kid running out toward traffic. The stakes are simply too high.
It is precisely the same thing. The young child does not distinguish between running away from mommy in the family room, running away from mommy at the playground, and running into 6 lanes of oncoming traffic.
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#10 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 10:40 AM
 
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It is precisely the same thing. The young child does not distinguish between running away from mommy in the family room, running away from mommy at the playground, and running into 6 lanes of oncoming traffic.
Just because a child doesn't distinguish the difference doesn't mean there isn't a difference. As an adult, I am capable of distinguishing a difference, and therefore having a different response.

You said your reply would seem insensitive, but I guess I can't understand if you think it doesn't really matter if this child gets hurt, or if you discount the danger of a child running into traffic, or what.

FWIW, I have a 2 year old who LOVES to play chase at home, but stays right with me and his sisters while we shop. He clearly distinguishes a difference between our home and a store. I think the OP's kid might be reacting to something about shopping (maybe the stores are putting him into sensory overload?), and that might make him more likely to bolt while in a store. Or it could be that this is an outgrowth of that "positive discipline" technique of making every bit of wandering into a game of chase, but either way the habit needs to be stopped before he gets hurt.

If it were my child, I would buy a harness and explain that I have to use it because I cannot allow him to run away from me. If the child is bolting because he is overwhelmed, the harness could serve as a physical reminder not to run, and if it's a game gone awry, the harness takes the fun out of it. Either way, it works immediately.

Anyhow, I'm sure you'll disagree, but it makes me crazy when people get philosophical in the face of real danger.

ZM
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#11 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 02:56 PM
 
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My 4 yr old still has a hard time listening and not bolting from me while we are in stores. Reminds me i guess i should start using the harness backpack on her again.


Hope you are able to find a way to make outings with both kids easier on you


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#12 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 04:09 PM
 
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Just because a child doesn't distinguish the difference doesn't mean there isn't a difference. As an adult, I am capable of distinguishing a difference, and therefore having a different response.
The mother's response is not what is important, that is my exact point. My point is that the CHILD needs to be able to keep next to mama when appropriate because mama is not always going to be able to grab hold of the child herself. The child could wiggle away, the mother could be distracted for 2 seconds, the mother could have to pick up a screaming sibling who just fell and cracked his head and therefore not be able to physically restrain her child from running away. There are a million different scenarios under which the mother's capacity to hold tight to her child could be compromised, not the least of which being going to a playground and actually wanting the child to run around and play.

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You said your reply would seem insensitive, but I guess I can't understand if you think it doesn't really matter if this child gets hurt, or if you discount the danger of a child running into traffic, or what. // Anyhow, I'm sure you'll disagree, but it makes me crazy when people get philosophical in the face of real danger.
Huh? I offered very concrete suggestions, namely, change the underlying problem (i.e., child running away), don't just put a band-aid on it (i.e., use a leash). Not sure how that's "philosophical" or acting like "it doesn't really matter" that the child is bolting from the mother.

Like I ALSO said before (and also above), a leash is an imperfect solution. It WILL fail when you least expect it just due to human error or the simple fact that a 3 or 4 or whatever year-old NEEDS to run free at some point so will NEVER always be tethered to the mother.

So I said, change the core issue. And change the underlying issue precisely BECAUSE I think it is highly troublesome that a child would run into traffic or run away at a store or playground.
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#13 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 04:25 PM
 
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I have three children, none of whom has EVER run away from me in a store or in public
If you've never had a runner then you can't possibly understand. You may think you do, but you really can't.

When you have a runner, you need a solution right now. You need something to keep your kid out from under the wheels of a car, not a neat game that you hope will work.

Also, my child has been "running away" since before she could WALK. I don't know where you get the idea that it's against a child's natural instincts to run away. Sounds like a seriously flawed theory to me. But again, if you haven't had a runner it may be one of those things that makes sense in theory.

We have used the backpack thing a few times. Mostly it's on her and looped over my wrist and I hold her hand. It's just a backup in case she decides to run. For the most part, she knows it's there and isn't trying to run anymore but in a crowd or parking lot, if she's not in my arms or in the shopping cart, I want the security of that little monkey tail. She's little. She gets excited and she's running before she's even made the decision to run.
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#14 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 04:45 PM
 
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What I understand is study after study, book after book talking about child development in other countries, tribes, cultures around the world that parents today (and especially in America) take on full responsibility for the safety of their children and yet somehow we have this massive crisis of children being unsafe. Like I said, they WILL find a way to run into oncoming traffic, play with that knife/gun, swallow that poison, etc. And children doing this is definitely NOT the norm. My first ah-ha like I said was reading The Continuum Concept but I've read a lot of others too. Anthropological studies about child rearing in other cultures / time periods is a particular interest of mine.

I understand that when you have a 3 year-old who bolts into oncoming traffic, you've got a serious problem. And not sure that anything I said could ever be construed otherwise. I even totally concur you've got to make your child safe as your top priority.

Where I differ from you and others is that while you are keeping your child safe you ALSO need to be teaching your child, well, frankly, not to do that anymore! So sure yeah if I were going to Disneyworld with a 3 year-old bolter, sure bring the leash. But for goodness sakes try to teach your child personal safety and responsibility with regard to sticking close to parents/caregivers and don't think for 2 seconds that just because you spent $19.99 for a leash the problem is solved.
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#15 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 06:34 PM
 
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But for goodness sakes try to teach your child personal safety and responsibility with regard to sticking close to parents/caregivers and don't think for 2 seconds that just because you spent $19.99 for a leash the problem is solved.
I don't think anyone said, "Hey, strap your kid in and forget it! Problem solved!"
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#16 of 20 Old 03-20-2008, 08:20 PM
 
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I don't think anyone said, "Hey, strap your kid in and forget it! Problem solved!"
Wow, are we reading the same thread?? Actually I think I'm the ONLY one who hasn't said that! In every SINGLE other post, the only advice given involved restraining the child or not going out with the child at all.

Here is all of the advice given so far in this thread (excluding mine):


"I would look into one of those backpack/harness things."

"I'll have to agree with the backpack/harness. That way he can still explore and be safe."

"hold your son's hand/wrist so he can't get away or use a leash/harness on your son. IT may only take using the harness a handful of times for him to get the message that he stays with you or else he gets the harness."

"For the OP, if you don't want to use a harness, I would shop as little as possible with him until he's matured a bit more. For grocery shopping, put him in the cart"

"If it were my child, I would buy a harness and explain that I have to use it because I cannot allow him to run away from me. If the child is bolting because he is overwhelmed, the harness could serve as a physical reminder not to run, and if it's a game gone awry, the harness takes the fun out of it. Either way, it works immediately."

"My 4 yr old still has a hard time listening and not bolting from me while we are in stores. Reminds me i guess i should start using the harness backpack on her again."

"When you have a runner, you need a solution right now. You need something to keep your kid out from under the wheels of a car, not a neat game that you hope will work. // We have used the backpack thing a few times. Mostly it's on her and looped over my wrist and I hold her hand."
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#17 of 20 Old 03-21-2008, 05:34 PM
 
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Wow! Interesting thread. I have to jump in and say (no offense to those who use them as I understand why you do) but I just have an issue with those harnesses. I personally find them demeaning to the kid and won't ever use one. I wouldn't even leash my dog if I didn't have to so maybe I am a bit over the top!! Anyway, I have a runner of a dog and a runner of a 3 year old.

I appreciate the no chasing game idea, but hey, that didn't occur to me and now we have been doing it for years! Opps. So here we are...needing solutions for our imperfect parenting. Maybe we will try that if we have a second one!!

It does sound a bit like your little guy is going through something that is causing this behavior (and maybe the pooping to). My DS is going through something...not sure what...and the running that had subsided is back. What I am trying to do is tune in and figure this mess out so your OP is timely for me. Keep in mind I don't have two but we are planning for a second and I have been wondering how I would handle this if it continues.

First of all he and I talk alot about not running away before we go somewhere. We talk about how dangerous it is and why it is dangerous. Second I try not to let him get more than a few steps away before I physically guide his shoulder or head back towards me. Just a little physical, loving reminder that mama is near and I want him to stay near. I try to be physically proactive and aware at all times that he might bolt. Restrictive, yes, but necessary. If we ever go any place with a cart, we use it. He isn't always happy with that, but it is our routine.

Also I try and give him plenty of running activities. We tend to frequent large parks with open playing fields or gymansiums where he can just run and run. I do avoid locations that aren't engaging enough for him or where I feel might not be condusive to my keeping close tabs on him. Yes that means I put off a lot of shopping and other things I would like to do. We do get the grocery shopping done...but like I said a cart is involved. I just keep reminding myself that this to shall pass!

As far as parking lots go, he has to have his hand held no matter whatelse I am carrying. I have been known to let him play in the drivers seat while I am getting other things situated. Also did this when we had my younger nephew and I couldn't get them both buckled in at the same time.

Most of these things you may already do and certainly are not a permanent solution to getting it to stop but our way to cope with it. So sorry if this isn't that helpful, but know that you are not alone and I wish you the best in figuring out what is going on.
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#18 of 20 Old 03-21-2008, 09:02 PM
 
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I agree with periwinkle. To a point. I believe it is both un-natural and perfectly natural for a child to bolt when the impulse hits. At 2-5, they are both completely dependent on mama, while desperately trying to be independent as well. It's a difficult and sometimes frightening developmental phase between babyhood and childhood, for both child and parent (it'll come again with puberty).

My oldest stayed with me and never let 6ft between us in public. She has always been cautious and thoughtful of her actions and surroundings. My youngest DD though, she is an impulsive, excitable, runner. She's too busy having fun and exploring to keep her ears open and listen for me to tell her she's gone too far. I despised those kid-leashes and likened them to treating kids like dogs. But my youngest DD has taught me the reason they were invented. Some kids don't develop self-control as easily/early as others despite how they are "trained" or raised. It's great that periwinkle was blessed with three cautious discerning children. I was blessed with only one. The other simply is not.

I use the leash on and off, always after an episode where she refused to follow, and now I have her obediently hanging on to the basket while in the store and "touching the van" while in the parking lot, sans the leash. I keep the leash in the car for when we absolutely have to go out and she's in a rebellious mood or tired (a major red flag for running).

I agree it is a "band-aid" fix, and should be a temporary solution that is only used in conjunction with, and while "re-training" your child to stay aware of mama while out, or at least until the phase passes. There's nothing wrong with using them for that purpose.
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#19 of 20 Old 03-21-2008, 11:30 PM
 
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I had one runner out of two. From the ages of 10 months to about 2 years, ds would try to run away from me; whether it be into the street, or at the grocery store. We never played chasing games at home, or hide and seek. I don't know why he did this, but it was soooooo stressful. Zeldamomma mentioned sensory overload, and he does have slight issues with that.

I think for him it was impulse control; it was just too fun to run! My dd didn't do this; but she had another impulse control problem at that exact age, hitting. They are all different, keeping all of us on our toes!

And if I would of known about the backpacks back then, I would of used it in a heartbeat.
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#20 of 20 Old 03-22-2008, 12:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay--I tried to reply to this thread TWICE yesterday, and somehow both my posts were eaten. So I'll try again:

1. Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Periwinkle, I particularly appreciate your ideas, if for no other reason than because they are somewhat new to me. (Of course the thought of a leash crossed my mind, but that's really a last resort type of solution to me, because I REALLY have a problem with the idea of putting a human being on a leash. If I felt it was the ONLY way to protect my son, I'm not completely above using one, but I'm pretty committed to not letting it come to that.) I think your idea is a really interesting one, and I'm about *this close* to totally buying it. I'd like to check out the book you referenced, actually--that's not the first mention I've heard of it, and it sounds really interesting.

2. After the bookstore incident that I referenced in my OP, my son and I had a long talk (I believe I mentioned this in the OP, too) about what *could* have happened as a result of him taking off like that. We talked about strangers/kidnapping, we talked about stealing/consequences, we talked about him getting lost, and most of all, we talked about traffic/cars/him getting hit. I told him that when he runs away from me, he makes it difficult (or impossible) for me to protect him from these dangers. I told him how afraid I was when he ran away. And I told him that while he practiced staying closer to me and not running away, we weren't going to be able to do some of the fun things we enjoy, like going to the bookstore, et cetera. Since then, when we've gone out we've made a point of going when my husband can go--that way one of us has my daughter, and the other's *only* responsibility is my son. We remind him when we get somewhere that he needs to stay close to us. So far, we haven't had another problem, although we're still being very cautious.

3. For what it's worth, he hasn't pooped his pants since I wrote that post. I don't actually think the issues were related but, hey, I'm glad to not be dealing with poopy underwear, nonetheless.

Thanks again for all the suggestions and responses.

(Okay, my fingers are crossed as I hit "submit." Please don't disappear, post.)
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