Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Saturday, May 10, 2008

He's A Runner

I got the car stroller at the mall, he loves cars but not today. My adorable boy has learned how to unattach the buckle and take off quicker than I can realize what's happening. I stopped to get us a drink and he was GONE, I found him spoke firmly to him and yet it kept happening.

We do not live close, I cannot just punish him by saying that's it, we're going home, home is 40 minutes away from any type of stores. He has a one-track mind, whatever it is he thinks he wants. He is loud and can get physical when I try to restrain him.

I've used gentle diversions, today while Camille was getting her haircut I played with him with various little games in my lap. Pretending he was an airplane, ride the little horsey, told him stories, etc. That didn't stop him from fighting me to get down, he wanted to sit in one of the swirl chairs which is against the rules. I got two fat lips b/c he headbutted me in his attempts to get out of my grasp.

My boy went out of my sight 5x today and blasted if I didn't think for a second that I should try to scare him into thinking he'd lost me. He has no understanding of physical boundaries although until about now he's always been right THERE with ME. He fights to be put into buggy seats, we have a battle of wills just to hold my hand to cross the parking lot. I stand there saying we're not going anywhere until he holds my hand. He relents but MY GOODNESS it takes 2-3 minutes. It's only by the grace of God that he hasn't gotten a bee in his bonnet to run to the door of the store by himself, ignoring any and all traffic.

I explain that cars cannot see him, I explain, explain, explain. So tell me, do I tether him? Leaving him at home is not a solution, babysitters are not a solution. I think after we move we will put him in preschool 1 or 2 days a week so that he has to listen to another adult. I'm his solitary caregiver/disciplinarian, DH is not really involved b/c of his work/school schedule. I have no angst against DH, I just want to find some way to take my boy to public places safely and without raising my blood pressure through the roof!

This does not happen EVERY time, it's only when we're not going someplace HE wants to go. If a child-oriented place is on the horizon and he gets threatened not to be able to go, he straightens right up.

Solutions to try:
1. In stores, give him a task to do or play a game to keep him close and engaged.
2. Child safety harness (tether), I will try the others before this
3. Train him in a safe public place about holding on to a shopping cart, and how far away from me is too far for places that do not have shopping carts like the mall.

He's about to be 4 and I know there will be a huge awakening to the realization of "danger" by the time he's 5 but I don't think I can go through another public outing like yesterday.



Shannon @ Some Fine Taters said...

What about intentionally creating an errand that you can leave if necessary. Even if you burn some time and gas, it might be worthwhile. At almost 4 he should be ready to internalize the connection.

With my daughter at that age, she had a choice between sitting in the cart or holding my hand. Is hand holding not an option? "Don't go to far" seems like it might be too abstract for his age.

BUT, a great tip I've heard in that regard is to tell the child, "Stay where you can see Mommy." instead of "stay where I can see you." B/c he doesn't know when you can't see him, y/k?

Diane said...

As a mom of 4 boys I can tell you that they have minds of their own, LOL! I found the tether invaluable just for my own peace of mind, especially after one of my boys ran out into oncoming traffic in a parking lot. You can find some at Walmart that are like backpacks in the form of puppies and monkeys, so they do not seem so harsh. My children loved theirs and actually begged to wear them. (You can also order them here: Also, have you heard of "tomato staking"? See

Teacher of One said...

Hmm Been here! We had a wrist teether, I didn't feel so bad about it. It was invaluable at the zoo! G could explore but not disappear.

We also really like the Safe Side DVD. If he walked too far away or out of site I could say he wasn't on the safe side and he would come back.


Daisy said...

Some ideas that worked with my son (and he sounds a lot like yours)...

1. Practice, Practice, practice AT HOME. You have a huge yard. Have him practice holding your hand, staying with you, etc. My son has to develop a HABIT of obedience because he rarely thinks before doing.

2. I would have either spanked my son or taken him out to the car. We would have sat in the car until he was read to behave.

3. I try to have a carrot on a stick. I don't really view this as bribing since he isn't earning it. He has only the potential to lose it. Boys have such a hard time with internal motivation. So I save the treat, the stop by the park, the picking out a book from the bookstore, whatever it is until the END of the day. If he was rotten the whole day then we go straight home.

Good luck. Boys are not doing it to "get you" so try not to take it personal. They. do. not. think. about. consequences. So it is our job to teach them that their behavior has consequences. They need routine sooooo badly.

Jennifer said...


I do so enjoy reading your blog. This has been my first year homeschooling and I have learned so much from you. I have 7yo and 4yo boys. There have been several Danny stories that have made me chuckle, not so much at their humor, but at how similar they are to our Connor (the 4yo) stories.

I wonder why as Moms we are so reluctant to use a tether, or as we call it in our family "a leash?" When it comes right down to it, isn't it more important to keep our kids safe, than worry about what others might think? We used the tether with Connor until just recently - he will be 5 at the beginning of October - and in some situations, I would probably still use it. I found the tether gave him a little bit of freedom as he didn't have to hold my hand the entire time we were out, and gave me total peace of mind because this is a child who has wandered off in such places as the Smithsonian Museum and the National Zoo - scary! (for me, he was just fine when we found him). When using the tether, I overheard only a couple of people comment negatively; most Moms would just say "aren't those things great!"

Now at almost 5, we are working on trying to have him stay with me without the tether. Connor rides in a cart, usually in the back (his choice), or walks with one hand on the cart when we are shopping. I have told him, and he seems to remember most days, that if there is something he wants to see, he only needs to tell me and we will go see it - maybe not right away - but we will go to it. This makes all errands take a little longer, but it seems to lessen his need to wander without me.

We also use the word "dangerous" A LOT in describing things that are not safe for him to do, and he seems to be internalizing the meaning of this word and to modify his behavior somewhat when we remind him something is "dangerous." Now, he'll even tell us something is dangerous when he sees another child doing something he/she shouldn't.

Finally, I frequently have to remind myself that he is only 4 and that my "few errands" often seem like they take an eternity to him! I try to break things up: play at the mall kids' space, get a snack, go to a store that has a play area (our favorite's are Pottery Barn Kids, the Lego Store, Barnes and Noble, and LL Bean - which has fish), between getting things done. Again, it makes things take much longer, but at the end of the day, we all feel like we've accomplished something. I've done my errands and the boys have had fun.

That said, Connor is still by no means an angel when we go out. Like Danny, he is loud, physical, and quick to throw a temper tantrum. Most times, I just have to pick him up and continue what we were doing. I try not to think about what others in the store are likely thinking of me and my parenting skills. They can't possibly understand unless they've had a similar child to deal with.

I do wish you luck and will be watching to see how this situation works out for you, and to see if you are offered any suggestions that we might be able to try with our strong-willed one as well.


Dawne said...

I hate giving out parenting advice! :)

You said that Danny does just fine at a place of chilren's he CAN do it, right?

What *I* would do? Find a bathroom. period. I do not tolerate that from any of my kids, and yes I do have boys (we have 5 of them) and yes some have the 'diagnosis' of various modern 'diseases'. (ack!)
But even would only happen once, maybe twice in my world. ;-)

If you do not believe in 'bathroom visits' then I have NO advice other than:
Best of luck!

Jessica said...

A four year old is capable of staying with and obeying his mother without a leash. I have 4 kids ages 11, 8, 4 & 3, my three year old daughter likes to wander/run away in stores. I always bring the stroller and give her the option of walking as long as she stays close and is a good listener. If not, she goes back in the stroller. We have a McClaren and I can barely unbuckle that thing, so there is no way she is getting out, but usually the threat of the stroller is enough to keep her close. Sometimes I have her hold on to the stroller when we are walking as well (she hates holding hands). Hope this helps!

Veronica said...

Hi. I recently came across your blog. I have 5 boys and my fourth sounds a lot like your little boy. My son will be 4 in Nov. and he is very difficult to take out, and we too live too far to just leave when things are getting bad. I have to come up with some new things to try as well.

Caryn said...

Jessica, I feel your pain! What did it for us was the real and raw truth, along with a practice game.

I told him that if he did not listen to me, there was a possibility that he would get squished by a car and have to stay in hospital, or that someone might steal him and he would never see us again.


But it worked. Along with a game where we practiced. He was running around the back yard (safely fenced in in case it didn't work) and I would sing "la la la" while he ran around. I would suddenly shout out "STOP!" and he would practice stopping as quickly as possible and staying still as a statue.

I've only had to use the "game" once, but it saved his life. By God's grace it worked when it needed to.

Praying that you find a solution soon. It's no fun for anyone, I know.

Anonymous said...


Jennifer said...


I had to read the responses to this post!!! I need the advice too!!!! I love the idea of practicing the "STOP" command. That, I believe, is the first one I would, will be trying!

We've practiced running to our basement in case of a tornado. And when a storm looks threatening I have rushed them there!!

I completely understand the mindset about the "leash" and the hesitation due to what others' would think. But I also hesitate to use it.

My 4 year old is a "bucker" although usually not in public.

I've used the "behave or you won't get "X". "X" is usually visiting the toy isle, not purchasing, just visiting and playing with some of the toys. My kids pretty much know we don't make purchases there, it's just to play.

I also will hold my childrens' hands if they don't stay close to me. But it sure ties you up if you have to do that one!!!

Sheryl said...

My sister had this same type of situation with her 3 year old boy. They planned outings that dad could come on for the sole purpose of practicing the in store rules. With DH there they were able to enforce them better. She says she is seeing improvement. Just a thought. My ds 3 isn't a runner but cries like a 13 year old girl. ha ha

SHeryl in Ga

Kysha said...

I feel your frustration. We have four sons and I did not have a problem in public places with them except with the youngest son. He certainly loved testing me and pushing things to their limits. He was the youngest and those eyes got to me every time. LOL! But, I would get down on his level, looking eye to eye and firmly tell him that it was not acceptable. He would bat those long eyelashes and crocodile tears would fill his eyes but I had to stand firm. It took a few times but consistency is the key. Finally, he discovered that it was more fun to be obedient since I also withheld treats while we were out whenever he behaved this way.

My dh had NO trouble with our sons at all. He has always told me CONSISTENCY is the key. He would only say things one time as I would find myself repeating myself dozens of times. He said that I was a push over. Ha! But it was true. I had to start doing this at home also to ensure things would go more smoothly outside our home. I hope you find something that may work.

And Happy Mommy's Day!

Just Pure Lovely said...

First of all, you know this too shall pass, right? Childhood is full of phases.

But the goal is to actually GET him to the next phase, and running from mama is not the safest way to get there.

Our little gal (now 5) went through this, and as another reader suggested, we practiced at home. Instead of "stop" which is too frequently said so may not be heard as well, we practiced with "Red light!" It became a great game, but one she learned well. She'll now stop on a dime at "red light," with a twinkle in her eye.

As far as crowded places, I'd grab that hand as tightly as I could and nearly drag the child, just to keep him/her (we have four children) attached to the stroller, the cart, or my hand in a parking lot. Letting go was NOT an option, that's just that. The danger is much worse than mama holding a hand too tightly!

When the child is older, and doesn't want to be seen holding mama's hand, if they won't stay close, they have to hold my hand for a full minute or two. That mortifies our 10yo or 12yo, but they don't wander again!

my5wolfcubs said...

When my oldest was a toddler, I went to the mall several times w/ a friend who also had a toddler. We went early before the stores opened, but the mall itself was open for walkers. We practiced holding hands, stopping (I think we used "red light" too), coming when called, waiting, etc. I haven't had a runner (yet) but I wouldn't hesitate to use a tether for safety. It really isn't different than using a stroller, except the child gets more exercise! :)

Sharon said...

I have also practiced with my children at home. As well as "Stop" or "Red light" you might want to teach him simply to come to you whenever he hears his name. I am training my children (5, 4, 2, 1) respond with "Yes Mummy, I'm coming," when I call their name followed by them coming to me immediately (of course), touching my leg and saying "Yes Mummy, I'm here." We practice at home and it's not until they're good at this that they are allowed out of the pram or trolley at all. This makes a huge difference to all sorts of obedience issues at home as well as when out - once they have submitted to my will in coming to me, they are much more ready to do what I want them to do next (eg tidy up) than if I'd just called the instruction across the room to them (or gone to them and told them).

I have four littlies, so I have had to train them progressively to walk alongside the pram, when they are younger they have to keep their hands on the pram at all times, then just across roads and in car parks etc. If they won't hold the pram when I tell them to, they must hold my hand for a set period (I can grip hard when necessary) or they go in the pram (even the biggest - although that's only been once in the last year or so). I have a double pram and use it even when I think I won't need it.

If the littlest wiggles out of the pram (he was the first of the four to do this) I pick him up and carry him - on my shoulders, in my arms resting on the pram handlebar, on my hip, whatever I can stand until he gets the idea that it's better to just be in the pram. If my arms get too tired, I make him walk holding my hand. For a short while, it's doable.

I also have a wrist tether that I use if too many of my kids are acting up or I want to train kids for the inbetween stages of middling freedom from the pram. We bought it when we travelled to London and it was a big help there. You might just want to get one and keep it attached to your pram so it is available if an emergency (or, as I like to call it, an "urgency") arises. You don't have to make it a regular requirement to use but it is better to have it when you need it that have to buy one after he's already gone AWOL five times and your temper has gone AWOL as well!

~ Sharon at Equip Academy

mom24 said...

I soooo understand this behavior - only with me it's my 5yo dd. She's better now (doesn't throw these fits or run off in the store since she was 4) but she really tested me and made me re-think my training and errands.
Don't be afraid to use the tether if you are worried for his safety - judging eyes don't matter when YOUR child is the one running across the street!!
However, it would be better if you train him at home with the 'red light' games. The bribing/rewarding thing never worked for me - her need for instant gratification was just more powerful. Before our 3rd cam along, I planned for having her out of the grocery cart/stroller by giving her a little grocery cart of her own. It made noise (that I could hear) and kept her occupied (thinking she was 'helping' me with food or holding shopping bags). She could never sprint away with it and just loved it!
There are so many good ideas in your comments. Try something new but just make sure that you are consistent with it or he will find a loophole. And as always, pray specifically about learning how to train this strong will - God has faithfully been answering our prayers and will yours!

Calming Tea said...

Wow. My very simple solution is that my children both stay attached to my hand, until they are ready to be on their own (aka show the presence of mind and maturity to understand how dangerous it is.) My son is now allowed to hold the stroller at 6.4 months (he is very mature this way)

My dd who is four is NEVER in a stroller - she is very heavy and large and I am NOT pushing around a 45 lb. kid in a stroller. So the simple solution is that she always always holds my hand.

I never ever let her hand go.

If there is no cart, my son holds my pocket.

If we are going to be doing TONS of errands, where I think I will need to use my hands a lot (a bookstore is a good example), then I do use my LL Bean tether which is a backpack attached to their back and I loop it through my beltloop.

The one place I allow a little freedom for her is the library. I use that to train her, stay near mommy, can you see mommy, etc. becuase ours is pretty safe the way it's set up.

I also trained both of my children in the FREEZE, while we take our daily walks.

I imagine my son will be about 7.5 when I will let him walk next to me without holding the cart. My dd will be closer to 5.5 before she'll even graduate to holding the cart instead of being put IN it.

Get rid of your stroller and hold his hand. Do not over-use the tether. Practice holding hands in the house and on walks and immediately spank him, pants down so it hurts, when he doesn't listen.

Otherwise it'll be 4 more years of difficulties running errands.

HUGS!! I say a tether can be useful, when used in MODERATION. Ours comes out about three times a *year* and will phase out when she can hold the cart or my pocket responsibly.