My Toddler Keeps Running Off

Parents of toddlers all agree that raising these little people who are on the cusp on being little boys and girls is tough. The difficulties show themselves differently in different children but there are activities that are common. One of these is running away from their parents. Usually in a parking lot or street setting or busy shopping mall where there is the most amount of danger present.

Bolting from a parent’s side is a toddler’s way of exploring his independence. “Starting around 18 months,¬†toddlers¬†suddenly realize, ‘I’m my own person.'” They want out of the stroller (except those days that you decide not to bring the stroller). They want to explore the world and don’t understand the dangers also present. How can you encourage this exploration and limited independence while keeping your child safe?

Ask for the Behavior You Want

Your toddler may not realize that it’s essential to stay close so clearly spell it out. Keep directions short and clear. Your toddler is capable of understanding simple instructions but don’t be alarmed or frustrated (easier said then done) if you have to repeat yourself many times.

Give Specific Warnings

Young kids often forget safety expectations midway through an outing and take off. Instead of simply shouting “Stop!” give a concrete command identifying a specific body part or movement like, “Stop your feet!” or “Stay on the grass!” Once you’re holding hands again, repeat the rules.

Create Consequences

Before you are out of the car, explain the rules and establish consequences. Explain what will happen if your child puts himself in danger. And follow through. If he does not follow the rules, stick to the consequences you laid out for him. And explain why.

Make it a Game

Making following the rules a game is one way to keep your toddler on board and by your side. Try dancing or marching across the street. Make it seem like you need their help to carry the grocery bags or push their sibling’s stroller. Liven things up by singing a song together as you go. If you sense that your child is about to take off in another direction, step in his path and then continue your shuffles or hops to redirect him.


Good luck parents!