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How To Stop A Toddler From Running Away

If you have a runaway child and need help to keep your child from bolting, then you need to read this.

When my kids were toddlers, I was always super uneasy when leaving the house because I never knew what could happen once we left the front door.

My Mommy anxiety rolls in and panic ensues..and then we ended up not leaving the house at all.

I’m positive I am not the only Momma bear dealing with this sort of challenge and I wanted to share my tips on how I finally got over the hurdle of a runaway child using positive parenting methods.

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Listening Skills

Teaching toddlers to not run away will require some patience on your part, and some listening training for your toddler.

A lot of times when parents see a child that is well behaved and sitting in a stroller or walking nicely with mommy, that the child is just naturally well behaved and you somehow ended up with a wild one that keeps you on your toes.

This is not the case at all, a lot of the times the children who are well behaved have been trained to listen (sometimes the parents don’t even know they were training the kids!).

The running / darting off behaviour can be very serious and dangerous for young children so it is important to break that habit and replace it with new behaviour.

Basically you’ll need to make your expectations clear, be consistent in your message and follow through with consequences that you set.

Practical Tips For Stopping A Run Away Toddler

  1. Set Clear Expectations
  2. Be Consistent With Requirements
  3. Follow Through Consequences
  4. Praise A Job Well Done

Something you should do in any situation is to state all of your rules in a simple, easy to understand way before you leave the house or get into the stroller.

Make it clear that if rules are not followed, the consequence will be going home. The thing is, you must make sure to be able to follow through on that consequence in order for it to be effective.

This is not a good consequence if you are paying $300 to get into the zoo (exaggeration, sorry, our Zoo is crazy expensive!) and you threaten to leave because if the running away sequence starts 15 minutes into your trip, you’re going to lose a lot of cash if you turn around and go back home.

A good turn of phrase for explaining the discipline to your kids is” Safety First, Fun Second”.

If the listening/safety doesn’t happen, the fun thing you had planned doesn’t happen.

This isn’t punishment, it is a way to get kids to understand what is safe and what is not. It should not be used a threat, but rather an explanation.

A good way to see if your child understood the statement, ask a few questions to confirm they had their listening ears on.

Alternative Ways To Help Your Child Not Run Away

The Backpack

The first thing you can try is to get a backpack with a tether. It is a safety leash made for children that usually comes with an adorable backpack that kids love to wear.

This method keeps your child safe by your side all while giving them the freedom to walk on their own.

Personally not my favourite method, mostly because it did not work on my kids, but I have seen this very successful for MANY of my friends and family members and thus it is my number one suggestion for your runaway child.

Make It Into A Game

Sometimes the best thing to do is make a game of the situation.

Letting the imagination out with a simple game such as pretending the running child is a vehicle and giving commands such as “red” (means stop), “Yellow” (Means Slow Down), and “Green” (Means Go).

This kind of method is called ” Learning Through Play” and I am a huge advocate for this. I find children learn really well through hands-on learning situations.

Try The “Hold The Stroller” Approach

Sometimes the best thing to do is get your child to hold onto the stroller while you push it around. This gives them the independence of walking as well as the satisfaction of helping you out.

This is a win-win situation and could last a long while until your child is exhausted from walking and needs to get back into the stroller.

If your child starts out walking nicely alongside the stroller but then starts to run away when they see shiny exciting objects in the distance, you will have to put the child back into the stroller for being unsafe.


The most important thing to remember that this is typical behaviour for a 2-3-year-old and while the stage is frustrating, it is not their fault. These little humans are just excited about life and they want to know and feel everything and anything they can!

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3 Comments

  1. My friend and I were talking about this the other day. We both have super busy toddlers. Love the tips!

  2. We totally use the “hold the stroller” or “touch the car” approach!

  3. This is a feat that is not easily done BUT the hold the stroller game works with my kids OR I just attach the leash backpack to them just in case too 🙂

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