Runaway 4 Year Old

Dear Sara,

I have a very adventurous four year old. I have learned to keep the front and back door locked so she can’t escape the house but when I take her anywhere she will manage to escape. If I let her out of the basket at the grocery store she will be as far away from me as she can get. It’s really risky for me to take her for a walk or to the park because as soon as my attention is elsewhere she takes off. This is like a game to her now. I have tried to explain how dangerous this is but I’m not getting through to her. What can I do to make her stop doing this?

Dear Beth,

It sounds like you have a daughter who like to get your attention by disappearing. You might try giving her some reward and punishment options. If she stays with you in the grocery store she can pick a treat as you check out. If she runs away she has to go to time out when she gets home. You could use the same type of thing when you go to the park. If she gets away with these things without consequences she will probably continue. You know what will work best for a consequence so let it be something that she won’t like at all. She’s playing games with you. Don’t let her get away with it.


  1. Sherry Biglow says:

    In my day and time, we used a harness to keep them from going where they wanted. Your child can be swooped up in a matter of seconds if you let your child venture away from you. Predators are always looking for children like yours. Some say a harness is outlandish but it’s certainly better than having your child kidnapped. If crooks can remove your wallet from your purse without your knowledge, don’t think they can’t do the same with a child that runs from her mother.

  2. Put her on a leash, we raised twins and I know it sounds awful and we got some dirty looks but we never lost a child

  3. Mine did the same thing…it drove me crazy! So, one day, I gathered the kids up to take them grocery shopping. Got the cart out, went through all the motions, but when they took off, I ditched the cart and followed them. It took quite awhile, but they finally realized I wasn’t looking for them and they got scared. When I thought they had finally had enough, I planted myself in their site. They never took off on me again! Lesson learned!

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