Q&A: Toddler Runs Through The Store

 My toddler is always running away from us when we try to shop. She thinks it's funny. How can we get her to stop?

It worked for me:

If our daughter wouldn't listen as we asked her not to run away, her punishment was having bells tied to both her shoes. She absolutely hated that and, after a couple of times, it never happened again. She is now age 4 and always holds my hand when we go out and listens the moment I speak. She knows that the bells will go right back on if she doesn't.

-- Petra M. of Bangkok, Thailand

Make sure your child knows that the freedom to run about comes with the responsibility of doing as she is expected and asked. Put her in a playpen, stroller or other type of restriction every time she runs from you. She will soon learn the loss of freedom is the consequence of "running away." She may not understand it right now, but she will soon.

-- Mary R. in Manassas, VA

We bought a leash for kids and told our daughter before we went into a store we would put it on. At first, we did it right away. Of course, she doesn't like it. Now, she knows if she doesn't hold onto the cart, she has to put it on or sit in the cart. She still hates the leash, and she's much better at staying close.

-- Alexandra David of Rolla, ND

Just leave her at home the next time you go out. Soon she will connect being home with the unacceptable behavior.

-- Walter M. of St. Louis, MO

From Jodie: If you run after her and are laughing, you are giving her the exact reaction she anticipates. Unfortunately, she will assume it is a game. It is a scary and dangerous experience for anyone looking for her, and even for her if she should get lost.

If she continues to run away, make sure you take immediate action by leaving the store or area and going back home. Calmly and sternly say, "Mommy said not to run away. I am sad; now, we must go home." On your way back, continue your talk: "It makes me feel scared when you run away. If we are at home, and are playing, that is when you can run and I will catch you. Please do not run in stores."

Note: Try not to ever use a policeman or policewoman as the scapegoat for consequences, as in, "If you don't behave, a policeman will put you in jail." If you do, she will be scared of the police, and they could be the very ones to help find her someday or help in another way.