Running Away

Dear Miss Faith–My 2 year old is running away from me for everything, and it’s causing some problems. Put on socks, shoes, brush teeth, go to school, change diaper, go outside – he runs runs runs! Any ideas? He used to be excited to do all this, and now …

Hi Mama, I have several ideas of things to try. First:

Stop Announcing We love to announce things to kids (“It’s time to put our shoes on”) but this is only helpful if it’s helpful. When a two-year-old is is a “no” phase or a running-away phase, these announcements are only cues for them to yell ‘no’ and run away. Instead, use…

Movement Before Words Take him by the hand and start walking towards your shoes BEFORE you let him know that it’s time to get shoes on. Young children do best when they’re in motion, so get them moving in the right direction first. But how can you let them know that it’s time to get shoes on without announcing it? Try…

Use Imaginative Language You’re walking hand-in-hand toward the shoes. When you get near them, cup your hand around your ear and say, “What’s that I hear? Is there a little mouse hiding in your shoe?” Kneel down and pick up the shoe, looking inside. “No, no mouse! Your shoe is empty! Wait–now it’s full!” Slip it on his foot. Then do the exact same thing for the next shoe, with the same words, same intonation, everything. “What’s that I hear? Is there a mouse in this shoe?” etc. It’s almost like a little play or a puppet show that you’re putting on, that ends with his shoes being on his feet. This type of activity is so enjoyable that children often forget that they wanted to say ‘no’ in the first place.

Another example: if you’re brushing teeth, take him by the hand and lead him to the sink, either quietly, or talking about something else altogether. Get the toothpaste on, and start the toothbrush hopping around. “Hip-hop! Hip-hop! Hip-hop! This little bunny is sooo hungry! He wishes he could find some dandelions to eat. I know where some dandelions are for him…open your mouth!” When he does, start brushing his teeth and say, “Yum-yum-yum-yum. These are delicious dandelions! The bunny is munching them all up!”

If you stop announcing, use motion first, and imaginative speech, I be this will help a lot. If he does still run, getting mad won’t change anything. Simply swoop him up and spin him around two or three times, then go over to what you need to do, using imaginative language if possible. The spinning seems to get some of the need for running out of their system, or maybe they’re just dizzy so they can’t run as well? Either way, they seem to like it. Or, incorporate running into the routine. I know one mom who developed a ritual with her runaway son for getting dressed. She’d put on one item of clothing, and he’d run out of the room. She’d sit there quietly, and he’d come running back. She’d give him a big smile and put on the next item, and out he’d run again, only to return for the third. It wasn’t a speedy process, but it was one that they could both enjoy.

What do other parents do for running away? I’d love to hear… (And Mama, don’t worry…your little boy will love doing all of those things again in a few months.)

Warmly, ~Miss Faith


  1. Sometimes the only thing that works for us is to let her run the other way and let her know I’m going and act neutral. Some of the running is fueled or done to provoke annoyance in me which my 2 year old thinks is hilarious. In public places or near roads we use a backpack leash. She likes the animal backpack and after going to the er twice in one day for a dislocated elbow from her pulling away I believe it’s the lesser of two evils. She will show us when she can safely handle being off the leash but for now it prevents her from being injured by cars

    • Thanks for your reply! I think most toddlers run because it’s fun, and it’s even more fun when we chase after them (whether we’re enjoying or annoyed…I bet your toddler would enjoy it even more if you enjoyed it too, even though it’s still fun either way). I think the the backpack leashes can be a really good way of letting a child be mobile while making sure everyone keeps safe.

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