When outside, our 2-year-old son always runs away from us and, when called back, thinks this is a catch game. No amount of explaining, in any tone of voice, helps him understand this is not a game and can be dangerous. This ranges from nice explanations and asking him not to do that very nicely and calmly to stern talking and raised voice. No physical violence, though.

Is there any way to make him stop running far away when outside?

  • 2
    I don't mean this to be ironic or patronizing, though it sounds that way when I read it to myself. Have you tried, or considered trying, discipline? If so, what have you tried?
    – Patrick87
    Aug 12, 2014 at 22:26
  • well, "in any tone of voice" pretty much stands for anything from nice explanations and asking him not to do that very nicely and calmly to stern talking and raised voice. No physical violence though, if that's what you mean
    – dyasny
    Aug 13, 2014 at 0:19
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    Well, I'm not sure that this is enough for an answer, but maybe consider punishing him for misbehaving, and rewarding good behavior. Punishments can include time-outs, loss of privileges, an early end to playtime, or, yes, even corporal punishment (responsibly applied, of course). Consult local laws if you're worried about the legality of some method of punishment. Rewards could include extended playtime, new privileges, treats, etc. I can appreciate that you want to talk to your son about his behavior, but it's really not fair to your son to expect him to "get it" at age two.
    – Patrick87
    Aug 13, 2014 at 3:59
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    Not a real answer, but we solved this problem by getting ours one of those walking bikes (the ones without pedals). He became very obedient on that, going when we'd tell him, stopping as soon as we'd say so. As soon as we'd take him off, he'd just run away. Kids can be so weird :)
    – Ana
    Aug 13, 2014 at 10:13
  • Thing is, he considers everything a game. Whether it's punishment or anything else. The only thing that works to turn him around immediately is taking something he currently fancies away, but when he's running, he's usually empty handed.
    – dyasny
    Aug 13, 2014 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


This isn't a terribly surprising thing for a two year old to do. After all, catch games are fun, aren't they? And in the appropriate environment at the appropriate time, there's nothing better to do than simply play along.

However, obviously many times this isn't acceptable. The best way I've found to deal with this was to clearly explain to my son what the appropriate times/places were, and what they weren't; then when he (of course) forgot, to be consistent with appropriate discipline: tell him that he needs to come, now, or we're [going home from the play area|putting him in a shopping cart with a seatbelt|having a time out in the car]. Maybe count 1-2-3 at a reasonable pace. This will be necessary a few times, including leaving places you might prefer not to leave, but by 2 they are capable of understanding reason to some extent. Making sure the punishment is relevant (taking them out of the dangerous situation) and timely (happens right now, not "we will never come here again" which is pointless) is crucial.

I can't under-state the value of explaining the reasoning to them, in addition to the relevant, timely punishment. If you are planning to raise a reasonably independent child, making sure they understand why it is important to not run off is key, because just punishing them without telling them why won't work for many children.

My son just turned three, is one of the wilder children you've ever seen in many situations, yet I feel entirely comfortable going to the museum with him, or walking down a sidewalk on a fairly busy street, without holding his hand except to cross streets, because he learned not only that there were consequences to running off, but why it is dangerous to run off. He knows that staying in sight and within the same area is important, because he could get lost or hurt. We talk about it with him periodically, and have had pretty intelligent and complex conversations with him since he was two or thereabouts - including reinforcing the lessons by asking him why he thinks it's dangerous.

You do still end up sometimes having to play chase, especially in more dangerous situations where it's not okay to give them a bit of time to comply, and having to use those consequences, even after they've learned better, mostly; that's fine. Kids are kids, and sometimes lose control. It should be rare, though, and rare enough that when it does happen it's a noticeable thing for them.

One thing I do not recommend is raising your voice for the purpose of showing anger. Beyond the fact that it's generally not effective, in this particular situation you want to use raising your voice to indicate alarm (ie, concern for immediate safety). If you don't usually yell, but loudly yell their names in situations where they are, for example, about to run into a busy street, it's more effective than if they're used to you raising your voice to call them back, and they've established a pattern of sometimes complying, sometimes not.

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