There’s nothing that stops your heart like the moment you see your child dart away from you when you’re in town. There are so many dangers that possibly await them. I know what that’s like. When my second child was born, my eldest was 18-months old. I did have a double stroller, but it wasn’t practical to use it everywhere we went. So, it was vital that my toddler learnt to walk beside me without running off. These are the things that have made that successful.
Practice At Home
Like so many things that require obedience from your child, it is important to practice this at home. Teach your child to mind you, immediately. We don’t count to three in our home because when I ask my children to do something, I want them to do it immediately unless I state otherwise. This may sound overly strict, but quite frankly, I don’t care. My toddler does not understand what is and isn’t a safety issue, and I don’t want them thinking that it is okay to just do things in their own time.
We also don’t play ‘chase me‘. You know, when the parent says to come and the toddler runs the other way, and then it turns into a game? I know it can seem funny at the time, but again, for us, it becomes a safety issue. When I say ‘come‘ to my child, I need to know that they will come to me right away.
A fun idea that I got from another mama is to play ‘freeze’ with your kids. Have them move about the place and then call out ‘freeze’ and have them stop where they are. This can be a helpful tool in a moment when there’s limited time for action.
Give Clear Instructions
Don’t underestimate the comprehension capabilities of your toddler. Whenever we are going somewhere, BEFORE we arrive at our destination, I take the time to talk to my son about what is expected. “Your sister will be in the pram, and you’ll need to walk next to it. I need you to stay in front of me so I can see you. There will be lots of cars so it is really important that you stay close to mama and not run.”
Children appreciate you levelling with them. It also leaves less room for confusion. Set clear boundaries and be prepared to talk about them and reevaluate should they not be working.
Use An Anchor Point
For safety reasons, I typically get my youngest out and into the pram before I let my 2-year old out. However, on the odd occasion where that isn’t possible, I use an anchor point. I get my son to place his hand on the front light of the car. He knows not to take it off and not to move until I come and get him. You don’t have to use the front light, but I encourage you to have an anchor point that works for you.
Another thing we do is to use his sister’s pram as an anchor point. I tell my son to hold onto the pram and not to let go. However, I usually ask him in a way that makes it sound like he’s doing me a favour. For example, “Mama needs your strong muscles to help me push your sister. Please hold onto the pram and help me push.“.
These methods are tried and true, but it really does come down to obedience being required. If your toddler does not respect or listen to you, then you will have ongoing issues. Nail that down and you’ve conquered one of the biggest challenges. I don’t mean to sound militaristic. I give my children plenty of grace (see this post on –> TODDLER MELTDOWNS), but I will always be working towards the goal of immediate, first-time obedience because it really can be a matter of life and death.