When Kids Elope

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“Run, run, as fast as you can!  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” That darn Gingerbread Man is pretty good at eloping!

Kids can run from their home, school, and away from you in public places — aka, eloping.  Children engage in elopement for a purpose, or because it serves a function (attention, escape, or tangible).  For example, a child may run away from something (being asked to complete a task) or run to something (a toy they would like to have).  They struggle with when and where games like Hide-n-Seek or Tag are appropriate and inappropriate.  Sometimes they run off at stores because they want to play those fun games … unfortunately a store is not a safe place to play either of these games.

Clearly defining boundaries at home and in public can reduce eloping.  Here are a few tips, tricks, and things to know to help!

  • Give choices: “Hold my hand or get picked up.”
  • Natural and logical consequences: If your child takes off, his/her consequence could be a time away to reset (when out in public, your car can be a great spot for time away).
  • Set clear boundaries: Draw a line in your driveway with chalk, set boundaries with cones or trees, explain to your kids where they are allowed to play.
  • “My eyes need to see your eyes.” This keeps kids within close proximity to you.  If they do venture off too far, there should be a natural and logical consequence in place.
  • Chasing your child can increase eloping if he seeks to gain attention (although realize that sometimes you will need to chase to ensure his/her safety).
  • If your child is eloping to escape a task, revisit the task and adapt it if needed.

Tina Pratt is the mom of two littles. She is a former PreK- 5 special education teacher that now works as a behavior coach. She enjoys being a tourist in her own town and finding ways to embed lessons into everyday fun!

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