Mom enrolled my younger brother in a nursery school when he was a little over two years old. I remember visiting the center, noticing the light blue walls, royal blue trim, and the smell of new diapers. He hadn’t attended long, maybe a week, before he was expelled. The owner decided that he was too much of a liability to continue there and promptly gave him the boot. The cause of the expulsion? He ran away. One afternoon at the end of outside playtime the staff called the children in. Joe hid behind some equipment until everyone was inside. Once alone, he climbed the chain link fence surrounding the yard and made a beeline for the highway. The owner of the nursery school had just returned from the grocery store. With arms full of purchases she spied Joe, tiny legs moving as fast as they could, running down the small hill to the highway. She dropped everything and gave chase, catching him just before he stepped into traffic, a semi truck whizzing past. The call my mother received that day instructed her to pick him up immediately and never return. Joe was obviously trying to communicate his feelings about the nursery school. His language skills were not advanced enough for him to communicate clearly otherwise. Later, my mother found a small daycare run by a husband and wife. The setting was very much family-style and the couple cared for only a handful of other children. Joe was happy there and never attempted to escape.
I remember being eight or nine and unhappy about something my parents had disciplined me for. My initial reaction was to hightail it out of there. I had a vision in my head from several television shows of what that looked like. So, I located a long stick and large handkerchief. The impulse didn’t last long, especially when I realized how little fit in the handkerchief.
Children need to have some control in their lives. When they feel a loss of control one impulse can be to remove themselves from the situation. A child may run from the room, turn their head to look away, or leave the home. Parents can help support their children by identifying their child’s need for some control and meeting that need. Parents do not need to give their child full control. By giving them the power of choice in some situations, children will feel a part of the process and invested in it more. The child will feel respected and valued. When decisions must be made without child input, usually for safety and well-being, it can be very helpful to explain to the child what is happening and to acknowledge their feelings.
How have you managed this in your life?
For the kiddos who just like to run: http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/physical/stop-toddlers-from-running-away/