Runaway Two Year Old
Q: "With my 2 and half yr old. She frequently will run away from me when I call her, wanting to turn it into a game of chase. Sometimes this is at a store or getting into the car, sometimes it is when she needs a diaper change etc. I have tried to do roll playing games with her to help praise her for coming or following instructions. She loves this game, but won't always do it in real life. I am not sure the best way to help her want to obey or what should be the consequence for failing to follow an instruction at age 2. I feel like I am doing too much reasoning with her, which I feel is really not the most effective thing with a 2 year old, but I am not sure what else to do so she starts to understand the consequences of her actions. I have lately been feeling very frustrated and out of control with her. I hate feeling that way and I could really use some ideas."
Pre-teaching her to come when called before it is ever time is a great thing to do to prepare her to repeat the behavior at the right time. Great Job! Keep doing that.
As well as pre-teaching, is sounds like you need to establish a consequence system just for her. You can choose to either focus on a positive consequence or a negative consequence.
A positive consequence for a two year old may be something like a skittle candy or a candy corn. Just one. I would pull my daughter aside and show her the bag of candy and then I would say, because you said, “OK” and came to talk to me when I asked you to, then you have earned a candy corn. For this week every time you come to me when I ask you to, you will get to have a candy corn. I will keep them right here in my pocket. The candies are just for you, but you can’t have them unless you are following instructions. OK?”
This positive system is not bribery, because it is not being offered as coercion during a tantrum or disobedience. The treat is presented as part of a plan for the behavior of the child, and won’t be given unless the child chooses to obey.
A negative consequence system for a two year old would look like this. You have a short conversation with your child explaining that every single time she doesn’t say, “OK” or ask to disagree appropriately when you tell her to come to you then you know she needs to go to time-out until she is ready to say, “OK.”
Then, every single time she runs off, you say, “Molly, you are not saying OK, so you have earned to go to time-out.” At this point, very gently, with hardly any words, take her to time-out. She needs to stay there until she is ready to practice saying, “OK” and follow instructions. When she practices, after time-out she still gets a candy if you have done that system.
Remember, your two year old is still learning how to interact with people, so be patient. Part of being patient is pre-teaching. Try to remember to say, “I am going to give you an instruction right now. You need to say, “OK” to get your candy. OK?”
Finally, don’t beat yourself up. Every parent has stressful days. Just don’t forget that the most important thing you can do with every day is look into the eyes of the people in your family with love and acceptance. Accept her two year old ignorance and be patient while she learns. Bad behaviors don’t hurt you. They are signs to help you be a better mother. We need to be grateful for all of the learning we get to do with our children. Our whole families are stronger for it.