Owen has a new “game” he likes to play. Want to learn it?
Here’s how you play: When Mommy says you have to do anything (i.e. change your diaper, put on shoes, put on a coat, get in the car, get in your carseat, get in the stroller, wash your hands, etc.), you get a HUGE grin on your face and run the other direction. As fast as possible. Sometimes, for extra fun, you yell, “Getchoo, Mama!” while doing so. It adds insult to injury. Even better… run and HIDE. She’ll find you. It’ll be awesome.
I put game in quotes because he’s the only one playing. I AM NOT PLAYING.
The first time this happened, it was cute. Even the hiding. I pretended to look for him (even though I knew exactly where he was), found him and tickled him and threw him over my shoulder. Apparently unknowingly reinforcing just how fun this awesome game is.
But now I’d like for it to stop.
And the thing is, I really don’t know how to make it stop.
I don’t always have time for a little hide-and-seek-slash-tag game before heading out the door. Yesterday we were running late and even though I was prepared for him to run away, it made me snap. I lost my temper and yelled, “DO YOU HEAR ME, OWEN? YOU CANNOT RUN AWAY FROM MOMMY WHEN I SAY IT’S TIME TO GO.” Shouting into a toddler’s face has to be one of the most humiliating things in the world. He grinned and laughed and his eyes sparkled with the realization that he had gotten a rise out of me. It wasn’t the way I hoped to react, or the way I usually do, but something snapped and I lost my cool. After yelling for a second I realized that a) this isn’t the emotional reaction I would like to teach him and b) it wasn’t doing any good.
Later that afternoon I prepared myself for the inevitable mad dash and I tried a new tactic. Waiting. I stood right at the door with his coat in hand and said, calmly and sweetly, “Owen. Come here please. It’s time to go. This is not a game. Please come put your coat on.” I could hear him giggling while hiding. After what felt like an eternity of me standing, silently, I heard his little footsteps coming back. As soon as he saw me waiting for him, he spun on his heels and ran away again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
After faking me out three times, he came over and happily put his coat on. I praised him for good listening and told him how happy it made me. Sounds good, right? But let’s be honest… I don’t always have 5 minutes to sit around and wait for him to come to me. Of course I want him to learn how to make the decision to come to me on his own, and while it works ok at home, I can’t let him dash away from me, out of my sight, in lots of situations.
For instance, he has started to play this game when we’re in our driveway and I say it’s time to get in the car too. He turns and runs away. And although we have a small front yard, and he doesn’t usually head for the street, he could. And that scares me. Since I know the game by now, I usually grab onto his hood or coat before saying, “Ok, let’s get in the car!” and then end up dragging/carrying him to the car. But again, that’s not really teaching him to not run away. It’s just teaching him that sometimes I am faster than he is. I want him to be in charge of his own body.
Any suggestions for curbing this behavior? Do you have a runaway? How do you “discipline” your toddler under 2 years old? We have not really instituted time outs or formal punishments. And I don’t really consider this something that need a time out; frankly, I think he’s just being 19 months old. He’s testing limits and seeing what happens and I totally get that. Behind my stern face, I think it’s kind of hilarious. But it does make getting out the door a bit of a challenge…