How to Get Your Kids to Stop Running Off

stop kids from running off

How to Stop Kids from Running Off

Kids have boundless amounts of energy and mine are no exception. As a mother of 3 kids I was constantly grabbing hands, cajoling, threatening and sometimes yelling- circumstance dependent- to keep my girls from running off or running too far ahead! Walking in Target, the grocery store, heading down the terminal in the airport, walking around the water park, at school drop off—you name it.

Let’s face it when you are outmanned and out of hands, we’ve got to be strategic, ya’ll!


stop kids from running off


What’s this magic strategy? Glad you asked!

Red light- Greenlight.

In case you are unfamiliar, Red light- Green light is a game where you have everyone line up at one spot and you yell, ‘green light’ and everyone moves forward. The caller then yells, ‘red light’ and everyone stops. The point is to see who can get to a certain point first following the prompts.

So—thinking strategically—I started by playing this game with my kids. A few times.


Test It Out

When I felt like they all got it, I decided to try it out at the airport when we were headed out of town for Spring Break.

I parked the car and then gave my kids a pep talk about what I expected and what we were going to do.

Bless their hearts, they were actually excited!

I grabbed my bag and got everyone out and we all made it inside to check in.

Moment of truth: we started off towards security.

“Greenlight.” The looked back at me with wide grins and off they went (to be clear they are only ever allowed to go at a fast walk —no running inside).

“Red light”—everyone lurched to a stop. I took the 4 steps to close the gap.

Greenlight”. I give them about 10 steps. “Red light”.  Again, they come to a screeching halt. All of them grinning back and forth between each other, like we’re all playing a huge game inside—like I’ve lost my mind. Ha!

Are we there yet?

Did anyone run off? Nope.

Did we all get there and have a little fun in the process, yep. 

This strategy has been my go-to for about 5 years now.

As my girls have gotten older, I don’t need to prep them anymore before we go in anywhere. I honestly don’t even need to tell them ‘green light’ anymore. This has just become normal for us. The girls know if I call out ‘red light’, they’ve gotten themselves too far ahead and they’ll stop and wait for me to catch up. 

It’s simple. It’s easy. And they respond to it.

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Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.