Every parent of a toddler knows that toddlers take off running in an instant - but they usually stop by age 2.5. It's a lot more uncommon when your second grader repeatedly attempts to run off the school campus. For a week, that's what my son started doing and because of the safety concerns and disruption caused, the school and our family needed to take swift action.
At first, we thought it was a plea for attention and normal (for him) limit pushing. As the Head of School and I brainstormed, she urged me to think about what might be driving the behavior because children behave for a reason - and as parents, we have to understand the reason in order to modify the behavior.
Attention? Upon reflection, he got a lot of Daddy attention that week - although I was out of town.
Running away - the action led me to wonder what he was trying to escape. He likes school and he's good at it. But he was definitely trying to escape. By partnering with the school to provide us with information about what preceded the escape attempt, we realized that his escape attemps were actually a really good thing.
For the first 7 years of his life, when my son did something wrong, he immediately would try to deflect responsibility onto someone else. And now, he was running when he did something accidental or intentional and did not want to face the consequences. This is an improvement - he's more conscious that something happened, he's responsible and there are consequences.
In a private conversation while driving, he and I talked about avoiding consequences. We talked about how we all make mistakes and sometimes do the wrong thing. We talked about how owning your mistakes helps us learn. We talked about how avoiding the consequences only makes the consequences worse. And so I told my seven year old that when he does something wrong, he must stand and take his punishment "like a man". Perhaps I will tell my daughter to take it "like a woman" - but he got it. He felt he could demonstrate bravery and leadership by facing the consequences of his choices.
Escape attempts since that talk - zero. He is telling himself to "take it like a man" and facing consequences. And he's learning that he can handle the consequences.