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Safety Misbehavior

Running Out of the House or Yard

  • The rule

    "Don't go outside," or "Don't leave your yard." Until age 3 or 4 most children can't be trusted to stay in their yards. They may wander off and may be harmed on a street or railroad track, or in a pond or swimming pool.

  • Discipline technique

    Structure your child's environment so that you do not have to supervise him or her to prevent this misbehavior. Lock the outside doors to keep children inside. Leave them outside alone only if you have a safe, fenced-in yard.

Running Away from the Parent When Walking

  • The rule

    "Stay on the sidewalk or path when you're walking with me," and "Hold my hand when we cross the street."

  • Discipline technique

    If your child starts to run off, catch him immediately. Make this a very serious matter and tell him sternly, "Never run off again." Don't let your child tease you about this, or allow running off to become a game. Say firmly, "That's not funny."

    • If your child repeats running off, routinely hold his hand when you go walking.
    • If this is unsuccessful, take a children's harness with you when you go walking. The harness can be put on if your child breaks the rule and taken off after approximately 5 minutes. If your child breaks the rule a second time, the harness can be put on for 10 minutes. Using a harness occasionally is harmless.
  • Praise

    Praise your child for staying close to you.

  • Model

    Cross streets carefully.

Playing With Electricity or Gas

  • Examples

    Chewing on electrical cords, playing with electrical outlets, turning the knobs on the stove.

  • The rule

    "Never touch that, because you can get hurt."

  • Discipline technique

    Give your child strong verbal disapproval. Don't let this behavior become something your child can tease you about. Also, put your child in time-out. Some of these hazards can be eliminated by using safety plugs or rerouting electrical cords. Since chewing on an electrical cord can cause severe burns to the mouth, you may wish to underscore your special concern about this behavior by slapping your child once on the hand.

Lighting Matches

  • The rule

    "Don't play with matches. They can start fires."

  • Discipline technique

    Remove all matches from your child's reach. Consider teaching your child how to use matches properly after age 8.

  • Model

    Use matches appropriately.

Climbing Trees

  • The rule

    "Don't climb trees, because you can fall out and get hurt." Reassure your child that he can climb trees after reaching an appropriate age, such as 6.

  • Discipline technique

    Time-out. To help your child through this phase, consider designating a safe place to practice climbing, such as on an old sofa or a jungle gym at the playground.

Unfastening Seat Belts in the Car

  • The rule

    "We don't drive unless everyone is buckled up."

  • Discipline technique

    Immediate time-out. Don't start the car until all passengers have buckled their seat belts. As soon as anyone unbuckles, pull your car off the road into a boring place, such as a parking lot. Read a book until your child puts the seat belt on. Children usually want to go somewhere rather than sit in the car.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for keeping his seat belt buckled.

  • Model

    Buckle yourself in.

Unsafe Bicycle Riding

  • The rule

    "Obey the bicycle safety rules."

  • Discipline technique

    Logical consequences of not being able to use the bike for 2 or 3 days.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for riding a bike safely.

  • Model

    Use your bicycle safely and wear your helmet.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-04
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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