My 4th Grader Keeps Trying To Run Away

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Jessicat, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. Jessicat

    Jessicat New Member

    Hi, I haven't been on here in awhile or very often but I'm hoping someone has some advice.

    My 9 year old (ADHD/ODD) has had a tough year at school, but that isn't new. This year, he has a very structured teacher and he is really making some progress but it has been a battle all the way. He is on medications (ritalin/concerta/clonodine) and we keep working on the dosages but seem to have the ADHD basically under control. That does nothing for the ODD and he is smart enough to find the loopholes in every system we set up for him.

    His driving force is video games, like most preteen kids, and we have set up a reward/consequence system set up for his school behavior. He was doing the minimum so we adjusted it to an average, making it harder for him to blow off an entire day. Unfortunately, after a week of success, he is now testing what will happen if he does nothing. He spent the entire day in the office, doing nothing. This means that he has to do the homework at home. Well, I couldn't even get him in the house. I was firm, and he punished me by "running away". He never left the yard across the street from my house but I couldn't get him to come in to take his pills. I have a younger son and some other children that I watch after school (they all do homework together, which seems to work pretty well usually), so I can hardly chase after him. Plus, running after him is exactly what he wanted me to do and doesn't seem to accomplish anything but teach him a new strategy to get me to do what he wants.

    I dealt with today by asking a teacher friend to come and intervene, he is talking with him now. I also set up appointments with both his psychiatrist and his therapist (who have little effect on my son, they are more of cheerleaders for my parenting). I don't want him to get in the habit of running away and using this as a tool but I don't know how to show him how good he really has it. He ran away last week, in the pouring rain and it was easy to get him back inside. He has also talked about running away often and has snuck out of his room during a time out in years past.

    I just don't know what to do. Any advice?
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I'm a little confused by your post. Can you explain the reward/consequence system a little more clearly? What does he need to do at school to earn what at home? And what happens if he doesn't do it at school?

    Thanks in advance for the clarification.
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    9 years old seems to be a little young to be playing such a dangerous game...and it IS a dangerous game.

    For an older child, I would say call the police and report a runaway. I am not sure that that is the wisest course of action for a 9 year old.

    What does his therapist/doctor say? Do they have any advice?

    I might also contact the police anyway--not by dialing 911, but by calling or stopping in to ask how they might handle such a situation. Perhaps an officer would even be willing to chat with your son for a few minutes about the dangers and consequences of running away.

    I might also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They have all kind of resources and might be able to point you in the right direction to get this under control in a hurry.

    Hope this helps!

  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I agree that nine is young to be running away. in my opinion that's not a pre-teen or even near one. Each year is huge at that age and he is still a child. It's not normal behavior and in my opinion probably wont' respond to normal parental discipline, such as taking away things he likes.

    Beside just disciplining him have you thought of having him re-evaluated? I would take him to a NeuroPsychologist. Many of us feel they are the best diagnosticians because they actually do intensive testing rather than just family observations, their own quickie observations, and perhaps the Connors, which almost all kids with disorders pass.

    How were his early milestones and does he know how to interact appropriately with his same age peers?

    Are there any psychiatric disorders or substance abuse on either side of his family tree (genetic family tree).
  5. idohope

    idohope Member

    been there done that and at the same age 3rd/4th grade. easy child 2 is much younger so I know the pull as to which one do you keep safe at that moment? You can not leave the younger one to go after the older one.

    Despite the experience, I dont know that I have much advice. My difficult child ran out of the house on numerous occasions, staying on our street or in neighbors yards.

    As with many difficult child issues, husband and I were at odds at how to handle it. I felt it was important to give the message that is not acceptable and that if difficult child did not have permission to leave the house she absolutely could not leave the house. husband felt that if difficult child was older and was really going somewhere this would be more of a safety issue but that now if she was just in the neighbors yard it was not a big deal.

    therapist's advice was to call the police when difficult child ran off. We did not ever do that but I did discuss it with difficult child. I was clear that if she ran off or left our property without permission that I was calling the police. This was not a bluff or a threat. I would have done it had she run off our property again. She did run out at least once after than but stayed within the bounds of our property.

    This was happening at a time that difficult child was pretty unstable, in that she was melting down almost everyday for several months. For the safety (and sanity) of the whole family we also backed off on expectations during that time. Room cleaning, hygiene, homework all off the table. We focused on a single issue (getting her to school in the morning) and then built up from that over time as things improved. For us imposing consequences became such a difficult and dangerous thing that we were really selective about what would be consequenced. This was very difficult at times as we all felt (especially easy child 1) that difficult child "got away" with so much. But if imposing a consequence resulted in such an escalation and behavior (yelling, screaming, hitting, running off) that was worse than the initial problem (not doing HW) then it really wasn't working. But this balance continues to be a hard issue.

    She has not run off in about a year now. But I remember how hard it was and I hope that you find a way to put a stop to it with your difficult child.
  6. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Hi there,

    So you have a very stubborn 9 year old who thinks he'd like to play the waiting game and has figured out that if he waits, and waits - in his mind he wins the game? I have his brother here - he's 19 now, almost 20 years old. If I would have put him in a basket and sent him to Hades - the child and the basket would have come back as quick as I sent it with a note attached saying - No thanks, don't need a replacement. Yes, it was that bad.

    First off, welcome to the family. Us here. We're pretty good and old, and not much phases us. Next I guess I'd have to ask you what is wrong with having a therapeutic cheerleader in your corner once a week saying "GOoooo Mom!?"
    Do you know without that for me and my fiance we wouldn't have a family, or a house or a child that's anywhere near functional? When I am asked what has been the most beneficial thing I ever had to help us as parents? I answer: This support board, learning that each child can't be parented the same no matter HOW badly I think they can, and that I really DO need a good :censored2:ing buddy once a week to blow off steam and discuss strategies on parenting. I'm not a God, I'm not perfect, I'm human, I yell, I cry, I say things I don't mean, I want to do better, I wasn't born with an innate ability to parent like a pro.....I want to educate myself to be the best person I can be for this little person in my house that just doesn't fit into any category I've ever known before - and neither has anyone else. It's like NO ONE knows what to do with him.

    Therefore...stop thinking he's normal and get over the fact that you don't know how to parent him. DO seek out resources to learn HOW to effectively communicate with him. There's a whole entirely different way to speak to them that CAN get through to him and it WILL won't be won't make things under your roof 100% - it won't make him normal like all the other kids at school. You won't get a prize (Oh you should but you'll settle for 2 out of 7 days of peace as opposed to 16 bad days in a row). And you'll figure that out by finding a trusted (TRUSTED) therapist to work with. Go twice a week if you have to. WE hour for him once a week and then 1 hour just for us and 1 hour for the family. 45 miles one way - for 3 hours for 6 years. (on and off between Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s)

    The other thing you have to do is GIVE YOURSELVES a break.....FROM EACH OTHER!!!!!! RESPITE care....WEEKENDS.....ACTIVITIES where you aren't WITH him. WORKS WONDERS....we used to use our family therapy as a date night. It was all we had - we have no family and no friends here.

    As to the running away? nine huh? Dude used to run away like that too. at 16 he took it seriously and we called the police. First time he did it? We drove around and worried, looked for him....the 2nd time? We just made the reports and sat home. THAT freaked him out. The police found him, brought him home, chewed him out. But he was 16, then. At nine? I did exactly like Daisy told you to do. I stopped by the police station and told them what he was pulling. They told me if he ran away to call them. They'd go get him. I did this with him there. The officer asked him WHY he wanted to run away. Of course he told him because he hated ME. Always doing things like WORKING, spending time on other things. He was essentially jealous. So one day a week? We had ME and HIM day. JUST me and him. McDonalds, the park, Shopping...and if he had good behavior? A toy. You said you have other kids? Maybe he's trying to get Mom and me time too? Hard to say.

    With respect to waiting you out? his game. If he wants to sit in the lot across the street? Let him. He's trying to evoke sympathy. Keep an eye on him, but don't let him know you are. If he wants to sleep over there? Walk over and say .."Gonna get cold, sure you don't want to come in the house, you're always welcome in your home." If he runs away? Do what the officers told you to do. (probably call them) They'll more than likely look for him and bring him home. If he continues to waste their time? Then they will get stern with him, and if he gets out of control? Well then he's going to head to Department of Juvenile Justice. However......

    Sounds to me, like he needs a big brother at this point. Someone that just takes up time with him....and ONLY him. Makes HIM feel like there is no one in the world BUT him. No little brother, sister...and if he's having trouble in school like this? You CAN get the School District to PAY FOR...a shadow for him in school. That's a free classroom aid JUST FOR YOUR SON. You have to have an IEP. (does he have one of those?)'re going to get educated here which is the best defense on being a warrior Mom you can have. We're here to help and support, and to make you laugh a little if we can.

    I hope you come back -
  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome.

    My son did a bit of that. He never went very far, just walked into the woods on our property, where I couldn't see him.

    At any rate, I learned to ignore it. I learned that he was afraid to approach strangers (amen!) and that he just needed time to cool off. Sometimes it took an hr or 2, which seemed like weeks to me.

    I'm trying to remember what we did when he got home ... I think we took away his video games, even back then. :)

    Another thing I did was strip his room (on our psychiatric's advice. It's in a lot of books, too.) I learned never to do it in front of him because he would have a violent meltdown. So I used the time he was away to take things and store them.

    One thing I learned NOT to do was to scream at him when he finally came home. I ignored him. It worked much better.

    I also remember using "reverse psychology" and was chastised on the board here for locking the door so he couldn't get back in. Apparently it's against the law, but all I can say is, it worked, because my son is so contrary, he will do anything that is the opposite of what I want him to do. :) ;)

    It''s going to be a lot harder for you, because you have all those other kids to deal with, but at least you can know he's safe, since, at this point, he's not really going anywhere.

    I agree with-Star, just let him stay put. Don't play his game.

    Once he gets home, even though it's late, will he finally take his pills?