My 5 y.o. son went missing! About to call 911


Warrior Mom since 2007
My difficult child took off and we could not find him. I had the phone in my hand and was about to call 911!

He is allowed to ride his bike in front of our house and down into the cul-de-sac (which is only 1 house past our's). There is a kid up the street about 5 or 6 houses from our's that he recently started playing with (this is further than the cul-de-sac so he is not allowed to go there unless we know). Yesterday he played with him at his house and when it was time to leave the parents said he could come back over today. difficult child was up bright and early wanting to go over - but we made him wait until 10 am. When he went over the mom told him their son could play in 2 hours (12 noon) and they would come down to get him. So he cried and screamed and yelled for at least the first hour and then waited the rest of the time. Well about 12:20 no one had come down so HE LEFT without telling us. My husband went to their house and knocked twice, no answer. We were both freaking out. His bike was still outside our house. We searched the house for him and all over the neighborhood. Finally I walked down there in the pouring rain and rang the doorbell until he came to the door, and then the mother, and then the son. I told him he needed to come home right away that we were worried because he did not ask to go there and of course he flipped out and screamed and went limp so I couldn't haul his 52 lb body back home so I practically had to drag him by the arm. We had a long talk about safety, etc.

I need some ideas or suggestions for making this kind of thing sink in his head. I thought about even calling the non-emergency # of the police to see if they would come over and scare him into following our rules. Has anyone had any experience with this type of thing? I don't know what to do and it scared me to death.

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
Oh, my! What a scare!!

Travis got the brilliant idea to take my rent money out of my purse to "show off" to his classmates when he was in the 2nd grade. Fortunately teacher caught him and the several hundred dollars was taken for safe keeping to the Principal's office. They spent the day trying to reach me. husband and I were grocery shopping so didn't catch their call til about 1pm.

I was shocked and livid. I told principal I was going to pick both Travis and easy child up early, I had a surprise in store for him. I said nothing when husband and I picked him up. We simply drove straight to the police station. Travis confessed and started bawling as his complexion suddenly turned various shades of grey. I took him inside. The officer's according to prior notification and arranged by me, went thru a very convincing and rough mock arrest. They played it to the hilt, even putting him in an empty cell and locking the door. While locked in the cell the officers explained the seriousness of what he had done and what happens to people who steal, even kids.

Never had another incident like it again. :grin:

But I knew with him it had to be something with more impact than a normal type punishment to get the idea to stick and stay stuck.

If you call your police dept, chances are they'll find a way to help you get the lesson to stick. They are usually very cooperative.



Well-Known Member
I have been there done that in the l960's. Yes, it has been that long ago and I
can tell you from the bottom of my heart...I know your anxiety &
I know your pain AND I know that the police will not scare him!
My difficult child is over 40 years old least four years older than
you. She repeatedly did that exact same thing except usually it
was late in the day and sometimes :thumbsdown: my two PCs and I
couldn't find her for an hour.

What is the answer? The answer is not the police. The answer is
not corporal punishment. The answer is not throwing away your childs most favorite toy. The answer is not just praying. The
answer is not just medication.

Find the very very best qualified child psychiatrist and the very
very best qualified child psychologist and read, read, and read
some more. If you are very, very lucky you may be able to get
over this hump and move on to the next. difficult children like yours...and
like my now adult difficult child have no guarantees of safety or peace or
happiness. Get the best help you can, get on the same page with
your spouse and then pray. Many heartfelt hugs coming your way.
In the meantime...

Get a lock (that he cannot undo installed) on your doors PRONTO. We had to do that with my younger brother (the original difficult child) because at the age of 2, he would be wandering Harlem Ave in the middle of the night. My parents installed a lock that needed a key from the inside and the outside.


New Member
I'm with DDD. Be prepared to pray a lot. HUGS

Nothing worked for my daughter and she didn't just walk for a block but rather over a mile when she was 5 and 6. I never found a scare that worked. Her attitude was that she was safe so what was my problem. She is now 20 and her attitude is still that she is safe so what is my problem.


Well-Known Member
been there done that, 8 million, gazillion times!!!!

Basically, I had to hunt my son down and ground him nearly every day for 4 yrs until he "got it." He just thought I was a mean mom. Last yr it finally sank in. It was partly repetition and partly maturity.

The only times it really worked, that is, when he stayed put and stayed for the exact amt of time, were when I walked him to and from the house at exact times. Then I reminded him, AND THE PARENTS, that he could only be there X time, and could not go anywhere else. It meant that I was hypervigilant and didn't have more than an hr to myself, and sometimes not more than 10 min. to myself, because difficult child would go to a friend's house uninvited, and then skip on to the next house, and keep going until he found someone who would stay put. Arrgh! That's why it's so important to talk to the parents. Often, they are as clueless as the kids!

The sad part was, if he had told me and confirmed it, he would never had been grounded at all. That's the part he didn't "get."

Now, he calls from friends' houses, and he also leaves me a note in the kitchen. When he meets someone new, he knows I want to meet the parents and see the house first.

I would not call 911 unless it is a true emergency and you have a felon living in your area. with-our G'fg, it will only teach them that 911 isn't really an emergency, it's just a way to rein them in.


Warrior Mom since 2007
I thought about the lock from the inside but am concerned about fire safety. He has also climbed out of his bedroom window (1 story house) starting when he was 4 y.o. Again, not sure I want to nail windows shut in case of fire. ???


New Member
Before you do outside locks and nailing windows, call CPS (you don't have to give your name) to make sure it is okay. In some areas it is acceptable to protect a child from running. In others, the fire issue outweighs the safety issues.

I didn't nail the windows but I did add a stick to the top that she couldn't reach. Sadly, she decided that was no problem and promptly threw toys at her window until she found one that would break it (double pane no less).

The police quit looking for her when she "ran" when she was 10. As they explained it to me, she hid; they couldn't find her and she always came home.

The good thing about your son is that he went where expected. You might be able to convince him via conversations that he must let you know and only go when you say it is okay so that he won't be dragged home again. Something tells me that in his mind he did nothing wrong -- he'd been promised he could go over there, he'd waited until the appropriate time, he'd gotten there safely and was allowed in, so he did nothing wrong. Just ask him. You might also try the rule that he can't leave your yard without you accompanying him. Sometimes concrete and explicit rules work. They rarely did for me, but you don't know until you try with yours.
Another suggestion (could be costly but safer as far as the fire issue goes) is to have an alarm installed. We toyed with doing that for Copper, but she was old enough that, well, we just nailed her window shut. She was 17, not 5, and could get out if she HAD to. Anyways, we did look into an alarm, that whenever a door or window opened, an alarm went off. That would alert you and scare your son enough that he probably would not do it again.

I don't know if I would involve the police. JMHO, I kinda like the kids thinking that the cops are there for their protection. I would not want her afraid of them.


Well-Known Member
This happened with M when he was around that age. We looked and looked and finally I told husband "OMG, he's gone! We have to call the police now." I meant it. He came out from behind a half wall. He had been watching us and moving around in hiding the whole time.

Try alarms that go on the doors and windows. You can get them at Target or Home Depot or Walmart in a multipack.

I would call the police next time. Maybe he did run off and is hiding. But that doesn't mean that someone you don't want to won't find him.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Very scary! With all we've been through with-difficult child this is one area we have been lucky in-he always lets us know where he is. I'm glad he was o.k. Hugs.
I can't tell you how many times this happened with our difficult child. The first day of school he left his classroom and joined another class. They were frantically looking for him for half of the day, but they didn't tell us until several months later. He went through a period where he left school periodically and walked home by himself (the school was two blocks away). This was usually followed by my neighbor calling me at work and saying "difficult child is ok, but...". difficult child was quite the escape artist. In fact he had a trick of walking backwards out of a door while he was talking to you!

We bought the door alarms with our alarm system and they have proven to be worth their weight in gold (especially when easy child entered the teenage years :smile: ). We also utilized high indoor locks. None of this prevented him from getting terribly lost on a camping trip in the Smokies - or various other escapades that he undertook. Not to mention the number of times we have had rushing ambulance rides to the ER - the last time being the most serious.

I suggest you continue talking to him about how parents worry when their children go missing. This took years for us. He sounds very much like our difficult child - a risk taker. It's more of a personality trait than anything else.


Active Member
We had this problem with both boys. I guess because they were the only ones who started school locally - easy child transferred to the local school after two years in a school in the inner city, where the school was in maximum security mode, she never had the chance to leave without anyone knowing and by the time she transferred home, she knew better. And easy child 2/difficult child 2 never attended the local school (lucky girl).

At the local school the kids had to be collected by parents half an hour early, in their first term of Kindergarten (the first year of our elementary school). After that, he caught the bus to and from school or I took him to school. Then one day he wasn't on the bus - I was frantic. Then he walked in the door - said he had missed the bus and walked (it's not far). Then next day - same thing. Rang the school. I remembered he had been talking about another boy in class that was his friend, so I asked the school and they rang that friend's home and presto! He was there. The mother was upset because she thought difficult child 1 had permission, rang me immediately and I collected difficult child 1.
I gave him a solid talking to, telling him I worried when he wasn't home. I told him there was a routine to this - he needed to come home first, to put his bag away, take out any notes, take out his lunchbox, get changed into play clothes and THEN could go and play, providing I had a chance to set it up ahead of time with the other parent. He was just too young to be permitted to simply go visit, without letting me know first, and letting me make sure it was OK with the other family.

In your situation, to argue difficult child's case - he was told to wait until 12 pm. He did - waited even longer. He sounds like a very self-sufficient boy, he knew where he had to go (and he DID get there safely). He simply didn't understand he had to be escorted there. Plus, he was so desperate to play with his friend, he was fed up with waiting.
OK, this is not good, but in his mind he was being obedient and following the restrictions he had been given. The only restriction he didn't follow, was to let you accompany him (or friend's mother collect him). He did try, and he probably figured you'd know where he was, since it had been arranged.

Other parents are often more lax with their kids, when it's not a difficult child. We do tend to be much stricter, or more rigid, with difficult child kids (with good reason - I'm not being critical). So the other mother failing to turn up - she probably figured you'd bring him along, it was no big deal. But it's a HUGE deal for a kid, especially a difficult child.

difficult child 1 never strayed on the way home again, even in high school. We had taught the kids to always telephone home if they were delayed (which did happen in high school - our transport to high school included catching the boat, the kids often missed it).

difficult child 3 was a totally different problem - he strayed because he didn't know any better. He would wander, and not respond to his name being called. He wasn't being naughty, he just didn't understand. His language was so poor he didn't even know what names were, didn't know his own name, wouldn't respond when you said, "Go see Daddy, or easy child" - he didn't understand. So when he wandered, he could have gone anywhere. Many times we were searching the neighbourhood, only to come back home and find him happily playing under the table, hidden by the tablecloth. He had no idea we were concerned.

We didn't barricade the house - he could climb to ceiling height and get any key, his problem-solving skills were remarkable. So we built a childproof fence and tied the gates shut with rope. We left a sign on the gate explaining how to open it, also asking people to close it behind them. After that if difficult child 3 went missing we knew he had to be on the property somewhere.

By the time difficult child 3 started school, he had already had safety and routine drilled into him - I gave him written instructions on his afternoon routine, including that if he missed the school bus he was to go to the school office and ask them to ring me - to show them my note (he still was partly non-verbal).

I didn't ground difficult child 1 for failing to come home - he simply got it wrong, he wasn't being naughty. He thought it was his right to go visiting friends when they invited him - he had never encountered that problem before. I explained how it should be, and from that point on he tried to obey.
The fence worked well for difficult child 3. By the time he could escape it, he knew not to. It bought us time until his development could catch up enough for him to understand.

Anything we could have used to keep difficult child 3 in the house would also have been dangerous for us. The fence did it for us.

Hope this helps.



Well-Known Member
When my son was young, he used to walk outside IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT! We did the installation of a lock that was so high up I had to get on a chair to undo it. I also kept him with me at all times. I would try to get him evaluated soon so you know what you're dealing with, how capable he is of understanding, how probable it is that talking to him will work...etc. Not all kids "get it." My son didn't so we had to take drastic measures to keep him with us.


Active Member
That's it, MWM. It's like the difference I found at the age of 5 between difficult child 1 and difficult child 3.

And the flip side of this - if they 'get it' you don't need to punish, if you feel it was at least partly a misunderstanding; you just make darn sure he has no 'wiggle room' next time. And if he doesn't get it - then no punishment in the world will help.

The most appropriate punishment is exactly what you did - hauled his rear end home early from the play session, making enough of a scene in front of his friend and friend's mother, to make it clear you were displeased. That is probably worse than any other punishment you could add. Also, the sooner you let him visit again, doing things properly this time, the sooner he gets to practice the skills/manners etc you want him to use. Don't hang up the leash and lock him away; just keep the leash short and let it out slowly, under your strict control, as you think he is handling it.



call 911
Its time to thank GOD......and have that child taken to the police station for kid=print and photo ID. scared you must have been.


:angel:- Glad he's safe and sound!


Well-Known Member
he used to walk outside IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!

Wow. That's like living with-someone with-Alzheimer's.


Roll With It
Reminds me of my difficult child in 1st grade. He was invited to go to a friend's house (friend invited him during school). My hubby was home because I was sick. I got up and asked when were we to go get difficult child? husband said he would walk home. I freaked, totally and ocmpletely. husband had NO info on this kid's parents, where they lived, phone number, nothing!!!

And the kid lived ACROSS A 5 LANE ROAD!! difficult child was not allowed to cross it alone on the way to school, even at a crosswalk.

I did eventually find the phone number through a friend in the PTA, and we did get difficult child home safely (husband had to pick him up).

It really made me worry (about both of thier mental processing). At the afterschool care the kids were often outside in an unfenced area at the high school. The ladies in charge often were shorthanded, and the kids sometimes had no one looking out for them when they were outside. (We switched afterschool care as soon as possible.) It was entirely likely that my difficult child would walk off to the video store, possibly leading a group of little kids with him.

So sorry you had to go through this. I think the alarm is a great idea. We used them for quite a while.


When my daughter was 3, her father and I split and we moved into an apartment complex that had a playground in back. It was the middle of August and I have really bad allergies and so I was pretty miserable. I put her down for a nap and I waited until I was sure she was asleep and then I laid down for a nap. I don't know how long I had been asleep when I heard a woman's voice outside my window telling someone it was alright and they would find her momma. Of course, I sat right up in bed but "knew" it couldn't be my daughter, she was asleep in bed. I walked into her room and sure enough, she was gone. I ran out to the living room and saw our back door that led to the playground wide open. She had pulled a chair over and climbed up and unlocked the back door and gone out to play after I fell asleep. :smile:
I flung open our front door in time to see my 3 year old climbing up the steps with two strangers right behind her. Of course, she'd been crying and she had a poopy diaper and was carrying a little raggedy doll with her red hair stickin straight up. The man told me that he lived on the other side of the playground and she had knocked on his door asking him where her momma was. He ran up and got his friend, a lady, and they had gone around to each apartment complex (there were about 20 in a circle with- the playground in the middle) until they got to ours. I thanked them profusly while squeezing the heck out of my difficult child and shut the door. To this day I still have nightmares of what could have happened if that man hadn't been a good guy. We lived in low income housing and a lot of the people there were of questionable character.
Wait, it doesn't stop there! Two hours later that same day, I was on the phone with- a friend of mine relaying all the details to him, still shaking profusly. difficult child had gone into her room and I was in the living room. Next thing I know I hear a lady yelling "stay right there, honey!" I jumped up and ran to my daughter's room and saw the screen missing from her window. I threw the phone and ran out the back door to find my daughter lying on the ground below her window. She had apparently climbed into the window to watch the kids on the playground and the screen gave out and she fell from one story up. Thankfully she was okay, but if she had fallen just a few inches farther, she would've landed on the metal air conditioning box and things could've been a whole lot different! Obviously an angel was watching over her that day. :angel:
To this day, she can still recollect what happened and while we have some issues with her going a little further on her bike than she should or going outside when I tell her not to, she doesn't run off anymore. So far anyway.
I did have a friend whose two difficult children ran off every night for 4 nights in a row. On the last night they did this, they were gone for well over an hour and the police and a whole bunch of people were out looking for them. They finally came home and the police officer did give them a good talking to and so did the rest of us. We also placed new locks high up on the doors. However, that was two months ago and they have not ventured off like that again. My difficult child was with me when we went looking and she saw how scared we were and she and I talked about it after the kids were home and I thinked that helped reiterate to her how she bad it is when kids do that.
I think it depends on your difficult child on whether or not you get the police involved. Some kids it works with and some it doesn't. You definately don't want your difficult child too scared of the police, in case something should happen and they need to get help, but you also want them to be scared enough that they understand what would happen with breaking the law.
I think you did the right thing and I think that the other people are correct in informing the other parents of your situations so that they know what is going on. I also do believe that the best weapon is prayer. God bless you and I hope your son learned his lesson. :teacher:
OMG This sounds like my shanna. She does this often she has been doing this since she was 2. now she is 10. NOTHING has worked. Now though we are seeing a really good therepist so when she does something like this i simply ask her was it worth being grounded for and all you had to do was call me and tell me where you are. Still trying..... Now we have bigger problems with her behavior and yes I too have heard EVERYBODY'S suggestions on what they would do if she were thiers but of course, NOT ONE VOLUNTEER. So what do I do now that I and my Husband are at our wits end??? Been praying A LOT!!!! Hang in there though cause when you see that preciouse gift smile or her eyes sparkle or esp while she is SLEEPING..... you know that deep inside is a beautiful person trying to get out!!!