Is it just us or is walking kids through a parking lot a general nightmare? And if you have more than one kid? Forget it. While parking near the shopping cart corral and immediately loading them in the cart can certainly help in some situations, often you’ll need to trust your little one to walk alongside you in a busy lot to get to Target, the grocery store, or daycare. This is tough for kids, especially when they’ve been trapped in a car seat for a while and all they want to do is run.

Parenting coach Mandy Grass recently shared some strategies for addressing the issue of kids running away in parking lots on Instagram. Threats don’t work particularly well in this situation, so Mandy recommends that you set the expectation of what’s going to happen and practice practice practice.

Here are Mandy’s tips for navigating parking lot runners:

  1. Tell your kids where they can run. This can look something like: “When we get to the park, we can run, but we always have to walk and hold hands when we’re crossing the street.” This lets kids know that the running is coming, and they just need to wait a bit.
  2. Give choices: “In the parking lot, your choices are to hold my hand or else mommy is going to have to pick you up.” If they start to run, you’ll say, “Okay, mommy is going to have to pick you up” and then follow through.
  3. Create opportunities to practice what to do in the parking lot. You would work on this skill when the danger level is low, like in an empty lot. Then when you are in a higher-risk situation, like a busy parking lot in the dark, your child will know what is expected.

As with any skill, the key to this is practice. The more you go over the steps with your child, the less they need the reminders.

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