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How to Get Toddler to Hold Hands While Crossing Street

Updated on October 15, 2013

The Problem: Toddler Won't Hold Hands

My toddler started refusing to hold my hand soon after she begun walking independently. This is really a non-issue at home, where we have a fenced in backyard for free-roaming, but anywhere else it is a problem.

Turns out that this is a pretty common issue with young children who are trying to establish independence. If I tried to hold my toddler's hand while walking, she would either drop to the ground or try dangling on one arm while screaming, of course.

The short solution was to carry her, still screaming across the parking lot to our destination. Initially, I though that she would grow out of it after a few months. However, since the situation was not ideal, I began to look for a solution.

Solution 1: Make Holding Hands a Rule

This really isn't a solution; it's simply laying down the law. I started by getting down eye level with my daughter and telling her that if she wanted to walk, then she must hold my hand or she would be carried.

After that, it's really just the follow through and consistency. I simply remind my daughter of this rule before I get her out of the car-seat or stroller. I find that this method works about half of the time after age two.

Young Toddler Learning How to Walk

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Toddler Holding Hands

Holding the outermost hand has worked for me.  My arm is actually a little high in this photo.
Holding the outermost hand has worked for me. My arm is actually a little high in this photo. | Source

Solution 2: Hold the Hand That is Furthest Away

This is the solution that I found the most effective for crossing parking lots or streets, and it is so easy. I simply hold the hand that is furthest away from my body. So, if my daughter is walking on my right side, I hold her right hand and vice versa.

I have a few theories on why this works. First, I think that I subconsciously walk faster in situations that I perceive as potentially dangerous. How fast? Not that much really, for me, but enough that little feet could have trouble keeping up with me. Since I am holding my daughter's outermost hand, she can grab on to my pants with her other hand if I am walking too fast.

Being able to grab on to my pants gives my daughter the ability to keep her balance. It also alerts me to the fact that I am moving to fast, so I can slow my pace a bit for her to catch up. It may even make her feel a little more secure and confident?

This position also limits the amount of force that she can exert on my hand to break free. Of course, she can still attempt the classic sit-down, but this method effectively limits her ability to stretch way out and form a sort of awkward triangle with my body.

Toddler Holding Parent's Hand

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Practice and Positive Reinforcement

To reinforce the idea of hand holding, I practiced the concept at home and in safe spots, like the park or at the mall(when I wasn't shopping). While guiding a toddler, it is also important to tell her how good she is doing. Sometimes, just repeating the phrase 'hold hands' while walking is quite effective.

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