Help, My Child Won’t Walk – Stuck in a Stroller

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Dear Sharon,

My son is five and he still wants to be pushed in a stroller. We want him to walk and try to leave it at home but he throws a tantrum if we try. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can move him on to the next level? I would get rid of it completely but I’m actually pregnant now and we will need it for the next one.

Almost every parent finds a time when it is challenging to move their child “on to the next level.” It can be done but usually requires some planning, patience and perseverance from mom or dad.

Whenever a child is “stuck” it often works for parents to take a deep breath and come up with a plan. Picking a few days that could be free of other tasks and priorities and when mom or dad could take some time to tackle the problem can be an effective approach. Doing so can help parents from being thrown off course by the usual array of everyday distractions.

When guiding a child through a transition it can also be useful to take one step at a time. Parents I know in your position, there are many of them, have begun by explaining that the stroller will be put away on a specific day in the not too distant future. (This statement doesn’t work unless mom or dad really mean it.) Before the date arrives some parents have begun by walking short distances without the stroller. They have also taken a scooter or other riding toy, making the excursion more fun and manageable. Others have picked a rewarding destination like a playground or store where they have bought their child a special treat as a recognition of their accomplishment and cooperation. This step rewards and motivates a child to choose the experience instead of just doing what he has to, often a difficult starting place. When the short walk is complete children are of course praised for their efforts.

On each day in the practice period many moms or dads have gradually gone on longer walks with perhaps an even more rewarding destination or token reward. Many have also played games with their child while walking. Having fun along the way can make what could seem like a tedious experience for a young one into a positive one for everyone Sometimes I suggest having “races to the corner” letting the child win. Children who are reluctant to walk will sometimes happily run especially if they are competing and hoping to beat their mom or day – often a particularly enjoyable thing to do.

Of course if a child is resistant to an idea, even if it is a good one, he or she often gets upset, sometimes with a tantrum. If parents can remember that an outburst is a real possibility they are more likely to find a successful response. If parents can manage to stay calm, clear and determined then the child is much more likely to follow their lead. An upset and distraught parent is usually a much less effective one.

Once a child is using the stroller less frequently progress can breed more success. When the day arrives when mom or dad had promised to put away the stroller it still might be hard but everyone is more prepared to “move on to the next level” with understanding and hopefully pride.