Are your kids always on their best behavior in public? Do you wish they were? Public places can sometimes bring out bad behavior even in normally well-behaved kids. Check out these tips to make sure that when your child goes out and about, they’re on their best behavior.
Preparation begins at home. If you don’t set high standards for kids’ behavior at home, they won’t know how to behave outside. As children grow older, and places like skating rinks, shopping malls, restaurants, and the movies become age-appropriate for them, start thinking about how you can prepare your child to transfer good behavior tendencies at home to good behavior in public. Point out positive things they do – like saying “please” and “thank you” – and tell them that in places like a restaurant they should do that stuff as much as they can. Any little way you can prepare them goes a long way. Next time you’re peacefully watching TV with your young child, try this line: “When we go to the movies together, I hope you can be as quiet as you are tonight.”
If you know you have an outing planned that might be a challenge for your child – like a fancy restaurant or a holiday party – take steps to prepare your child beforehand. Give them a little synopsis of what you think will happen at any given event – “the bride and groom will kiss, then we’ll hear some speeches, then we can dance” – just so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Explain that fun outings are a privilege that’s only earned by good behavior – and be specific about defining exactly what “good behavior” means to you.
Despite preparation and coaching on your part, it’s still possible your child will have a meltdown in public. Instances of bad behavior or tantrums flare up more frequently outside the home for many reasons; most often, it’s an instance of kids testing the boundaries. If your child starts throwing a tantrum in public, take some deep breaths. Remain calm and don’t argue with your child, because if you lose your cool, it can make their tantrum worse. Next, drop whatever you’re doing with your child and get them to an appropriate timeout zone. A public timeout can be a little different than a timeout at home, but try to select a quiet area to wait with your child until they’re calmed down and ready to behave. If timeouts don’t seem to work for your child, try other activities that calm them down. If a favorite toy or game seems to have a soothing effect on them, make sure you keep that item close at hand.
For a period of your child’s development, every trip outside the house will be a learning experience for them: how not to bump into strangers; how to deal with a world of unfamiliar faces and objects; how to react when other people around them prevent them from getting their way. It can be a lot for some kids to handle, so be patient. Make sure you note improvement in your child’s behavior, and reward them with praise – and the promise of more public outings – if they keep up the good behavior.
As kids get older and begin to go out on their own, they’ll apply what you taught them about good behavior, and see that things are a lot easier for them when they’re respectful of a certain behavioral code in public. It may not happen immediately, but someday they’ll thank you for showing them how to behave.