We always see behaviors at home that we want to correct or guide. What’s unfortunate is that it sometimes spills outside of the house. I am sure you have also experienced the hard parenting task of correcting your child in public. Although it is not fun, it is definitely necessary, and we can feel good that we are being consistent and diligent even when people are watching. After my own incidents of having my children fall apart in public, I have encouraged us all to get away from judging other moms. While we know other parents are probably more empathetic than anything, it still can feel embarrassing. I have a few tips that will help you parent in public.
Correcting a child in public can be challenging because often we are distracted by what is going on or conversations we might be having with other adults. It is hard to stop everything to try and deal with disobedience or unwanted behavior, but it is necessary. Here are some simple tips that I hope will help.
- Stay Consistent – You need to be consistent with your kids. Expectations don’t fly out the window because you are in public. Your children feel safe and loved when they have boundaries and know what to expect.
- Don’t Embarrass Your Child – When appropriate, remove a child from other peers or adults to correct behavior. Scolding and disciplining a child in front of others can feel unloving and embarrassing, only building a barrier between you and your child. It is fine to quickly correct in a loving way, but when it comes to more involved instruction, moving them away from others is a good approach.
- Find a Secret Symbol – Choose a secret symbol to share with your child that would help her recognize the behavior before it heads too far south. For example, maybe you have noticed an attitude problem with your child. Rather than needing to verbally correct, you could make eye contact and hold up two fingers at your side or touch your nose. I’ve done this in the past, and it works well. It is non-verbal so doesn’t feel like nagging.
- Don’t Let Your Child Dictate the Atmosphere – If your child is out of control and unwilling to behave, it is OK to remove them from the situation. I discuss the strategy more in my article, “How to Stop the Whining and Crying in Kids.” The main thought is to explain to your child that they need to get things under control and then they can return to the group. You’ll want to go back and read more on that technique because it is more involved.
- Stick to Your Guns – There are different parents out there with different styles. God blessed you with your children, and you get to make the decisions that best serve them and the unique way they were created. Other parents are going to do it differently and have different standard. Observe? Yes. Change? Maybe. It’s great to pick and choose from the mentors and peers in your life. However, don’t let embarrassment or peer pressure distract you from parenting your child the way know is right.
- Set Them Up for Success – Prepare them ahead of time is advice I have given in the past. You want to teach them what you expect before walking into public places. They know what you expect, so I tend to ask a lot of questions. “We’re headed into the bank. What do you think you should do while I’m standing in line? What should our voice level be?”
- Have a Way for Them to Be Able to Get Your Attention – When my kids want to interrupt, I have them either wait for an appropriate pause or we haves a non-verbal way to communicate. They put their hand on my leg to say that they want my attention. I respond by putting my hand on top of their hand. This indicates, “I know you need my attention, and I’ll get to you when it works out.” I then try and pause quickly so I can get to what they need. Setting up this kind of communication sets your child up for success so that you don’t need to discipline in public as much.
I hope these quick tips help you not only correct in public but also equip you so that you don’t need to do as much correction.