When Your Kids Misbehave in Public

“I can’t go anywhere lately with my kids. Someone is always throwing a tantrum or acting out – help!”  

This is the message that I received in my inbox yesterday. To be honest, I could have written it myself a few years ago.  

So what do you do when your kids misbehave in public? It happens to all of us and truly tests our patience.

When Your Kids Misbehave in Public

When Your Kids Misbehave in Public

Prepare Before You Leave

Preparation is the key to many things in life, but when it comes to kids, it’s crucial! If you can plan ahead, you can prevent some of the triggers of bad behavior in kids, paying attention to their nap schedule, making sure they aren’t bored, overtired, hungry, or thirsty, etc. can go a long way!

Role play at home, showing what it looks like to behave properly in public. Pretend you are at the store, and model how to act. Also, remember that they are always watching your behavior for their own social cues!

Take short outings at first. Running to the store to get one item, or heading to the park for a short time, then build them up to longer outings.

Give reminders of expectations as you approach the outing. We would talk about expectations in the car on the way to a store. Then once at the parking lot, we would repeat the expectations.

Don’t bribe your kids to be good, because that can lead to a tough cycle. However, you could set up a sticker chart where they are rewarded a sticker when positive behavior is seen. This can help you to cheer on the positive.

Bring snacks! Every time we went to the store when my kids were younger, I had little baggies of pretzels for them in my bag, just in case.

What to Do When Your Kids Misbehave in Public

What To Do When You’re Out and About

First thing’s first… remember that if your child misbehaves in public, it isn’t something that is just happening to you. Even if it might feel like you’re the center of attention when your child acts out in the store, that’s not the case. Everyone around you has either gone through this or will go through this at some point. Take a deep breath, and check out these ideas.

Depending on the age, you could give them little tasks to do during the errands. Look for the bananas, spot the diapers, etc. It will keep them stimulated and learning, plus, it’s fun to help!

Don’t let it go just because you are out, or it may happen again.  If you give a time out at home, give a time out right there in the store. If you take away electronics at home, take away the phone in the store. It is SO hard the first time,but it pays off!

Set boundaries and be consistent. If you want your child to sit in the cart, keep them in the cart. When you are constantly changing your mind it can be confusing.

Give freedom as it is able to be handled. For example, my daughter would run away from me in the parking lot, so she had to hold my hand. When she was able to walk by my side, she could let go of hand, but if she ran again, back to holding my hand.

It may be a season to do less. There was a season where my youngest would scream every single storytime. So we stopped going for a while. Now we can go and she is fine. Sometimes, it is not worth the battle if they’re going to misbehave in public.

What To Do When Your Child Misbehaves in Public

Leave a comment: What tips would you add to the list?


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