Do you ever feel apprehensive to go into public with your kids?  Are you nervous they’re going to misbehave at the store or during a play date?  I have been there.  That’s why we’re talking to Child & Family Studies major AND mom of six, Laura Tesch today. 

Laura has had a lot of experience being in public with misbehaving kids.  She’s also learned a lot over the years.  Here are her favorite tips and tricks!



Laura Tesch

Parent the same no matter where you are

I know that this is one of the most difficult things to do. When you’re in public and your child starts throwing a tantrum your gut reaction can be…
“Oh my goodness! Please no tantrum today, please.  I’ll give you whatever you want if you’ll just stop screaming!”

I’ve been there thousands of times.  However, it’s important to show your child that you’re going to parent the same no matter where you are.

Embrace the Embarrassment

One of the biggest struggles that parents have in feeling embarrassed if their child’s throwing a fit.  This embarrassment may cause a parent to give into a fit. Just know that you are going to be embarrassed and it’s OK, but you have to be consistent.

You have to let them tantrum sometimes.  It’s more important to be consistent than to not be embarrassed. Everyone should know that a child tantrums from time to time. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. That’s just how your child is trying to show what they want. That’s how they can talk to you. That’s how they react.

Make a Plan BEFORE You Leave the House

Before you ever go into public, plan and prepare. There’s some questions you can ask yourself to make things easier.  Here’s just a few:

  • Is my child hungry?
  • Is my child tired?
  • Is this really the best time to go out?
  • When would be a time we could go that would work best for my child?
  • Do I have snacks or activities for my child?
  • Have I taught my child what the rules and expectations are for the place we are going?
  • Have I been clear with my child about what consequences will occur if they choose to break a rule?

Use Some Creativity to Make the Outing Fun

You can make outings fun. You can make them a game.

My sister, has a little rope that she clips on to her cart. The rule is that everyone has to hold onto the rope. Whoever holds on the longest, will get a surprise when they get back to the car.

I’m at the stage where I have teenagers, so I’m teaching them how to buy different things.  We’ll have a “find the best price” game. I actually wish I would have started this game when my kids were younger.

Some other ideas:

  • Get your kids to help you pick produce
  • Give your kids coins to sort or count
  • Bring activities for them

My husband worked full time. I had to go into public with six kids.  I had to come up with fun ways to get them to behave while we were out.  It took some work, but it paid off in the end.

Be Clear With Your Kids About Rules And Consequences

I touched on this a little in the “Plan Before You Leave” section, but it’s important enough that I wanted to go into more detail.

We sometimes make the assumption that our kids are clear on what behavior is or isn’t OK when we’re in public.  We need to assume they DON’T know and take some time to get really clear with them.

Have a little meeting to discuss how you feel about going into public with them.  Have them help make rules for behavior when you’re in public.  Let them know what the consequence will be for breaking the rules.  Then role play.  Make believe that you’re in public.  You be the kid and they be the parent.  You pretend to misbehave in public and have them pretend to give you the consequence.

Role playing is a really fun way to help your kids know what is expected and what will happen when they break the rules.

If you have toddlers who can’t talk, a family meeting won’t help.  What will help is your consistent response to misbehavior.  A toddler can quickly learn that certain behaviors get certain responses.  Let your actions teach your child how to behave in public.

How to Follow Through When They Do Break a Rule

First, don’t embarrass your child in front of people. They’re embarrassing themselves. Try to remember that you’re child is just expressing themselves (and you’re still in the process of teaching them how to do it in a better way).

Yelling at your child is not going to make the situation better.  Shaming your child, especially publicly can have a really negative effect on their self-worth.

You can move to an area where there’s not a lot of people and do a time out.  Or you can let the child know what the consequence is.  You can also leave your cart at customer service and take a break in the car.  When you’re at a friend’s house, you can find a room with no one in it or go outside.

If you’re wondering what to say try something like this:

“ I’m so sorry that you have not followed the rule. You know what the consequence is and this is what we’re going to have to do.”

Then be as warm and loving towards them as you can. SOOOOO much harder said than done, but try your hardest.

Second, do be firm in your response to the behavior.  You can be LOVING and FIRM. Your child needs to learn what is acceptable public behavior.

Through the years I learned how important it is that the child knows that I will be firm with negative behavior when we’re not at home.  If you truly want to have your kids behave better when you’re in public you need to be firm, clear, and consistent.

I do want to be honest, when my kids were young I almost threw up my hands. I thought “This is never, ever going to work!”  But let me tell you what it is like now.

In the store the other day my eight-year-old broke a rule. So I said, “OK, you need a timeout.” I watched my eight-year-old just take her time out and go through the steps of resolution.  Years ago, she never would have done that. She would’ve thrown a fit the rest of the outing.  Teaching your kids to behave well in public takes time, but it really is worth the effort.

Happy Parenting!


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