When your child stomps, screams, or throws his body onto the floor you may attract an audience. When this happens you feel as if your hands are tied. The first time your child acted this way in public, you were probably caught off guard. In your embarrassment, you did everything you could to stop the behavior. If you had looked closely, you would have seen a little twinkle appear in your child’s eye as he realized he discovered a new way to get what he wants. In order to get back on track, try the following tips.
1. Prepare In Advance: Use a preventive approach by reviewing desired behavior prior to entering a public building. “Dovid, we’re going into the toy store now. We are going to buy a birthday gift for Suri. We are not buying anything for ourselves today. If you see something you like, let me know, and I’ll put it on your wish list.”
2. Be Reasonable: While you may be concentrating on your tasks, your child has been shoved in and out of his car seat and ushered from place to place enduring endless hours looking at grown up knees. You may be able to prevent public misbehavior by bringing along a toy or snack to keep your child occupied. Also, get him involved by having him select groceries, find the shoe store or any other “busy work. The positive attention and focused activity will keep him happy and busy.
3. Get Out Of Dodge: When the bad behavior starts, put your face next to your child’s ear and announce, “Stop now or we go out to the car.” If he does not stop, pick him up or lead him to the car. Sit him in the back seat while you sit in the front seat and pointedly ignore him for a few moments until he has calmed down. An alternative to the car is to find a secluded bench or quiet corner. If he does not stop quickly and you can change your schedule, go home. The extra time it takes to do this once or twice will establish great credibility and can save you from many painful hours in the future.
4. Teach Your Child: If public misbehavior is a regular occurrence, plan a training session. Go to the grocery store. Buy a few items and put a nice assortment of your child’s favorite goodies in the cart (potato chips, ice cream, and cookies). Walk around until your child displays the expected misbehavior. Walk the cart over to the register and announce to the child that you will have to leave the store and go home because your child is misbehaving. Your child will most likely comment on the loss of the goodies. Simply say, “Oh well, some other time. Maybe next time when you will behave.” Expect great, loud unhappiness, but long-term value!
5. If All Else Fails: After an unpleasant experience, plan an outing and leave your child at home with a babysitter. Explain that the tantrum he had the day before is the reason why he is staying home. Expect crying, screaming, and pleading, but be firm. Doing this once has an impact that lasts a long time.