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Managing Your Child’s Behavior in Public


Managing Your Child's Behavior in Public

Elizabeth Nelson, M.S., LMHP
​Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health

When it comes to public behavior, prevention is your key strategy.

You want to make sure that you're setting up your child for success in the public setting.

At home you're working on some of the same behaviors that you expect from them in public. If you tolerate a loud, yelling voice at home, then it's not reasonable to expect your child to be quiet out in public.

You want to promote and talk about an inside voice at home. You also want to talk about and promote not touching things that don't belong to you. You can begin to introduce those concepts at home so when you go out in public it's not a new concept to your child.

Before you enter any public location, review the rules with your child.

For two and three-year-olds, you want to be brief, hold my hand, inside voice, and don't touch.

Whenever possible try to state things in a positive way. Keep your hands to yourself, hold my hand and stay next to me, some reasonable expectations for how they should behave in the setting and then immediately upon entering that situation, begin praising your child.

Nice job staying next to me, you're doing a great job using your inside voice, or thanks for keeping your hands and feet to yourself. You want to be doing that on a very frequent basis.

How should parents handle a public tantrum?

When you're in public and an outburst happens, you have a couple of choices.

One is to go to a quiet location in the store or the restaurant, or wherever you are, and let that outburst run its course.

If you feel really uncomfortable remaining in the store, or the restaurant, or at church, wherever you're at, then you can leave and go to your car and let the outburst run its course in the car.

I think it's important to return back to the location so the child doesn't learn if I get upset and have an outburst, we can end this thing that I don't like doing.

I think it's important to return but sometimes we can't, we don't have time and that's ok.

If you're in public and everyone is staring at you, know that some of them are also parents, who are sympathetic and have been through this themselves. They may have a different idea on how to handle it but you're doing what is best for your child.

Also know that some people aren't parents and they have no idea what you're up against. As long as you feel comfortable about the way you're handling it, and you know what's best for your child, you don't need to be concerned about what other people are thinking.

You just need to do what's in your best interest and your child's best interest in that moment.​​​

​​Public tantrums can be very stressful and frustrating for parents. Elizabeth Nelson M.S, LMHP, Staff Therapist at Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health, offers tips, strategies and techniques to manage your child's behavior in public.​​​