manage behavior in public places

Avoiding going out with your kids?

Dr Shelley Hyman

Avoiding going out with your kids? 4 tips to manage behaviour in public places

Our society we live in today has a challenging and critical attitude toward parents and young children. Many assume criticizing and using harsh words is the answer for a child who is “misbehaving”.

No parents really want to act like rivals towards the child they love. Most of the times, parents act this way when they can’t come up with a solution, when they feel very distressed or when they dread the disapproval of others.

When children’s emotions become overwhelming they find it difficult to self-regulate. During this state, they can’t think and are displeased with the parent’s efforts to give them what they desire. The smallest matter carries them to tears or tantrums. Parents need to show support and patience in order for the children to bring their emotions to a control.

The four step “think aloud – think ahead” procedure provides an effective approach for predicting and diminishing public misbehavior in children. By implementing these four simple steps you may find managing children in public places to be a piece of cake.

(1) Set some ground rules

Three or four rules should be created before entering any public place and should be obeyed by the child. The child is to repeat these rules verbally before proceeding to the next step. Take for example, before entering a supermarket the parent tells the young child that the rules are to ‘stand close, don’t touch, and don’t scream!’ The child is then asked to repeat these rules to the parent. If the child doesn’t remember them properly, the parent reaffirms them and has the child restate them again. Other rules can be interchanged to suit the appropriate situation such as a restaurant, church or the home of others.

(2) Reward for compliance

For some children, more compelling reinforcement methods must be utilised. Sometimes praise is just not enough!

One helpful incentive is applying a token or point approach. This concept is very comparable to the financial system on which our society use except turned down a notch. For young children, tokens can be created and for older children, points can be recorded in a notebook. Children can receive tokens or points for obedience and trade their earnings for a selection of incentives.

This method uses a more orderly and fair approach to managing children’s behaviour in public. This convenient reward system can result in greater developments in compliance and can often achieve past what simply praising could complete.

Young children who have not quite yet grasped the concept of symbolic reinforces, the parent can pack a small bag of snack treats for use as an incentive. Regardless which approach of reward is chosen; it is clarified to the child before entering the public place.

(3) Form a disciplinary response for being naughty

Parents are now to discuss with the child what method of punishment they will exercise if the child disobeys or breaks any of the rules set in step one. Depending on how severe the misbehavior is, the penalty should be the time out routine applied at home or the elimination of tokens and points. Alternatives to time out in a public place could be taking the child to the car and have him or her sit on the floor of the back seat of the car as the parent remains in the front seat.

Another option is to place a light cross with a pen on the back of the child’s hand for each rule breakage in the public place. This creates an immediate sense of punishment, whilst not actually having to initiate it at this time. This method requires the child serves a minimum sentence in time out for each cross marked once the family returns home from that trip. No matter which approach is used, the parent needs clearly explain this to the child before entering the public place.

(4) Assign the child duties to perform

Managing children in public places can be easier if the parent plans an activity and assigns it to the child to perform during the outing. For instance, in a supermarket the parent could ask the child to help find certain items or to carry items throughout the trip.

It could also involve checking items off a shopping list as they are collected or pushing the shopping cart. It may be valuable to even ask what the child could do to help the parent on the trip. Planned activities for the child to perform has presented significantly to decrease misbehavior which is likely to occur when the child is in situations with nothing to do.

Parents should not be afraid or dread taking their children out to public places. So next time a trip to visit a grocery store, the home of others or a restaurant is made, give this method a go. These strategies will help parents to think aloud and think ahead so managing temper tantrums can get a whole lot easier.

By Vanessa Chau

Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.