Misbehaving in public!

February 12th, 2013 posted by Family Corner Staff

Photo Copyright Amanda Formaro/The Family Corner.com 1998, 1999, 2000


“My 3 year old daughter has recently started misbehaving in public. I hate to spank her in the middle of a store, but how can I make her behave?”

~ Robin

Answers from our members:

Amy wrote:

A couple of years ago my daughter was 3 and would be just awful when we went to the store. She would run away from me and I wanted to beat her right there where we stood. Well I decided to get some counselling and the advice I recieved was great. The best advice for me was that I needed to inform her what my expectations were–before we entered the store…and what the conequences were if she didn’t comply. Well the most important part is that I needed to let my daughter be successful so that when we left the store I could praise her. So at first we would go in to the Target and pick out a couple of items and stay only about 5 minutes or so. After that we would go to the car and all the way to the car I would praise her for her behavior/ Stuff like ” I knew you could do it” Then when we got home we would put a sticker on a chart to reward her. It was easy to see in just a few short trips to the store how much she wanted to please me. And how much the kind words meant to her. In time I was able to lengthen the time spent in the stores. Each time we went though I made sure to remind her of my expectations.

Nancy Steinkoenig wrote:

When my youngest daughter was three, she started hiding in the hanging clothes and generally making a nuisance of herself. I started leaving immediately, getting in the car, and going home. When I went out again shopping, she asked to go, and I told her she was too little and had to stay home, because of of the way she acted. I did not take her shopping with me again for two weeks. She again misbehaved, and I again refused to take her out with me shopping for quite awhile, explaining every time that she was too little. She finally realized that bad behavior in public was unacceptable and wanted to go badly enough that she stopped it. She promised that she was now “a big girl” and could go. I reminded her before going into stores that she needed to be a big girl, or that we would go home, and her good behavior continued more than the bad behavior. Consistency is the key!

Debra wrote:

I agree with other parents. Never spank your child in public, some well meaning person may speak up and you can lose your child. My child is now 4, however I have let her get out of the cart and hold the cart or my pants leg. Some times she is allowed to look around as long as she stays with me. If I have to speak to her twice about staying with me or not coming when I call for her to return she earns the cart. This means she now must sit in the cart and does not have the option of getting out. She will stay there until we leave the store. While in a store like Walmart I have always allowed her to carry one thing around the store with her while in the store. She has never cried for a toy or anything else she felt she “needed or had to have”. Since she does not expect us to buy anything for her she seldom asks, and when told “It’s too expensive” there is no further comment needed. I have, however, found that when she is tired that crying when carted, etc. is more of a possibility. Go when your child is not tired and if they cry while in the store I let them, it shows them that if they cause a scene that it will make no difference in your decisions or action. I do speak to her when she is in that crying mode and try to lighten things up by calling her attention to something funny or saying something to make her lighten up. She generally forgets she was angry, etc. and will get captured by your attention and the moment. Don’t let your child rule you!

Nora wrote:

I had the same promblem thirty-six years ago. My Husband was in the Air Force at the time. I promised my daughter a toy. She wanted a toy I couldn’t afford. She started kicking and crying. I put the toy back, held her hand and walked out of the store. When we arrived home, I gave her time to clam down. I sat her down and explained to her, why she didn’t get a toy. I have never believed in spanking. A child has a mind, speak to them.They understand more then you think. I never had that problem again. My daughter has grown to be a wonderful caring mother. Please don’t use soap on a child’s tender mouth. It’s hamful on their gums. Ask your Dentist.

Dave wrote:

Yes! A mother has recommended Love and Logic. I cannot stress enough the power of Love and Logic. I am a special education teacher and am working on my doctorate in educational pych. Love and Logic has worked with all of my behavior disorded kids. Like the mom who recommended Love and Logic, I too am stress-free. For the sake of your child and yourself, check out the web site.

Krista wrote:

It is vitally important to know that spanking, no matter where you do it, does not help your child to learn more appropriate behaviors. In fact, spanking perpetuates your child’s anger and encourages her to seek out other innapropriate behaviors. There are so many proactive behavior techniques that will both extinguish undesirable behavior and also increase responsible behavior. Also important is the relationship with your daughter. I highly recommend that you check into Love and Logic. Buy the book, Parenting with Love and Logic or log onto the web site: www.loveandlogic.com Love and Logic techniques have saved my family. I am now stress-free and my children are well behaved and happy.

Rebekah wrote:

Spanking your child in public is probably THE fastest way to get the attention of Child Protective Services (or whatever the agency is called in your area). Of course, the best solution to the “tantrum in the store” problem is not to take the child with you, but believe me – as someone who has to take three kids along to 95% of the places I go – I understand that sometimes you don’t have a choice. My best suggestion is to repeat the rules of behavior clearly in the parking lot before entering the store, tell the child what consequences will take place AT HOME later if the rules are not followed (spanking, no TV, whatever gets her attention), and then STICK TO IT!! You may also give small rewards (a cookie, stickers) for good behavior. And take heart – even when she’s not living up to your expectations, your child is almost certainly NOT the worst-behaved other people have seen.

Jane wrote:

I’m a pediatric nurse and many times over I’ve heard the Dr. say to remove the child from the store immediately even though it’s inconvenient for the Mom. Try to go at a time when you won’t have the child with you. Be consistent…what you say ,you carry through with!!!

RM wrote:

Try preparing your child before leaving home, “we are going shopping to buy groceries, you are going to stay right by Mommie and remember that people don’t like to hear screaming in a store so we need to talk quietly. I want these people to see what a good child you are.” Be consistant ALWAYS!!!! Don’t plan for long shopping trips or events. Three years olds attention spans don’t allow for it. If the child misbehaves, leave the store immediately. Explain to your child you had to leave because they were misbehaving. This action will speak volumns to your child.

Dorri wrote:

Please whatever you do, DO NOT spank your child in public!!! The laws of discipline are against us parents. My friend spanked her 4 yr old in public and Dyfus was on their buts so fast… beacause someone saw the spanking they called Dyfus. The best thing to do when your child is acting up in public is to remove the child from the store, party, etc. tell them that you will not tolerate that behavior and if it continues just get yourself into your car with the child and go home. They understand better when they don’t get to do what they want after bad behavior. But please, I’m a big beleiver of spankings or soap in the mouth for bad language, but today you cannot hit your children!!! We as parents have lost our right to raise our kids with discipline. I know a spanking always worked for me. But times have changed and laws have changed. Concerned Mom

Amanda wrote:

Three is the age that they test, test and test some more. I think the best way to handle it is to be consistent and be prepared to drop everything and leave. That’s right! You may not want to do this, but I have been known (in the past) to leave a full grocery cart at the store so I could remove my misbehaving child. A firm “no” and redirection will help as well. Don’t forget, though it makes you angry, a child this age has NO attention span for a store of any sort. They are tired of it after a couple of minutes and are ready to explore new territory. I’m sure you will receive some good advice from these great parents!

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