How to Deal with Misbehavior in Public

Sep 28, 2020

Does your child act out in public? It's one thing to deal with acting out behaviors in the privacy of your home but when children act out in public, it takes us to a much higher level of stress. Here are some tips to help you navigate these difficult waters with a younger child:


(1) Stay calm. Yelling at your child is not going to help either him/her or you.

Take 4-5 deep breaths and breathe your frustration out.

Breathe peace in with every in-breath.

It's going to be okay.

Nobody is looking at you.

However, they might be looking at the wailing, demon sprawled at your feet.

No, you're not giving your child away to the first buyer. Your mom will be upset.

You can indulge in your favorite chocolate or ice cream when you get home.

More deep breaths.

Ahhh... going to your happy place.

Warm bubble bath, candlelight, and a good book.

Now, you're ready to handle the little rugrat.


(2) See if you can distract your (monster) child by engaging him/her in something he/she might find interesting nearby.

Talk faster.

Try cajoling him/her with something fun you will do later.

Although, it's tempting, try not to bribe your child. He/she will start associating bad behavior with treats and you really don't want that (this happens with adults, too, by the way).


(3) Remove yourself from the situation. The kid is optional.

Your mom will get over it.

Just kidding.

Remove your child and yourself from the situation. Simply walk out. If you're waiting for an appointment, let the receptionist know you're walking out for a few minutes. She will be very happy to let you go.

Sometimes being outside or using water helps calm children down. No, please don't dunk your child in the nearest pool of water. But go to a sink and let the child put his hands in the water. Or carry a bottle of bubbles and blow bubbles for distraction. It's a good idea to always carry a few of your child's favorite toys with you in times like these.

If you can go outside, point out things in nature--there are lots of ways to distract children outdoors. Bonus points: the screaming is spread out so less people staring at you and passing judgment.


(4) Once the child is calm, you can offer a treat when you get home if he/she behaves the rest of your time out. This is very important: Please follow through with the treat if he/she earned it and withhold it if he/she did not. Consistency is key.


(5) Indulge yourself once you get home and practice some self-compassion. It's not easy being a parent and yet, you survived another day!