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Parenting in Public

A nightmare

Imagine this. You've taken your four-year-old to a restaurant. In a few minutes, he wriggles out of his chair and is soon engaged in a loud argument with another little boy. You break it up before any blood is shed, smiling apologetically at the other child's parents. He then decides that he doesn't want to eat a burger after all, but wants what the boy at the other table is having. You hiss at him that he cannot waste the food and he begins to whine. You shout at him, warning him of dire consequences if he behaves badly. But the whining soon escalates into a full-blown tantrum and his plate is sent crashing to the floor. By now, you are doing everything in your power to stop yourself from reaching across and giving him a good shake. You can feel that all eyes in the restaurant are on you and your son, judging your ability as a parent as your son continues to scream like he's being murdered. 
 

What will 'they' think?

Somehow children have an uncanny instinct to pick the most public places to have a screaming fit and to question your authority as a parent. Parents usually react in one of two ways. Either they let their annoyance get the better of them and yell at the child, hoping to quell the tantrum by conveying the message that they mean business; or they give in easily, just to shut the child up. However, at home, you'll probably just ignore him till he gives up, realizing that his antics won't work. 

While it's only natural for you to want people in general to think highly of you, parenting is about you and your child, not about what looks good to the general public. Your child will not understand why you respond to the same situation differently at home and in public. Your anger or your indulgence will lead him into thinking that you don't care for him any longer. 
 

Tips for parenting in public

  • You know your child better than anyone else. If you know that he gets restless quickly or gets overexcited in a crowd or is cranky when he hasn't had his afternoon nap, plan your outings taking all these factors into consideration.
  • Prepare your child so he knows what to expect. If you're taking him to an amusement park, tell him that it will be noisy, hot and crowded and that he will have to be patient because you will have to wait in line to get to the rides. 
  • Lay down the rules before you leave. If you're taking your child shopping, tell him that he's only allowed to buy one book or toy and this is not negotiable under any circumstances.
  • Equip yourself to keep your child entertained. Carry some toys, crayons, colouring books, etc. with you so that your child is kept occupied and won't think of throwing tantrums.
  • Make your child feel included by giving him the right to decide certain things like what you should see first at the aquarium or which ride you should go on.
  • At the first sign of restlessness, take your child out for a break. Don't wait till he is miserable and crotchety.
  • The minute he misbehaves, tell him that you understand that he must be tired and fed up, but remind him firmly about the rules you had agreed upon at home.
  • Be prepared to leave as a last resort. Once you have decided to leave, don't let your child dissuade you even if he promises to behave. 
  • Don't forget to compliment him for good behaviour.

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