Help My Kids Behave in Public

by Jeff Veley | Love Changes It All

I was recently traumatized while out to eat with some friends as I watched a small child torment her parents.  In minutes, I watched a child who was not getting her way turn a small fit into a full-on a chase around the entire restaurant, including a parent in hot pursuit. Many of us can relate to our kids getting out of control and the feelings of helplessness and embarassment that go along with this.

As a someone’s who’s worked with challenging kids, I felt for the parents, that night.  I imagined how exhausted I would be keeping up with their kid who seemed to have endless amounts of energy.  Everything about their body language told me that all they wanted was a nice night out and it was not going as planned.  Then, I noticed something interesting.  Within moments of child initiating follow the leader at top-speed, mom and dad were laughing.  Their words were telling the child to “stop running” and “sit down” but it was in a jovial tone.  They child giggled and ran faster.  Only for dad to chase faster. “Surely, I should tip them for the entertainment.” I thought.  

The restaurant episode was entertaining for meer seconds.  After, it was quite annoying.  It wasn’t a laughing kid running around that I was disgusted about.  It was the fact that these parents were teaching the child socially inappropriate behavior.  Not only were they allowing it, they were encouraging it.  Somehow a child around the age of four became in charge of two grown adults.  I can only imagine what this will lead to.  Believe or not, I’ve counseled many of these kids as teens.  Their lack of discipline and boundaries at home cause all sorts of issues.

It’s likely that you’re kids have had an “episode” in public.  All kids do.  The question is “What do you do about it?”.  The most important thing is to address the behavior and “nip it in the bud” as my grandma would say.  Don’t let it go unnoticed.  Some children are more prone to social struggles than others.  Like math or reading, you may need to provide some extra guidance and learning opportunities so that they can grow in this area. 

If your child could use some improvement socially, sign them up for something that will regularly challenge them in this area.  It may be a sports team, after school program, karate class, or community theater group.  Find something that connects with their passion, as this will likely increase their interest and level of commitment.  Share with the adult in charge of these activities that you are aware that your child may have some difficulties but you are using this as a growing experience.  This opens the door for them to come to you and provide updates on your child’s progress.  Remember to take care of yourself.  When your child is participating in this, use the time to take a deep breath and practice some self-care.  It will likely be good for the whole family.