5 Tips to Help You Parent in Public

Kids don't always behave as we'd like when we're out in public, and parenting when others are watching can be tough. But you are not alone: Mighty Mommy's 5 helpful tips will help you parent under difficult circumstances--and when you have an audience.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #289

Because I've been raising a large family for so long now (8 kids, all born in a little over a decade), I'm used to the stares and even comments when something--or should I say someone--falls apart in a public setting.

I've covered the gamut, from breakdowns at the check-out line and tantrums on the beach when a sibling knocks over a carefully constructed sand castle, to those vocal shouting matches--always in front of judgmental onlookers!--after I've had to tell one of my cherubs, "no," when they ask if a friend can spend the night.

Kids don't always behave as we'd like when we're out and about, and parenting when others are watching can be tough. So it might help you to know that you're certainly not alone. You can make these uncomfortable parenting moments a lot more bearable with my 5 tips to help you parent under difficult circumstances--and when you have an audience.


Tip #1:  Cover the Basics

When at all possible, see that your child's basic needs are met before you head into a public venue that could trigger him/her to fall apart. The classic scenario is taking a tired, hungry child to run errands when he/she is already running on a low fuel tank. Adults are irritable when we're run down or haven't had anything to eat for hours, so why wouldn't a kid be the same?

If your child is overdue for her nap or hasn't had a snack recently, this probably isn't the best time to drag her to the registry of motor vehicles to have your license renewed. If you must run the errand, then absolutely take the time to bring along some snacks or even a comfort toy, like her favorite stuffed animal, to cuddle with while you wait in line.

While you're at it, make sure your needs are met, as well--this includes taking a bathroom break, having a glass of cold water, and sitting down and taking a few deep breaths before you hit the road with your kids. If all else fails and she has a melt down anyway, remind yourself that, "this too shall pass," and use a soothing tone with your child, rather than barking at her to, "simmer down and stop making everyone around us miserable." Kindness goes a lot further than anger, especially when all eyes are on you and your child.

See Also: No Whining Zone

Tip #2: Present Your Expectations Before You Go

The time to present expectations to your child is before you leave the house or get out of the car, not when you're in the "heat of the moment" and he is whining or beginning a tantrum. 

When my kids were younger, I presented the rules and what was expected of them in a story format, so it didn't sound like a lecture. For example, if we were heading to a pediatrician appointment for the new baby, and my three older toddler and nursery school-aged children had to accompany me, I'd gather them on the sofa and explain, "Hey everyone, guess what we get to do today? We are all going to take baby Annie to see Dr. Heinl for her check-up. Remember what Dr. Heinl's office is like?"

I would then proceed to give some quick highlights about what will be happening at the baby's check-up, and remind them that we would need to be quiet so the doctor could make sure Annie was doing well. Then, I'd add quick reminders about how we don't run in the doctor's office, that we could sit and read a book while we were waiting, and that after Dr. Heinl was all done making sure the baby was nice and healthy, we could throw the ball around on the grass in the nearby park.

I made sure my voice was enthusiastic about what we'd be doing, and would ask them questions in the car to remind them of how they would be expected to behave once we got there. "Brady, do you remember what you'll be doing when the doctor is checking your baby sister?"

This kept them involved in what was happening, and by my giving gentle reminders before the appointment at home, and also just before we got there in the car, we had a much better success rate of the check-up going well for all of us--including the other patients  in the waiting room!

See Also: 6 Ways to be a Calmer Parent


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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