Dealing with kids who play up in public

By Diane Levy
Dealing with kids who play up in public

Dear Diane,
I bet you get asked this a lot, but how do I control my kids when I’m out shopping? I can remember getting a swift smack on the leg from my own mother when I misbehaved at the supermarket but I know that’s not acceptable any more. Before I had children I’d be rolling my eyes if some child had a tantrum when his mum wouldn’t buy him an ice block, but nowadays that mum is me and I’m mortified when my two (aged 3 and 6) play up in public. I’ve tried promising treats for good behaviour but it doesn’t work. What’s the modern approach to this situation?

Frazzled, by email

Dear Frazzled,
Consider how compliant your children are at home. If you ask them to do something, will they obey – without threats or bribes? If they don’t do as they are told at home, they are unlikely to do so out. At home, adopt an ask-tell-act policy: Ask them once. Go over and tell them what you want. If they are still not responsive, act. Pop them in their room until they are ready to do as you have asked. Once they understand that you expect compliance to reasonable requests at home, they will test to see how you are going to do this away from home.

At the supermarket, when they play up, ask them to stop. If that isn’t powerful enough, tell them in a quiet yet firm voice. If that isn’t powerful enough, act. Abandon your trolley and march them to their car seats. Tell them you will return to the supermarket as soon as they are sure they can behave appropriately. Stand by the car and wait it out. When they are both sure that they can behave, return to your shopping. Repeat as necessary. This isn’t an easy process but you may be amazed how fast they learn that shopping with a pleasant mum is much more fun than sitting in the car.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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