How to arm yourself for parenting in public


It’s murphy’s law that as soon as you come across another mother of four amazing, well-behaved children in the isles of Woolies, floating along on an aura of complete calm and composure… your (*ahem*… quiet and reserved) toddler will have a complete temper tantrum over the fact that you will not let them have the entire sweet shelf to themselves… What do you do? How do you cope with such a moment, especially in the face of everyone in the shop who have obviously noticed your debacle, and yet pretend not to as they rubberneck like they’re passing an accident on the N1 in peak hour…

Lizette offers four ways in which to prepare for and react to such a situation, as well as an awesome tip for parents of slightly older toddlers and young children.

1. Prepare your children
The first key is to prepare your child in advance and to explain exactly what you expect from them.

Using our Woolies example, you could say “We are going to Woolies and mommy wants you to sit quietly in the trolley and help me find all the groceries. Mommy doesn’t want you to be naughty, because if you are, then mommy will have to give you time-out when we get home. But if you’re good for mommy, you can choose one sweet when we get to the till.”

This prepares your child for what is going to happen and how you expect them to behave.

2. Always put your child’s needs first
Although it may be tempting to try and hush over a moment where your child oversteps the boundaries that you laid out in point one, you need to keep your child’s need for your guidance and discipline at the top of your priority list.

You will need to act swiftly and with conviction, despite what you think other’s may be thinking of you, your child or the (rather embarrassing) situation.

3. Never embarrass your child socially
While, in the heat of the moment, some parents may be tempted to scream, shout and perform, just so that all the other people (read: spectators) can see that they mean business and that they’re not the kind of parents whose kids walk all over them, do not do this.

It is very important that you do not embarrass your child in a social setting. Take them aside and talk sternly to them about the situation, in a way that does not draw attention to them and in a way that they understand that you respect their feelings.

4. Be consistent
As with any form of behaviour direction, consistency is key. If you say you’re going to go straight home after Woolies, don’t be surprised when your children have a meltdown when you quickly decide to make a last-minute stop at Clicks too. Stick to your story. The same applies to discipline. If you say that you will discipline your child for screaming or throwing a tantrum in the store, then do this in a discreet and respectful way.

Great Tip (from age 2.5 to 8 years)
A wonderful idea for taking your empty threats and turning them into concrete results, especially when you’re out and about with your children, is to carry a black marker in your bag. When your child misbehaves or oversteps their boundaries, and you pull them aside for a respectful word, you simply mark their hand with a circle. You explain to them, and they will soon learn, that this mark means that when you get home they will be disciplined as agreed – e.g. time-out, loss of a privilege, or whatever works in your household.

This little black mark is a tangible reminder to your child that they have misbehaved and will have to face the consequence for their actions but does not embarrass them or cause undue stress while you’re in a public place.

We hope that these pointers and the tip will go a long way towards making outings more fun for your family!

The Practica Team
parents who know better… do better

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