Saturday, March 04, 2006
Be consistent or Just Let It Go?

I am very interested in how other parents handle their children in public. I'd love to know what works for you and your kids! Any stories, comments, or suggestions are welcome (without judgment) in the comments section.

As you may know, I don't get out much. As a result, I am still working on an effective way to manage my children's difficult behavior in public. Since we are out and about much more now, I have to get my shit together and figure out what works. Here's what we've tried:

--Leaving the situation. Usually if a tantrum occurs I will simply pick up and leave. It's not always convenient, but I'm not one to let everyone in the library be disrupted by my child's antics. Also, I dislike rude comments about my kid's behavior and/or how I handle it. There have been occasions where leaving wasn't possible (8 hour flights, doctor visits, picking up things we needed when Hero was in Italy) and we just had to get through it. Since the girls don't tantrum much anymore, this is rarely an issue.

--Threats. The girls both seem to know that I cannot put them in time out in the middle of the grocery store. Although I do follow through with the threats when we arrive home, this method doesn't seem to get the message across. At home there is a warning ("We don't ____ in this house. Would you rather stop ____ or go in time out?") and then an action ("Let's take some time to think about why you continued _____"). The threats have been modified, as well as time out we have: no playing outside, no going to visit their neighborhood friends, no watching TV. All seem ineffective.

-- Telling Daddy. I'll be the first to admit that I have much less control over my kids than my husband does. It makes no sense--we discipline the same way, and are both consistent. For some reason when Daddy does the warning, the behavior stops. I usually have to follow the warning with time out at home. If there is an issue while we are out, I ask Hero to talk with them about it when he/we get home. Please note: I don't ever threaten to tell Daddy, and I'm not open to the idea.

--Letting it go. I've let harmless behaviors slide to avoid a production. I've ignored Sky adding things to the shopping cart until checkout. No big deal. I've let Moon walk to the car without her coat on. I've even acted like I didn't notice that Moon hid under the desk at the doctor's office when it was Sky's turn to get her check-up. The things I can't tolerate are screaming (both while tantruming and just to "hear the echo"), running in inappropriate places, leaving my side while in a store, and arguing with each other. I have a few friends that are "just let it go" mothers, and it works for them. My friend K has listened to her kid scream for an hour in Walmart, and not even commented on it. Unfortunately, I don't have the patience or Xanax to do that.

Is there something I'm missing? Anything I haven't tried? Will the girls grow out of this (now 3 and 4)? What works/worked for you?

One last thing, Hero and I don't spank as discipline. I have (on two occasions with Sky, four with Moon) spanked to instill fear about safety issues when explanations weren't enough. (ie. Sky got a 2nd degree burn on her arm from pulling down a lamp (that had no shade) at her Nana's house. A few weeks later she pulled on a lamp cord at home and I spanked her. She was 2 at the time.) If spanking works for you, I have no objection to that. If you'd like to comment about how well it works for you, also no objection. On the other hand, telling me I should just spank them isn't going to help.

Blogger Maggie had this to say:

My sons are now adults so I am not really up on the latest techniques. It seems to me that you are doing very well with your children.

Yes, a spanking with an open hand is sometimes necessary to warn a child about a dangerous situation. If you spank your child it must not be done whilst you are feel angry becaue it could get out of hand.

There might be other disciplines that you could try. I like watching that show with the Nanny who sorts out naughty children. Most of her techniques seem to work.

It is not a good idea to use the "wait until your father gets home" routine. Speaking from experience, when that happens the event is well and truly over and I think that it leaves a very bad memory with the child. It is better to apply some discipline yourself than to wait. You need to practice being sharp more often, especially when you are out.

I recently had success with a child when he was playing up on his mother. I spoke to him, asked him questions, including why was he crying. It turned out that his mother had taken his car away because he had been naughty. I asked him to say sorry to his mummy and he complied. The mother breathed a sigh of relief, gave him back his car and both left the shop a lot happier.

Maybe when you hear those comments that really are unnecessary from strangers, turn around to them and ask them do they have any ideas that could be applied to the situation.

Good Luck, and yes you sound like a good mother.

12:39 AM EST 

Blogger gnightgirl had this to say:

My son has also grown, but this worked well with him as a child: Before leaving the house, I'd "let him know": that he could accompany me, and have a nice time, but that he must behave well, and when it was time to leave, he must be "a good boy" if he wanted to come back---this especially at the children's library; he LOVED it there.

He threw ONE tantrum at the library.

Next time I had an errand to run in which I could leave him at home with his Dad, I told him "I am going to the library, and I have to go ALONE...but NEXT time you can go, and if you behave well then you can come EVERY time..."

I never had a problem with tantrums again.

Pure dumb luck maybe, but I remember it explicitly.

2:45 AM EST 

Blogger Jay had this to say:

You are an angel when you say that you prefer not to disturb an entire library with your child's antics! If only more parents were like that! But yes, sometimes you just can't leave. And you're also right that if the behavior is minor, then so should be your reaction. You have to keep proportion so your kids know when you're really serious. But if they misbehave, there should be a consequence, a punishment to be followed through at home (not just telling daddy, but perhaps a timeout or early bedtime...). Of course, really great behaviour could be rewarded in some small way, a treat, an extra story at bedtime, etc.

I have no children, just a degree in psych, childhood behaviours. Every parent has these same questions, and it sounds like you're doing well...which I know, doesn't always feel like it.

3:38 AM EST 

Blogger magnolia had this to say:

Maggie- Your success with the boy is very cool! I like the idea of asking for suggestions from unnecessary commenters. Even if they have none, it would still show I'm trying to change the situation.

Gnightgirl- Thanks for visiting! I'll definately take the "letting him know" part. It would work to make errands sound more like fun if they GET to go instead of HAVE to go. Will try!

Miss Jay- Thanks for the encouragement. Rewarding really good public behavior is a path I haven't even explored. We reward for sharing at home, making beds, etc. so it makes sense that it would work.... Thanks again!

9:21 AM EST 

Blogger Wendi had this to say:

Hi, I came across your blog via Blog Explosion. I also have two girls the same ages as yours, and unfortunately they are fighting right now so I cant really comment, but I will be back!!

5:09 PM EST 

Blogger Paula460 had this to say:

Magnolia... it's me again... and I've 2 daugthers... age 17 and 2. The older one is so sweet, an angel on earth. she never gave me problems... but I disciplined her in the crib. I only can remember 1 "event". I spanked on her butt, before she get in the floor: never happende again.
But the little one... there`s 2 things here: I'm older and my job is more demanding... and she have strong personality.
The spanking technique didn't work! so we tried ingroring her.
She had a few "events", and we ignored her: if she was on the floor shouting and screaming... we just continued walking as if nothing, although that to walk on her. Never did it againg.
In public places I usually try the "monkey technique": distract her with some other thing, and ignore the cause of the "event".

1:53 PM EST 

Blogger magnolia had this to say:

Wendy- Tell me about it! I suppose kids this close in age tend to be in certain stages of development at the same time, leading to fights and conflicts for attention... That's my theory, anyway. Thanks for visiting!

Hi Paula- My youngest and your 2 year old sound a lot alike! Strong personalities are hard work. My youngest (Moon) actually went through a phase where she would HIT if she was being ignored. Luckily, that's over. Thanks for coming by again!

11:00 AM EST 

Anonymous Anonymous had this to say:

Best regards from NY! »

4:45 PM EDT 

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