Andrew Linder on How to Parent in Public

It isn’t always easy to parent in public but it’s essential. I can remember the days when our children were young, and my wife would come home from grocery shopping rattling off the list of infractions our children were guilty of while in the store. The list often included misdemeanors (or misbehaviors) like arguing with each other, complaining about not getting what they wanted, and failing to stay where they were told.

Most parents know the feeling of embarrassment and frustration of having young children with you in a public setting. I’ve had multiple parents tell me over the years that their young children are the reason they seldom go out to eat, or why they choose not to attend public functions.

As parents, we all know that there are times when our children act in ways that make us wish we had some invisible spray so that we could crawl out of public without being seen. Let’s be real… Very few things can cause as much stress and apprehension as a parent going into public places with their young children. Why? Because kids are often unpredictable, embarrassing, and yes, disobedient.

So does this mean that parents should just go into a deep dark parenthood hibernation for 2-3 years until these stages of public humiliation pass? (That would be nice.) But, no.

I truly believe that if done right, the hardest years to parent are the years between ages 2-5. (If you’re still being embarrassed by your preteen or teenage kids’ behavior in public, well… that’s another post for another time. Lol.)  I can remember that especially through those early years we had to put some boundaries and practices in place to make sure that our intentional plans were succeeding in public, rather than our children’s impromptu plans.

Here are a few of the things we learned about how to parent in public:

Be Preventative

One of your goals as a parent is that your child’s behavior and responses to you in public are a reflection of how you have been training them in private. If discipline strategies are not first practiced and implemented at home, it’s unrealistic to think that they can be used successfully away from home.

Yes, there will be a season when correction and discipline will most likely have to take place in public, but the goal is that such correction is limited to a short period of time and simply an extension of what is already taking place at home.

It is impossible to expect something in public that you have not already enforced in private. 

One of the easiest ways to be preventative is to clearly explain your expectations in advance. For us, this simply looked like an eyeball to eyeball conversation with our young kids immediately prior to entering public places, whether that was at church, the store, or a restaurant, etc.

These conversations were simple. We gave them a specific explanation of what was expected, and we explained clear consequences if those expectations were not met. By doing this, we were both on the same page about the “rules of the rodeo” before entering into public places.

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Source: Church Leaders