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January 21, 2022

Where Every Family Matters

What to Do When Kids Act Out in Public

When your child misbehaves at the grocery store, bear down and hold your own.

You dread going to the grocery store. Not just because it's a task you do often. You just know that at some point your little one will throw yet another tantrum. Your day will come, if it hasn't already. A fit like no other. One that challenges the way you parent. A fit that draws the eyes of curious (or just nosy) onlookers as you try to discipline her. What you do next is what matters. Recently, a mom's post about how she sat her children down in the aisle at the grocery store garnered her much shame, but also praise. She didn't yell at them. She didn't throw a fit herself. She simply sat them down. Some parents call it humiliation. Others say it was the right thing to do.

The Cause for Bad Behavior

Think about it. If your child regularly throws a tantrum, what causes the bad behavior? Many times, a working parent picks up the children from daycare or school and heads to the grocery store. You've gotta make dinner, right? But, did you ever consider how tired your child might be after a full day? Maybe it's the way you parent them when they're not misbehaving. "Children whose parents fail to set appropriate limits, are overly strict or forget to reinforce good behaviors tend to have more frequent and severe tantrums than children whose parents take a moderate approach," says The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  Local mom April Brown Asante thought the photo shows the kids as if they were just picked up from school. “That is poor planning," says Asante. "These kids haven’t seen each other all day. They have had to be on their ‘best behavior’ for their teachers." She encourages parents to take kids to burn off some energy at the playground and use your local store's grocery pick-up service. "Stop expecting children to act like adults,” adds Asante. 

Discipline in the Public Eye

While your first instinct might be to yell at your child. Hold it in. Take a moment to compose yourself. Think about your plan of action. Do you handle it right then and there or wait until you get home? “I have leaned in very close to my child saying I need her to calm down," says local mom Vasanta Knight. "If we can’t do that then we walk out of the store and leave. I then discipline at home." However, local mom Tanya Bricco-McQuillan disagrees. “My kids have stood in the corner at Chuck E. Cheese’s and sat in time-out on the end caps at Target," says Bricco-McQuillan. "Particularity when kids are young, you have to deal with the behavior right there. They don’t get it if you wait until they get home,” she adds. There's an approach that works for you. You just need to find it. Maybe turn an otherwise unhappy moment into a silly one. "Unless your child is extremely irritable or overtired, she is more likely to be distracted into obedience if you temper discipline with a bit of fun or whimsy," adds the AAP. Just remember this. You're not alone. Every parent goes through this, too. With each fit, you may learn something new about your child. "Ironically, her occasional outbursts are actually a sign that she trusts you," adds the AAP.

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