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Misbehavior in Public Places: Rules and Discipline

Touching Things That Shouldn’t Be Touched

  • Example

    Grabbing food off the shelves in the grocery store.

  • The rule

    “Don’t touch anything without my permission, because everything here belongs to the store and some things can break.”

  • Discipline technique

    Mainly, distract your child on arrival by getting her a snack, such as animal cookies.

    • Keep her involved by giving her safe foods to carry or having her push the grocery cart.
    • If she’s sitting in the grocery cart seat, hand her foods to place in the basket.
    • Talk with your child as you shop so that she feels involved.
    • Avoid taking your 2-year-old to a store with lots of breakables, such as a glass shop.
  • Praise

    Praise your child for helping.

Having a Temper Tantrum in a Public Place

  • Example

    Often children have temper tantrums when they are not given a toy or candy at the store after they beg for it.

  • The rule

    “We buy only food at the grocery store, not toys.”

  • Discipline technique

    Ignore your child and remain firm. If your child is having a temper tantrum in a safe place, walk on and he will stand up and follow you. If your child is near breakable objects or is a reckless child, take him outside for time-out. If he is annoying other people (as in a restaurant or church), take him outside.

  • Model

    No yelling or tantrums in the store.

Running Away from the Parent in a Store

  • The rule

    “Stay close to me in the store so you won’t get lost.”

  • Discipline technique

    Time-out. First try putting your child in the grocery cart for 2 or 3 minutes if she doesn’t stay near you. If she won’t stay in the grocery cart, take her outside and put her in time-out facing the wall of the building or sitting inside your car while you stand by. Consider buying a harness and bringing it with you to the store. Harness your child only if she wanders off. Remove it every 5 minutes, giving her a chance to prove that she can control herself in a public setting. As a last resort, leave your child at home with a sitter and be sure to tell her before you go to the grocery store that she can’t come this time because she didn’t stay near you.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for following you through the store.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2002-03-06
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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