Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Parenting in public: How do you deal with misbehaviour?

So today at the school gate, I was the mum with the child who didn't listen

I was the mum whose child ran off to the other side of the playground when I asked him not to.

I was the mum who first asked, then shouted for him to come back... and yep, you guessed it; he didn't. 

I was the mum who got a little louder when he didn't come, shouting for him to "come back here right now!" 

I was the mum who grabbed for their child as they attempted to run past me, as if he was teasing me, wanting me to try and catch him. I missed. He ran past. He laughed. I tried to keep my cool in front of the other parents!

I was the mum who resorted to loudly bribing their child to come back, by saying I'd tell his teacher he wasn't listening to his mummy! 

The last one was what sold it to him. He came running back to me, grinning from ear to ear as he tried to keep up appearances in front of his little mates... who, I hasten to add, were mostly doing as they were asked! 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

I was the mum who knelt down, with the stern look and wagging finger to explain to my little 4 (almost 5 year old) that it wasn't nice to run off when I'd asked him not to, that I need to know he'll come back straight away every time I tell him to, because I want to keep him safe not because I don't want him to have fun. And, well...cos I said so!

I was the mum who tried to explain to my son that it is respectful to do as you are asked the first time, all the while a cheeky little face with twinkling eyes is scanning around to see who's listening and watching! Was my voice even registering?!

I was the mum who then had to show I meant business to those around me, that I WAS in charge and not being run rings around 
(quite literally) by my little boy! 

I was the mum who held his hand tightly as I pointed out his other classmates who were (mostly!) standing nicely and waiting for the gate to open. 

I was the mum who, after a a minute of wriggling, let that little hand go. Where would he go now? Would he run off again? Could I trust him?

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Yes I could. Our little chat seemed to have paid off. I knelt back down to his level, told him I loved him and asked if he had anything to say to me. "Sorry for running off Mummy. I love you too." Phew! 

Despite my embarrassment, although I hadn't caused a big scene, I still felt guilty. Should I have told him off (albeit quietly and calmly) in front of his peers? I have dwelled on this all day. Now, 1 hour til pick up time and I've finally come to the decision that yes, I did the right thing. 

My son isn't a "naughty" boy, he's usually so good. We've brought him up to be respectful, to do as he's asked, to be polite and use his manners, to understand why we have to say no sometimes. Nothing has changed in our parenting style. But I've found over the last few months, that his behaviour has changed a bit. He's testing the boundaries. He's found his confidence. He's challenging at times and has selective hearing! He's learnt a lot of new behaviour from being at school I suppose. And much of it I'm sure is to do with his age, his hormones and his growing self-esteem!

So, today I'm pulling out this old mantra that has got me through so many other testing times with my children... "This too shall pass!" 

I asked some other parent bloggers about their experiences of having to deal with misbehaviour in public. There are some great tips (from code words to death stares!), and some fab stories which also serve as a reminder that we are not alone!

Nikki from Yorkshire Wonders says;

"When mine were younger we had a chat about how it makes me feel when they misbehave in front of other people and what those other people must think about them. We made an agreement that if I was really cross I would mention the word 'pineapple' when talking to them and then they would know to stop whatever they were doing and behave - thus avoiding a public telling off. Most of the time it worked too!"
Suzanne from And Another Ten Things says;
"I crouch down, look my daughter in the eye and initiate my menacing death whisper, My dad used to use it with me and whenever he did I knew I'd crossed the line."

Suzy from Our Bucket List Lives says;
"I'm always that Mum who feels like she's the one shouting across the playground at him not to do things. He is forever ignoring me and misbehaving especially in front of his friends. It has happened to us many times out in public and if I can catch up with him and talk quietly in his ear about what he's done wrong then I will do as it saves me from being that noisy Mum shouting across somewhere. Generally he listens and pays attention to me but if he doesn't then I try my best to take him away from the situation and people so I can have a proper chat with him." 

Pete from Household Money Saving says;
"I am probably a terrible parent but... I always have sweets in my car and my kids know this. They also know that if they misbehave, they don’t get a sweet. I had to do it because I have 3 to pick up, and you could always be sure that at least one would be a pain!"

Sarah from Mummy Cat Notes says;
"My children have a habit of running out of the gate at the end of the day, I pull them aside once I’ve caught up to them and just calmly explain to them what they did wrong and now thankfully they will wait for me at the gate. (Most of the time) I like to keep them in sight so when they run off I panic but they are slowly understanding it."

Leigh from Dad Geek says;
"For us it's a constant trial and error situation. We've used rewards and sticker charts for behaviour but they rarely help in the moment. Ultimately you have to use something that will get through to them there and then. If it's at school you might find that a post-school reward for good drop-off/pick-up works wonders. They then only get it if they behave well at the gate."
Natalie from Plutonium Sox says;
"I always go down to their level and talk to them firmly and quietly to tell them what they're doing wrong and why they need to stop. There have been times when I've yelled later about it on because I was so angry but managed not to show it in public."

Sophie from Soph-Obsessed says;

"I have a look that I do and when my son sees me do it he knows I'm dead serious and he needs to listen. He knows that is his last chance to correct his behaviour before he gets punished and 99.9% of the time it works."

Lyndsey from Me, Him, the Dog and a Baby says;
"My 2 year old discovered how to have a tantrum not too long ago and instead of pleading with her I sat on the floor with her instead. I wasn't in a rush to go anywhere and me getting annoyed would have only made her worse. The tantrum didn't last long and we were soon on our way again."

Kate from Kate on Thin Ice says;
"Firm voice makes a difference, bending down to their level helps and when I say "and I mean it" they seem to buck up their ideas."

Carla from MyBump2Baby says;
"My son is only 2 and has already tantrum-med in public way too many times. I get down on his level and tell him that if he continues to tantrum he will not watch Peppa Pig and will not have any treats after his dinner. It does work but you have to stick to your guns and if you have said no treats or Peppa then it has to be no treats or Peppa."

Thank you to everybody for contributing.  There are some great ideas to try there, including - 
  • stay calm
  • get down to their level - speak eye-to-eye
  • tell them how their behaviour makes you feel
  • use a code word
  • consider your voice and body language - perfect the "death whisper!" or "the look!"
  • take them away from the situation
  • bribe (I obviously mean encourage...!) them with a treat for good behaviour
  • explain what they did wrong
  • be firm
  • follow through on your threats 

How do you deal with misbehaviour, in the moment, when all eyes are on you? I'd love to know! Why not leave me a comment below, and you could see your tip added to this post above.

What about disciplining other people's children in public? You know, the ones whose parents aren't watching or choose to ignore when their little cherub shoves your child off the swings?! Pop over to Phil's blog to find out how he dealt with negative behavior towards one of his kids!

Finding joy in the little things: After an apology, a kiss and a wave, he went bounding off in to class, happy as Larry, as if the whole incident never happened! Despite being "that mum" today and feeling embarrassed that my child was the one who misbehaved, (would they think my boy was the "naughty" one? Would it stop them from inviting him to play or to parties? Would the other parents be talking about us on the way home? All those thoughts and more...) I know that my little man still loves me, and was happy to go on with his day. I'd hate to think that our stern words meant he also thought about it all day, and that he was sad that mummy told him off! Children are resilient. They live in the moment! And today I am thankful for that. But - if he runs off again tomorrow.............!!!

Click me to pin!

I'm linking up this post with these fabulous blogs:

Confessions of a New Mummy JakiJellz My Random Musings


  1. Gees kids are set to test us aren't they! Great tips for dealing with this situation. #itsok

  2. Oh God I hate being the shouty / bribey / fruitlessly chasey Mum on the school run - I want the ground to swallow me up. It's good to remind ourselves that it's unlikely anyone is judging us - they're probably just relieved it's not their kid giving them the runaround! #triumphanttales xx

    1. Haha, you're right! I'm hoping we get sympathetic stares not judgey ones!

  3. I love this post. I have three children and the first two were so well behaved but my little boys is such a tinker. He is only 18 months so still very much a baby but I think he is going to be trouble lol!!#triumphanttales

  4. What a fab post. My two year old is really pushing the boundaries at the moment so I'm definitely going to be taking the advice here on board. Thank you for linking up to the #itsok linky x

    1. Thanks for hosting. It's nice to hear tips from others, especially with hindsight! Hope it helps! :)

  5. Oh god, this is me every day in the playground. My 4 year old is constantly pushing me and never does as she's told in the playground. I've mostly given up worrying what anyone thinks, I'm just hoping school helps! Thanks for linking up #twinklytuesday xx

  6. Ben has well and truly hit the terrible twos and has started some real tantrums... luckily none ending up with a flailing body on the floor.... yet! I'm dreading the first public meltdown!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

    1. Luckily we seemed to avoid the terrible twos and public meltdowns...I feel my time is to come! Haha! :)


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