Disciplining Children in Public:- Do You Dare?!

13th August 2013
I’ve always been fascinated to see how parents deal (or not deal) with their children when they misbehave in public, and I’ve definitely seen the good, bad and very ugly throughout the years!

Before I had a child, I would inwardly tut, laugh or roll my eyes when seeing mums or dads shouting, screaming, ignoring or even desperately dragging their child kicking and screaming out of public sight.

Since having Chunk, I’ve started to observe parents more closely, and I now feel the parent’s pain and embarrassment when nothing seems to work and they know strangers are witnessing their nightmare. When it happens to me, I’m so conscious of people watching me, and even worse JUDGING me.

Disciplining Children in PublicYou’re so much more aware of the annoying, loud or embarrassing things your child can do when you’re out and about, and how their behaviour reflects on you. The worst times for me have been when I look like I’m not in control of Chunk, such as when I say no and he continues to do something (whilst laughing at me) or when I try to get him to hold my hand whilst walking and he refuses (whilst screaming at me).

It’s like you can literally feel people’s eyes on you, watching your every move. This adds to my already anxious and frustrated state, which Chunk probably picks up on and this seems to feed his tantrum or cheeky behaviour even more!

Disciplining Children in Public

I tend to try and do anything that will just stop him behaving that way (in other words I try to take the easy options), which is usually in the form of giving him food (hence the name Chunk) or attempting to distract him with some form of reward. On reflection, this is really not good, as he’s learning that bad behaviour equals rewards in public places, so he will continue to act this way when we are out, so I am stopping this now!

I found a book in the library recently which claims to offer three day solutions to problems like these, called The 3-Day Nanny. I have only read the introduction so far, and the author, Kathryn Mewes, summed up this common issue so well for me, and confirmed my recent thoughts are right.
She says many parents relax their rules and boundaries when outside the home in fear of being judged, and in turn this makes the child believe they have more freedom when away from the home, causing parents to then hate going out and having to deal with these behaviours.

Kathryn points out that, (like I now do), other parents can watch, but purely to see how you manage it so they can compare this to how they parent. She feels that if you manage it head on, as you would at home, this impresses those watching you, and if you ignore the behaviour it is then frowned upon.

When I look back to the people I’ve rolled my eyes at, it’s usually the ones who just stuff bottles in toddlers mouths to shut them up, hit them or let them carry on misbehaving, so she’s right. I don’t frown when I see parents give good discipline, which in turn calms the child down, so whilst this method can take longer (so the public gets more to watch!) it’s worth doing for both my sanity, and Chunk’s boundaries and routine. I can also then hold my head up high with (hopefully) more positive judgments by passer-bys.

So in the words of Kathryn Mewes: “Simply live your life and guide your child in the way he needs to be guided. Ignore the rest, because chances are that they are ignoring you.”


  • Unknown

    4th April 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you so much for this. Truely agree. I suffered so much with worrying what people might think if my baby cried in public I simply didn't go out and became agoraphobic. I'm fine now and I am now expecting baby number 2. I've learnt to follow your last bit and 'live my life' I do still often like you observe parents ways of parenting/lack-of parenting. Mostly to pick up better ways on dealing with things, not to judge.

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