In the privacy of our homes we are able to enforce rules and make sure that our children are unable to highjack a situation to their own agendas. However in a public situation, it is a different proposition.
While at home you have the privacy and the time to be able to let your child work out his tantrum, you are less able to do the same in a public place – for instance you cannot let your child bawl long and noisily in the supermarket aisle without disapproving eyes turning on you for being a poor parent, and you as the parent feeling uncomfortable enough to just give in.
So what is to be done when your child decides to take advantage of a public setting to get what they want? Well for one, rules should be laid down firmly and consistently.
Before going out, a parent can explain to the child the basic rules of behavior; what will be tolerated and what kind of behavior will mean consequences.
You may find that when things are clearly and concisely explained to a child, they can respond with great alacrity. For instance if you are going supermarket shopping you know you will be confronted by a deluge of demands; some unreasonable and some not so much.
So before setting out, you can clarify to your child what it is that you are going to buy, and earmark a few choices that the child can make for himself. For instance you can tell him that he can pick out his own breakfast cereal or similar item.
Also clarify from the outset the sort of demands that will not be entertained. Explain clearly and calmly why certain unhealthy food choices will not be permitted to be made; that those things that are not good for children and their health will not be bought.
You may be surprised at how willing children are to listen when you explain to them how something may harm their health. They may also be amenable as you steer them towards healthier and more wholesome choices.
Whenever possible let the child participate in making choices: for instance you can let the child choose between apples and pears; or let him choose his favorite kind of apples.
However even after all the clarifications issued before going out, children may still decide to cause a ‘scene’ – what then? You either give in, or remain firm. The latter choice is better, even if it causes some discomfort and disapproving glances for a while.
Explain gently but very firmly, why a particular decision will not change. If the parent is consistent in this behavior, the public scenes and will lessen and taper off over time.