Have you ever been out in public when your child decides to present their worst behavior to the world? What's your first reaction? Anger? Embarrassment?
My youngest was not an easy baby or toddler. She wanted things to be her way, and she wanted them now! She was also a world-class tantrum thrower. We pretty much gave up eating out in public with her for more than a year because it was such a miserable experience for everyone. Many times I gave up on my errands and took her home during the time when she was between 18 months and 3 years old.
My overwhelming thought when she was throwing a fit in public was to simply get out of public sight. I felt judged as a parent and embarrassed that my child would act this way. It really wasn't any different than what she did when she got angry at home, but we were, gasp, in public, and I just knew everyone in the store was staring at me wondering what kind of parent I was.
When she would throw a fit at home, we would put her in her room and let her scream it out. When she was done, we would deal with the underlying issue. Out in public, that wasn't an option -- plus there were people watching. There were times when I would get upset with her simply because I was embarrassed.
You know what I learned through dealing with my toddler daughter in public? An embarrassed, angry parent does not make good decisions about discipline. You see, discipline is loving correction. It's meant to teach and to change the heart attitude behind the incorrect behavior. When we discipline our children when we're angry or embarrassed, we're not worried about their heart, we're worried about our image.
Pride can get in the way of effective discipline in a hurry. Proverbs 16:18 tells us "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." We don't want our pride to cause destruction, especially not the destruction of our children. When we discipline out of pride, we miss the opportunity to grab a teachable moment and change our children's hearts. Discipline should be done out of love and never anger or pride.
Here's the silly thing about our children acting up in public. Many times our kids misbehave in the middle of the grocery store or the mall where there are lots of people to see. But, how many of those people do we know? Usually none. Why do we care what a bunch of perfect strangers think? Is their opinion more important than grabbing a teachable moment with our children?
So, what do you do when you're out in public and your child decides to show the rest of the world how terribly behaved they can be? Take a deep breath. Find an out-of-the-way corner of the grocery store or the mall or the playground. Pray and ask God to help you administer discipline with an attitude that focuses on your child's heart, not on your own embarrasment. Then, deal with the situation at hand.
I've been known to stand my kids in the corner of the grocery store for a time out. I'll take away privileges or if we're in the grocery store, I'll take away the opportunity to get the free cookie from the bakery. I've also been known to take my girls home and deal with the issue there. There's nothing wrong with any of those options as long as they are done out of love and a true desire to change a child's heart and behavior and not out of anger.
The next time you're out in public, and your child starts acting up remember that to deal with your child effectively, the focus needs to be on her heart and behavior and not on your pride.