TV shows love to show kids swinging from the chandeliers, scribbling on walls and flinging spaghetti at perfect strangers. Take your kid to work? Oy vey no! We’ve all seen that sitcom. A child goes missing, along with some printer ink, the merger deal and a four carat diamond.
While I do feel there are some situations that are not appropriate for kids, I have found that kids really are capable of behaving in a lot of situations where parents fear to tread. And sometimes we have no choice – we have to fly, drive and wait in lines, after all.
You don’t want to be that family that everyone cringes about having dinner with, do you?
The key? Preparation!
First of all: I’m not just preaching to the choir. I’m walking the walk. Yesterday, after my childcare fell through, I attended an hour long IEP meeting for my oldest daughter, with my three other kids in tow. No pressure there – just me and a bunch of child psychs and educators etc sitting around a table while my other three kids waited without me (GULP) in the next room. It’s not like all these professionals would judge me, right? After all, my two middle kids seem old enough to amuse themselves.
However, they don’t always get along. My daughter has a tendency to yell at her younger sibs, when they get “annoying.” The 8-year-old loves to goad his little brother. When the older two start bickering, the 4-year old starts climbing to the highest place in the room, looking for the printer ink and a dagger.
In other words, I’ve still got to use the same techniques I’ve employed since I had a houseful of toddlers. I find myself pulling this same bag of tricks out again and again. The key here, as with most things in life, is a PLAN.
Bonus: These strategies work with tag-along significant others who hate shopping, as well.
Don’t Leave Them Hanging! 1 of 14Make your expectations crystal clear from the start. "I need you to sit here and entertain yourself for five minutes."
Find Them an Appropriate Place to Perch 2 of 14The real world isn't always ideal for kids but some places are better to park than others! Look around for a space that is comfortable and doesn't have too many breakable items or dangerous sharp edges. Take note of the nearest bathroom and water source. In restaurants, request booth seating and try to keep out of the busiest areas.
Give Them the Runaround 3 of 14I make my kids jump on the trampoline prior to car trips, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and restaurants that require reservations.
Put Them To Work 4 of 14Even a 3-year-old can help clear a table. If kids feel useful, responsible and a part of the action, they are more likely to behave. Keep the job simple/age appropriate.
Enforce the Law 5 of 14If you've let your kids know your expectations, they should have some idea of the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Don't hold back on enforcing the law. Even if it ruins this outing, it lays the groundwork for all future outings.
Bring Books 6 of 14The key here is keeping it age appropriate. Bring books that they can read by themselves
My Phone! My Phone! 7 of 14It's often a last resort, an ace up your sleeve and if you're okay with it, it can make a huge difference. We try and save the tech (iPhone, Nintendo, etc) for those times we REALLY need it, and boy does it come in handy when we do!
Games and Puzzles 8 of 14If we can forestall the tech with a board game (travel or full size) we will. Figure out what games your child enjoys the most. Buy a back up and leave it in the car.
Would You Like Some Crayons? 9 of 14So many restaurants offer crayons. But they are almost always the sucky kind made out of strangely unpigmented, crumbly wax. What's up with those crayons? They hand you these un crayons with a word find puzzle fit for 40 year olds, not tots. Pack up your own coloring supplies, paper, and worksheets to have on hand for outings.
Feed Me! 10 of 14Hungry kids are cranky kids. If you are going someplace you need them to behave, feed them first and pack some non-messy (that's critical) snacks.
I Challenge You… 11 of 14Competition is a wonderful thing for the bored. The Quiet Game, Staring Contests, even seeing who can hold their breath longer have been sibling pass-the-time pastimes for ages. We like the "How long can you hang a spoon on your nose" game and the "Touch your tongue to your nose" game and the "Teach yourself to whistle" game too.
Bribery!!! 12 of 14Okay, we can call it a "reward" if you insist. And it doesn't have to be food. Don't get all crazy on me. But dangling a treat seems to work a charm with my kids. They only get it if they earn it!
Praise Matters 13 of 14If your boss never told you that you did a good job, it would be a real downer. It's important to say thanks to kids when they behave. It's not always easy for them, you know!
Make a Wish 14 of 14If you don't go for it, your kids can't show you what they got. Good behavior takes planning, and a lot of practice!
Disclaimer: My kids are far from perfect. They pitch fits, ignore me and meltdown, just like the other mortals. But when push comes to shove, I’m glad to know they can, and do behave.
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