Why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to discipline your kids in public

I was walking through Target with my three-year old the other day and he yelled out “I pooted!” right in the middle of the store.

That’s one of cool things about three-year olds…not that they proudly announce bodily functions…but the fact that what you see is what you get.

You see, three-year olds act the same way and say the same things no matter who is around or where they are. They’re always themselves. They’re always wide open.

Most adults, though, don’t always act the same way in public that they do at home. I don’t.

Disciplining my children is one example of that. Parenting, in general, is  hard. Parenting with an audience…

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You’re on a shopping trip with the kids. You’re picking up a few things with the hopes of getting in and out quickly. Everything is going as planned…you’re almost done. Then you pass the candy aisle. And now Junior wants some. But candy isn’t on your list, so you say “no.”

Junior isn’t happy.

Junior decides to sit on the floor…and scream.

You feel like everyone is starring at you. Judging you. Assuming you’re a horrible parent. Watching to see how you’re going to react.

And it’s usually different from how you would have reacted at home…because you’re embarrassed.

But you shouldn’t be.

First of all, there is a huge difference between disciplining…correcting…guiding…your kids and belittling them. You shouldn’t do that in public or at home. I know people who are still scarred by the names their parents called them as a child.

Secondly, no one is judging you. Well, anyone who is doesn’t have kids.

Before I became a parent, I would have thought “my kids wound never act like that.” Ha!! My kids have. Not because I’m a horrible parent, but because my kids are kids. I mean, I don’t know any child that helps you out by saving any and all outbursts for the confines of home.

Father, I am highly disappointed in your decision not to purchase candy. I will, however, refrain from showing you my full frustration until we get home.”

That’s why any parent that sees you…while they might not say anything…is cheering for you on the inside. Because we’ve all been there. We have all been there.

Besides, are you really worried about what a 22 year old thinks?

Most importantly, we shouldn’t be embarrassed because it’s our responsibility to do what’s best for our kids.

I mean, if I do anything other that what’s best for my children…in any situation…because I’m concerned about what someone else thinks, that’s on me. I’m not doing my job and it’s not fair to my children.

Parenting is not a popularity contest.

Our kids need (and want) boundaries. But those boundaries have to be the same inside and outside of the home. If something is out of bounds at home…it has to be out of bounds in the candy aisle at Target…at the mall…in front of our friends…in front of their friends.

Otherwise, we’re just confusing our children and we’re doing them a disservice.

I’d like to tell you I’m really good at this. But, I’m not.

Part of me was even embarrassed to write this.

Hey, I don’t even like the word. “Discipline.” That’s something your elementary school principal doled out.

I try to remind myself, though, that discipline equals love.

And I’m trying to be as consistent as my three-year old, but I’m a work in progress.

– Stephen

I'd like to hear from you! Do you discipline your kids in public the same way you do at home? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Kelly Pace Cecil

    My father’s best parenting advice to me: “Don’t EVER let them see the fear in your eyes…” 😉