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How to encourage good behaviour in public


24 November 2021

Many parents are filled with dread when they think about their toddler having a tantrum in public. Dealing with challenging behaviours outside of the home can be trickier due to lack of privacy, safety, and space to allow your child to blow off steam. 

We asked renowned nanny and childcare expert Laura Amies to summarise how to deal with challenging behaviours of children outside of the house. Her first answer was, there is no short answer. Laura explained that we don’t need to view discipline as a big, scary event. Children benefit from teachable moments to help them connect the dots. When they are able to process a chain of events, they are more capable of navigating similar situations more productively.

Laura has provided us with some valuable advice and tips:

“It’s very important to look at things from a developmental point of view, a child under 5 will need regular support, guidance, and reminders about their behaviour due to the lack of self-control they have.

They are driven via impulse and have little awareness of other people’s feelings, so screaming down the cheese aisle for that new toy, for example, is not something they can suddenly stop doing when asked.

Once we understand more about a child’s natural reactions and their actual capabilities, we can ensure our expectations of them are set at the right level. (Expecting too much results in both adult and child becoming very frustrated, leading to a cycle of negative behaviours).

Having a consistent approach to your child’s behaviours, irrelevant of where you are, will REALLY help them to understand their boundaries. If for example, your reaction to them is very different depending on the day, location, time, and mood, they’ll struggle to learn where their boundaries lay.

Discipline doesn’t have to be big and scary or even have a huge consequence; there ultimately just needs to be a logical moment for a child to connect the dots between their actions and understanding that it wasn’t appropriate. Plus, when you are outside of the house your options are limited in terms of the amount of time, safety, and privacy you have, so I very much recommend that behaviours have as much focus within the home environment as possible. This then trickles through into outings.

In short, consider a chain of events that will help your child connect to teachable moments. The following example can be moulded to most circumstances;


Before you go into a friend’s house, drop to your child’s level and using clear, simple language explain your expectations. E.G “I’d like to see kind hands and soft voices.”

Be aware of trigger times! Before naps and meals, you must lower your expectations of their capabilities. Tired and hungry children are tantrums waiting to happen!


Notice the good! Your child will do something worth

mentioning, so highlight that to help keep them on track! E.G “Wow! Lucy, that was so kind!”


Look out for behaviours that could lead to a difficult outcome and redirect your child. E.G “Lucy, have you seen the blue car….I think that one will be really fast!”


As soon as a negative behaviour is displayed, respond calmly and say what you see. E.G “Lucy, you hit Tim, he’s hurt.” Try not to ask questions, in the heat of the moment they won’t necessarily know why they did what they did!


Depending on their behaviour and location, take a moment to consider your next move and allow your child to sit in the emotion for a short time. Emotional Development is HUGELY important.


Following on from the example above, I would state my next move and ensure that whatever I say, I mean. When children develop an understanding that you are true to your word, it helps them the next time! E.G “Hitting hurts, if you hit Tim again, we will go home.” (This essentially starts you back at step 1).

There’s no black or white scenario, so giving examples is just a way to describe a chain of events. Ultimately, your child needs to learn WHY we don’t hit, scream or run off etc, not just that we shouldn’t. Learning why allows them to navigate future circumstances with more awareness and over time this leads to very well-rounded individuals!

All children really want is attention, eye contact, verbal interaction. They might be sad to not get what they want, but you can still work on your bond with them and keep your boundaries in place. The more you do, the more your child will respect it and learn to not push as hard.”


For more tips and information on child behaviour, follow Laura on Instagram: @NannyAmies

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