Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Behavior in Public Places: Teaching Good Behavior
Taking children to restaurants and grocery, discount, and
department stores can be both fun and educational.
To make trips to public places more enjoyable, begin by
taking numerous "training trips." These are best described
as short trips made for the sole purpose of teaching your
child how to behave in public places.
- Training trips should not exceed 15 minutes and could be
only 5 minutes.
- Choose a time when the store or restaurant is not very
- Training trips should be for teaching, not for shopping
- Rules should be stated before you leave home, as matter-
of-factly as possible, and restated immediately before
you enter the "training area." Some suggestions for
a. Stay with Mom or Dad. Do not walk alone.
b. Do not pick up or touch things without permission
from Mom or Dad.
c. Nothing will be purchased on the trip.
- Provide your child with a lot of brief, nonverbal,
physical contact (at least once every minute or half-
minute) for good behavior. Occasionally praise your
child, saying, for example, "Mike, you sure are being
good," "You're staying right next to Mommy," or "Thank
you for not picking up any candy."
- Maintain frequent physical contact with your child.
Touch him gently on the back, rough up his hair, or
briefly give him a hug, pulling him next to you.
- Involve your child in the activity as much as possible.
Have her get groceries for you or place them in the cart.
Give your child educational instructions, such as "Get me
the green can, please," or "Bring me the bag of pretzels,
please." Don't forget to say "please" and "thank you"
- Include your child in pleasant conversation regarding
what you're doing. For example, you might say, "We're
going to make sloppy joes with this hamburger meat. You
really like sloppy joes, don't you?".
- This is also a good time to teach your child about his
world. For example, "Bananas grow on trees. What else
can you think of that grows on trees?" or "All fruits
have a skin or cover on them to protect them from rain
- By your frequent physical contact, praise, teaching, and
pleasant conversation, your child will remain much more
interested in the trip. By actually helping you, he
will learn that stores are a fun place to visit.
- If your child breaks one of your rules, immediately make
her sit in "time-out." This can be any place that is
generally out of the normal flow of foot traffic. In a
grocery store, you can just point to one of the tile
floor squares and firmly tell your child to sit on that
square because she walked away from you. In a
restaurant, you can simply turn your child's chair
around. If the restaurant is not very crowded, you can
place your child on another chair about 3 to 4 feet away
from you. As soon as your child is quiet for about
half a minute, tell her that it is okay to get up or
to turn her chair back to the table.
- Generally the better your child behaves at home, the
better he'll behave in public. When you are having
trouble in public, step up your efforts at home.
- Remember, praise and attention, coupled with firm
discipline, are the tools for teaching your child.
Discipline alone will not work. Using praise and
attention with discipline will work to make your trips
to stores and restaurants much more enjoyable for both