As tough as it is to discipline a child with special needs in your own home, it’s even more frustrating when there is a breakdown in your child’s behavior while out in public. Because a child’s meltdown or boiling point doesn’t always come while alone at home, it can be embarrassing for both you and your child. Many pairs of eyes turn towards you, silently judging your every action, wanting to hide in a quiet corner you must press on.
Disciplining a child in public requires quick and creative problem-solving techniques in order to avoid a public spectacle. Here are some tips you can use to nip that tantrum in the bud.
1. Immediately seek a quiet place.
Dealing with your child’s behavior in public only seeks to provide an audience for your parenting skills. The first step towards curbing an issue is getting to a quiet place quickly, helping your child calm down while you start addressing the behaviors in a distraction-free environment. Just being alone with you can give your child the peace of mind that was otherwise disrupted through a stressor of some sort.
2. Keep your cool.
When parents have had enough of a child’s behavior, it is often tempting to yell at the child in frustration, but this could have untoward consequences while in a public environment. It is crucial to keep your temper in check through a calming breathing practice or other quick exercise, reminding yourself that letting your emotions get the best of you can only make a situation worse. When you speak to your child about their behaviors, keep your voice calm, controlled and low to avoid frightening your child even more than they might already be.
3. Reward good behavior.
Yes, this is just a general all-around good tip and it applies to both home and public use. If your child acts up in a setting outside of the natural home environment, do not give in to their demands in order to quiet the behavioral conflict. Be firm in following the two steps listed above to immediately get the situation under control, then let your child know in a calm manner that certain types of disobedient behavior will simply not be tolerated. The next time they are tempted to perform the same behaviors in public, they will hopefully remember that acting in a negative manner did not get the desired results, thus resulting in a positive demeanor the next time.
4. Keep up the consistency.
Children with special needs might have a tendency to feel that certain rules concerning behavior only apply to the home environment, but there are no holds barred out in public. It’s important to set a good disciplinary example at home and then exhibit those consistent techniques outside of the home. Children need to know that if a certain behavior doesn’t work at home, it won’t work in public, either. As always, be firm and calm throughout ordeal until a viable solution can be reached.
5. Set a good example.
All children look to adult figures for clues on how to act in the world around them, and sometimes act in ways that seem designed to test an adult’s patience. It’s the classic “monkey see, monkey do” mimicry that is always found in nature, and it applies to humans as much as animals. Children learn how to behave from other people’s actions, which means if you react badly to a situation then your child knows how to behave when that problem is presented to them again. Whether at home or in public, how you handle your own emotions says a lot about which behaviors you find acceptable.
6. Define consequences and set expectations.
For a child with special needs, it’s often being thrust into unknown situations that can cause undesirable behaviors to occur. Before stepping into a public situation, take the time to let your child know where you are going, what to expect, and how they are expected to act; this gives them time to mentally adjust to the upcoming situation and decide which actions would be appropriate given the circumstance. You have given them all of the information they will need to behave in a positive manner, which inspires feelings of confidence and lessens the chance of negative behaviors. If an unexpected situation arises, employ the tactics listed above to calm your child with very little fuss.
7. Remove all distractions.
If it will not interfere with your public outing, taking your child away from the situation where the negative behavior occurred can calm their concerns and give them a safe outlet for their emotions. Should you be required to stay in the situation that is upsetting your child, take a mental survey of their surroundings: do you see any of your child’s known stressors? Is there a noise taking place that might be irritating your child into negative behavior? If you answer yes to anything on the checklist, work on removing the distraction that is causing anxiety and tension for your child. What might be overlooked by you could be ruining your child’s experience.
8. Listen to your child’s frustrations.
Children need to feel that when stating their concerns, a caring adult is listening without judgment. This empowers them to take control over their emotions and start trusting someone else’s calming gestures as a genuine sign of affection. By pulling them aside into a quiet environment and listening to what is making them unhappy or stressed, you are letting your child know they have a voice as you work towards a positive resolution.
It’s only human to feel angry and overwhelmed from time to time; what tips the scales for you might not be the same for your siblings, or friends. We at Special Education Resource have created a library of tips and tricks to ensure you have all of the information you’ll need to make informed decisions concerning your child’s behaviors in the future. We’re here to help you every step of the way, no matter where you are on your journey.