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10 Tips for Disciplining Kids in Front of their Friends

February 7, 2012

There are times when parents are forced to discipline their children in the presence of others, which can be quite tricky. This delicate situation should be handled as such, in order to avoid damaging a child’s self esteem and leading to taunts from the observing classmates. These ten tips can strike a balance between effectiveness and overly harsh when your child is acting out in public.

  1. Acknowledge the Behavior – Immediately acknowledging inappropriate or naughty behavior in a calm voice lets your child know that you are aware of the situation, and that their behavior isn’t acceptable.
  2. Pull Them Aside – If at all possible, separate your child from his or her friends before doing anything more than acknowledgment; explaining to them in a one-on-one setting that there are repercussions for making poor behavioral choices is much more constructive than berating the child in the presence of their peers.
  3. Inform Them of Impending Discussions – When it’s not possible to pull your child aside, simply inform them that you’re aware of what they’ve done, and will be discussing it and the resulting disciplinary action when you get home.
  4. Keep Your Voice Down- Never shout at your child, especially in a group setting. In addition to creating the impression that you’re an angry parent, it also embarrasses your child by attracting more attention to the situation.
  5. Avoid Humiliation – Belittling a child is never acceptable, but it’s certainly not the right track when they’re surrounded by others. It is possible to be respectful of your children while expressing disapproval for their actions, and it’s the best possible route in public.
  6. Don’t Talk About Behavior While Driving – If you’re at an event or away from home when the behavioral problem occurs, avoid the temptation to discuss it on the way home. In addition to the risk of distraction-related accidents, the trip will give you time to sort your thoughts and cool off.
  7. Don’t Make Threats – Threatening your child with a punishment in front of their friends definitely falls under the “Humiliation” header for them, but it can cause other parents to become suspicious.
  8. Avoid Commenting on Their Friends’ Behavior – Even if you know that one of your child’s friends was the ringleader, it’s best not to engage that child or attempt to scold them. Emphasizing the importance of making the right choice when others aren’t is the key to instilling a sense of self in your child.
  9. Don’t Be Critical – Making criticizing remarks about your child’s behavior or abilities is hurtful anytime, but that pain is compounded if the remarks are overheard. Choose your words carefully, and avoid “You always…” and “You never…” statements.
  10. Keep It Short and Simple – Long lectures will leave your child’s mind wandering and can also create an opportunity for their peers to tease them later.

Regardless of your parenting style, disciplining a child in public is bound to be awkward for both parties. The most important thing to keep in mind is that humiliating your child will only lead to more behavioral problems; try to solve things as quickly and constructively as possible.


5 Responses to 10 Tips for Disciplining Kids in Front of their Friends

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Rachel says:

Great tips! I’m glad you mentioned the humiliation part, this is often missed.


Hilary says:

Ugh, the one about not commenting on the friend’s behavior is so true and so hard sometimes! It can be tempting to start pointing out misbehavior all around once you get started, but its never productive to bring other children who arent your own into it (definitely been guilty of that before and it didn’t end well).

bobby snyder says:

its never fun to be the bad guy in front of your kids friends – more like one of those necessary evils. i 100% think that bad behavior needs to be acknowledged right away, even if you don’t talk punishments until hours later when you’re home and away from others. kids need to know that they can’t get away with behaving poorly just because they’re around their friends.

Sherri says:

What do you do when someone else’s parent reprimands your child? I fully agree that bad behavior needs to be addressed, and I have no problem addressing my own son’s poor behavior, however I had a situation once where another mom scolded my son publicly – and that I’m not OK with. I wasn’t sure how to respond though because I didn’t want him to think that what he did was ok – it wasn’t – but I also don’t think it’s ok for anyone else to reprimand my children.

admin says:

This is a great topic, and one I’m going to reach out to some experts on!