Look after the basics: Taking a hungry or tired child anywhere is asking for trouble. It’s best to feed a child before going out. One could leave home carrying juice, fruits or healthy munchies. Routine is important for children, even during holidays. They get cranky when they are sleep deprived. So, to help manage their behaviour and good health, it is advisable they get adequate rest.
Prepare, prepare, and prepare: Very often, we do not share plans with our children. Where are we going? What is going to be happening there? Who will be there? Describing what we will do and what expectations we have for our children helps them manage their behaviour. ‘At the supermarket, we have to buy groceries for the month. It might be crowded and will take us 30 minutes. Appa and you are in charge of vegetable shopping’.
Encourage children to think about their role: We could talk to our children and brainstorm on how they can contribute to the situation. Involve them in making the action plan. ‘Marina beach is a crowded place. How can we make sure that we all stay together and not get separated?’. At the supermarket, you could ask, ‘We’ve got the bread, washing soap, idli, rice... What’s next on the list?’
Making time for our child: Children might feel insecure and restless when we are busy with guests or out of the house for a long time. When we take a break from our work and attend to our child either by gently holding her hand, making eye contact etc, then this reassurance and attention helps them stay calm. ‘Looks like you are finding it hard to sit in that chair. How about a stroll while Amma finishes the bank work?’.
Set limits when needed: Parents need to set limits for children which helps children grow and learn to set limits for themselves. Limits keep children, others around, and property safe. Children might object to limits being set. Our role is to gently and firmly set the limit while supporting them to follow it. ‘Jumping seems fun. And, sofas are not for jumping. You can jump on the mattress on the floor or go play outside’; ‘I can see how much you want to eat the chocolate cake. You’ve already had two pieces. If you’re still hungry you can have some fruit salad’.
Relocate from the situation: If our child is in the throes of an uncontrollable tantrum, we could gently pick him up or steer him away to a secluded place where no one disturbs us. Being with our child without the pressure of judging spectators helps both the parent and child calm down. When someone tries to intervene or distract the child, it’s fine to say, ‘He’ll be fine...We just need a little time alone’.
As parents, we have the conviction about our reasons for choosing a parenting style that does not resort to punishments. With our family members we could have continued discussions on this in the interest of our child.
While with strangers, we need to keep reminding ourselves that our children are more important than what unknown people think of us. There will be some easy days and some tough ones. Just acknowledging, ‘bad day for me today!’, makes it easier for us to deal with our own emotions of embarrassment and helplessness. In the end, isn’t it about raising an emotionally stable child?