How To: Keep Your Child Under Control in Public Places

Young Girl Acting Up In Restaurant It is very common for kids to have a difficult time transitioning to new places. Many kids will act out because they are uncomfortable or simply because they only want to do what they want to do.

Luckily, there are many ways to maintain you child’s behavior in public places. If your child suffers from anxiety, begin desensitizing them. To do this, increase the amount of time they are in public places and use preferred tangible items to reward appropriate behavior during the allotted time.

Remember to start at a small amount of time and begin increasing the time by five minute intervals. The best way to create a positive environment for your child is to reinforce appropriate behavior and remove reinforcement for inappropriate behavior. Your child will learn to respond to this approach as well as the following:

Tips For Encouraging Appropriate Behavior In Public

  • Explain the behavioral expectations when out in a public place so that your child is aware of what’s expected of them.
  • Use a sticker chart for transitions so that your child is rewarded for transitioning appropriately.
  • Find a preferred object that your child can hold onto during the transition if they behave well, and remove the object if they behave inappropriately
  • Set a contingency plan, such as removing all contact with the object, if your child acts out
  • Talk to your child about why they are unhappy when out in a public place. Sometimes just communicating with your child about this and about how you can make it better is helpful.
  • Use “first/then” language when transitioning from a preferred to a non-preferred activity. For example, “first birthday party, then ice cream”.

Avoid Rewarding Inappropriate Behavior

Remember that your child is acting out because they don’t want to be in a public place, removing them from the situation will only encourage this behavior. No matter how embarrassed you may get, make sure to keep them at the place and only allow them to leave if they are being appropriate and have met any criteria you may have set for them. Don’t allow your child to avoid situations by demonstrating inappropriate behavior.

Stephanie Orman

Stephanie Orman, M.S., BCBA is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) who earned her master’s degree from Northeastern University. Prior to living in Chicago, Stephanie attended The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in criminology. During her undergraduate studies, Stephanie earned a specialization certificate in Developmental Disabilities and partook in two internships focusing on children diagnosed with Autism. Stephanie has experience working as a pediatric behavior analyst in Early Intervention and in school settings with children of all ages. She is strongly committed to helping children build confidence and achieve their maximum potential.

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