We teach our children the proper and polite words to say. We discipline them at home to help guide them in the right direction. We pray over them and show them Scriptures that teach character. And it’s working! And we feel good. 

And then, there’s the fit at Target. Or a meltdown at at playdate. Or maybe an incident at the library’s outdoor summer reading program where the emus that are part of the event like to do their business on the ground and your five year old thinks it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen and wants to announce it to the world by loudly giggling over the word “poop”, likely no less than 12 times before I notice. Ahem.


I have to say that this momma gets really embarassed when my kids don’t “perform” for me in public like I want them to. In our home we are very committed to teaching character to our children and instructing them according to the Word of God {and basic common sense manners}. So when all that time spent isn’t reflected in their behavior when we’re around other people, it puts me on edge!

Over the course of my short seven years of parenting, I’m learning that there are usually identifiable reasons for our kids’ misbehavior and that they can be dealt with graciously but only if we can identify the source {where the behavior is coming from}, the reason {why they’re acting that way} and our responsibility in the matter. 

I’ve found it helpful to ask myself these six questions:

  • Am I consistent in my teaching/discipline at home before we go out in public?
  • Am I preparing my child for wherever we’re going so they know what’s expected of them before we get there?
  • Is my child tired, hungry, needing some time just to sit by mom and get control or in need of discipline?
  • Have I planned for how I’m going to handle things if they get out of control? Or even if we’re just encountering an embarrassing situation?
  • Am I overreacting because I’m afraid of another mom judging my mothering skills? 
  • Is my child really doing something foolish? Or just being childish and silly {isn’t morally wrong or bringing harm to anyone}?

If you find yourself getting frustrated over your children’s public behavior, I’d encourage you to ask some questions like these. Pray for the strength to bridle your tongue or calm down emotionally or whatever your need may be. God will be there to help!

Even if I ask myself these questions beforehand, I’ve overreacted many times, believe me! I am totally a work in progress!! On so many occasions, once I’ve gotten home and thought for a little while, I’ve realized that a lot of things that seemed so terrible at the moment could have been handled with more grace. Grace for my children, because they’re not perfect, and grace for myself, because I know that ultimately it is the Lord’s opinion of me that counts, not what someone else may have seen in one moment of foolish behavior from my kids.

How to respond graciously when our children misbehave in pubilc

Responding appropriately to my children’s disobedient or childish behavior has much to do with me recognizing the truth of grace and then parenting in such a way that shows consistency, kindness and confidence in the ability God has given me as a mother.

L, in the middle, at her 5th birthday party this July!

I love to see my kids getting along with each other and their friends and I know that my true and dear momma friends understand that my children are not always the perfect specimens of behavior. Yes, there are standards and we most certainly strive for character in our offspring, but there are going to be moments when they fail. In private and most assuredly in public.

Perhaps God is teaching us something important through those times and giving us a chance to demonstrate the grace and mercy He so freely gives us when we don’t conduct ourselves in the way we are called to every day.

How do you handle it when your children misbehave or embarrass you in public? Do you need an attitude adjustment? Do you struggle to deal with specific situations? Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments so we can learn from each other (and I can get ideas for future posts!) :)



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11 Comments on How to Respond Graciously When Our Kids Don’t Behave in Public

  1. Thank you for this! I love how it’s true to the point of the subject and very honest and practical. The questions go straight to the heart, and help you be able to change you first. You can’t expect anything out of your children that you’re not willing to do first (like obedience). I always tell people when they compliment our children in public, “We work on it at home.” It takes some work, but it’s well worth it!

    I love how you have named your blog too, it’s a great thing to be a purposeful mom. I look forward to getting more familiar with your blog in the near future by taking some time to look around.

    I’m sharing this with other moms on the Ministry Mamas Facebook page.

  2. These are words moms all need to be sharing with each other, reminding each other.
    Your post reminds me that we should be pro-active rather than reactive when it comes to our children’s behavior.
    Practicing at home, preparing them for what’s to come, having a plan for our time out and about is so important, and helps our children meet the expectations we have for our outings.
    I’ll be revisiting this post again, I’m sure!

  3. Visiting you again, but from the MYHS linky party. Your advice is excellent and the questions you included really help to get at the heart of the issue. :)

  4. I love these questions that you ask yourself. It is so difficult sometimes when kids misbehave in public or even around certain people & you can get so frustrated! I hear you! – Tiffany

    • I definitely find that asking myself questions makes me more aware of the situation and what’s really going on!

  5. My husband recently began writing a series called Control vs. Authority. In his first post, he talks about the importance of separating our children’s behavior (what they do) from their identity (who they are). All of us make bad choices from time to time; I’m so thankful God doesn’t look at me and see all the bad choices I’ve made but rather the worth I have because of Christ!

    We have been learning a lot at our house about the difference between control and authority, and it is making a huge impact on how we both intereact with and discipline our son. I’d love for you to check it out: A Husband’s Insight (https://1chron291113.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/control-vs-authority-a-husbands-insight/) and How God Operates ( https://1chron291113.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/control-vs-authority-how-god-operates/)

    Found you thanks to linking-up at Raising Homemakers!

  6. The questions you asked really encourage some soul searching on this issue. It’s much easier to parent well if you identify the problem, and you are completely correct that sometimes the problem is parents and not children. I think the one I struggle with the most is recognizing when kids are just being kids. That could be because I mostly have active boys, lol. :) I’m visiting from the Titus 2sday party.

    • Kids being kids…yes, that is definitely something I struggle with as well! I need to let my boys be a little more rambunctious without worrying so much :)

  7. Thanks for sharing your heart Jenn! I have been reminded lately that I don’t act or respond perfectly in every situation so I can’t expect my kiddos to either. We are a work in progress…praise God for His grace!

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