The blowout happened the same day the meltdown happened.

I was wrangling all four children under the age of seven through Target, trying desperately to grab as many items as I could before the newborn needed to be fed and the 5 year old said “I’m hungry!” one more time.

Then I innocently told the two-and-a-half year old that he couldn’t have the juice drink with the Mickey Mouse spout.

Complete and total meltdown. And then my 7 year old asked loudly, “Mom, what’s that brown stuff on Lydia’s back?”

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 screaming at Target in the middle of a poppy diaper situation. Or a breakdown at at playdate. Or loud yelling and fighting about who gets to go on the ride first.

Or perhaps its an incident at the library’s outdoor summer reading program where the emu’s 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 Bible {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.

Six Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Kids Act Up in Public

I’ve found it helpful to ask myself these six questions when I’m reflecting on misbehavior:

  • 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 close your mouth 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.

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.


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