All parents know the feeling. You are with your little ones in a public place and everything is going smoothly…until suddenly, it is not. Whether it is a temper tantrum, a sibling fight or simply unleashed pent up energy run amok, parenting difficult youngsters in public, with people watching, can be tough.

One important thing to keep in mind is that employees are more often than not on your side. Take the grocery store clerk at your local supermarket, for example. Even if he does not have children of his own, the clerk has almost certainly seen his fair share of misbehaving children and tempter tantrums in the aisles. So too has the waitress at the neighborhood restaurant. And the flight attendant. And the nurse.
While there are some locations, such as a fancy five-star restaurant or a high end clothing store, that are not accustomed to dealing with difficult children, more common day to day places typically are. Let’s look at some tips for some of them!


Kids can get bored and restless quickly, but they are also naturally curious and inquisitive. When shopping with your youngster, try to involve them in the process by framing your trip as a fascinating adventure, rather than a chore. Point out how many different types of peppers there are, or explain to them the differences between types of milk. While they may not retain the information, keeping them involved keeps them out of trouble. Additionally, instead of telling your children “five more minutes” or “we’re almost done”, put them in charge of picking up simple items. A mini grocery list of your child’s own can make them feel important and get their eyes off the exit sign.


Sometimes, it can be a nightmare getting young children to sit still for a trim. Whether they are scared, or simply restless, bringing along a small toy or favourite book can help ease anxiety. If your child is frightened, consider playing ‘hair salon’ at home before hand, using a towel as the cape and your fingers as scissors.


While older children may find enjoyment in browsing a toy store to find things a Christmas list or an upcoming birthday, toddlers are typically not capable of this. It is hard for them to understand that they cannot have everything, and it is imperative to keep toddler toy store visits as quick as possible. A short trip gives your toddler less opportunity to notice all the fun toys (and throw a tantrum when they cannot have them!).
For older kids, let them know up front what the purpose of the trip is, then give them some freedom to select something. For example, if you are buying a gift for one of their friend’s birthday parties, let them know a price range, then as them to help make the decision. Focusing on details will give them a sense of empowerment and will make them feel helpful.


Try to be honest with your children. If they are going to the doctor’s office for an immunization shot, tell them so before hand. It is much better to have the discussion at home than at the doctors, and it will give them time to prepare.


When dining at restaurant with children, it is advisable to look for one that caters to families. These types of restaurants will typically have staff and clientele that are accustomed to dealing with children, and may even have a specific menu for kids.
If you are going to visit a more ‘adult’ restaurant with your children, try to arrive early. The kitchen will be able to accommodate your order in a timelier fashion, while spills and messes are less of a distraction on the staff.

Most restaurants these days have a menu online. It is often a good idea to have your kids take a look at this and decide what they want before visiting the establishment.


Of course, these are only a few of the places where public parenting can come in handy.