3 Ways to teach your children good manners when they embarrass you in public

Because you never know what your kid will do next…

Every parent experiences some embarrassing moments when your child’s behaviour shocks you and makes you feel the judgment of onlookers.

Maybe you hear your child make a comment to a relative about their weight, or your child goes up to someone outside a coffee shop and tells the smoker, “You’re going to die.”

Perhaps your kid receives a party favour he does not like and tells the host, or your teenager is mopey and sullen at Christmas lunch barely making eye contact with his relatives.

These embarrassing moments are not about your parenting abilities – all kids do unpredictable things and have moments when they are rude, cranky or unaware of social expectations.

Here are three ways to handle embarrassing moments in parenting whenever your kids throw you for a loop:

1. Problems in public

Try to forget about the judgment of others – and try not to make discipline decisions in the heat of the moment because often your emotional state means you overreact to minor incidents.

Hold back, and wait to discuss the embarrassing incident afterward so you and your child can discuss it calmly. This is unless you feel there are safety issues involved, or your child’s behaviour is escalating.

If your child regularly demonstrates rude and disrespectful behaviour, try to coach them and continually work on helping him to step into other people’s shoes to consider how his behaviour affects others.

As you coach your child ask questions like, “What do you think I feel when you talk to me that way?”

Coaching your child to hear his tone and to know why his comments were rude is the long-term solution to help with embarrassing moments.

Teach your child to engage in a “polite pretend” – meaning to fake interest or happiness and to be polite even when your child is hungry, tired, or bored. If children object to performing a polite pretend, begin by asking your child how other people feel about his behaviour and ask him if the behaviour he is demonstrating is what he means to show others.

Many embarrassing public incidents can be dealt with if your child knows how to present a “polite pretend”.

2. Problems with extended family

Try to interpret your child’s behaviour to see what he needs; is he hungry, tired, overwhelmed?

If your child regularly demonstrates rude and disrespectful behaviour, try to coach them and continually work on helping him to step into other people’s shoes to consider how his behaviour affects others

Taking care of an underlying need can help your child shift his behaviour and can end embarrassing moments.

Don’t be afraid to leave with your child – If your child’s behaviour escalates due to meltdowns or behaviour that is dangerous. Don’t threaten him, but be sure to follow through despite the comments and judgment of family. Consider what behaviour you will let go due to the need to create a comfortable and fun family experience, and what behaviour you cannot let go.

Everyone is working on something – share with your family ahead of time about anything you are working on with your child, ask them not to interfere and explain that you’re coaching your child.

Reprimanding him in the middle of a get-together is not comfortable for anyone.

3. Problems with teachers and other authority figures

Gently remind your child to remember his manners in the moment.

Say something like, “When someone gives us a gift, we say thank you.”

Have a go-to phrase ready for these baffling and embarrassing moments to remind your child of his manners such as, “In our family, we do not speak to each other that way.”

Allow the teacher or adult to react and to coach your child so both parties are working to help to remind your child how he truly wants to act.

Often, teachers and coaches know your child and his quirks and can help your child to see the need to shift his behaviour.

Many embarrassing moments occur in front of coaches and teachers every day and they are often very willing to collaborate and nurture your child to be his best self.

Do not make jokes, justify the behaviour, or make excuses. Simply ask your child to apologise or gently remind him of his manners and then address the behaviour and fully discuss why you feel the behaviour was inappropriate.

Justifying your child’s behaviour sends the wrong message to him and dilutes the effect of his behaviour.

Try to manage your own embarrassment and focus on the need to parent and guide your child. Coping with embarrassing moments is one of the hardest aspects of parenting. Every parent has to leave a cart in a store to cope with a meltdown or has a moment when your child says something you find embarrassing.

Having a plan to cope with the unpredictable rollercoaster of parenting can help you cope with these embarrassing parenting situations.

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