My child acts up in public places and around others (especially my parents) what can I do to stop him?

Ariana - posted on 09/24/2013 ( 2 moms have responded )




My son seems to act up more if I am around other people or certain times in public.

My son will start acting up A LOT if my mother is around (because she treats him like a baby, he's almost 4 and she acts like he's a little 2 year old). He also acts up around when my Dad is around me, or any family member.

I just had an incident on the bus where he was refusing to stay in his seat and then started SCREAMING when I stopped him. He kept yelling because he wanted to sit with someone else but it wasn't even possible to accommodate due to the way the seats were.

I tried to tell him we'll sit behind the person and he started yelling that he didn't want to sit behind her he wanted to sit with her! Then he started flailing around, and screaming how he wanted to sit ain another seat and I tired to let him sit in one spot but he started rolling around on the ground.

Needless to say no matter how I tried to accommodate him or talk calmly with him he just was not listening and, whether intentionally or not, was revving up for a tantrum.

I also attempted to just tell him to stop (I know, desperation but what else could I do?). I told him if he didn't stop he wouldn't get to watch television when we got him, and I tried to tell him if he did stop he would be able to watch it.

Anyway he wouldn't stop and just kept screaming. I said people on the bus don't want to hear you.

Ultimately we got home and I told him I was not impressed and sent him to his room for a nap ( a much needed one) and then he did not get any television that night.

I just find a lot of times he acts out it's when I'm with other people or in public. At home he's generally fine.

He either realizes when we're in situations that I cannot control (on the bus, I can't give him a timeout or really get him in any sort of trouble for not sitting etc. while we are stuck there). Or when we're with other people and he knows it's embarrassing, like with my family I am always getting him in trouble around them (or with friends...). If you aren't paying attention to just him he starts being bothersome to the max.

In turn now my parents who are separated but a daily part of his life ( I live with my Dad and my Mom watches my son in the day a few days a week) he will act out around them with me a lot.

My Mother acts like it's all my fault that he acts like that and will start babying him and he'll run to her all the time, and my Dad acts like my kids a brat, because my kid tends to start acting like one as soon as he shows up at home.

The main problem is he's inconsistent in the ways he acts out, and my mother acts like I'm awful when I get him in trouble, and my Dad thinks he needs a good yelling or a smack (which I of course tell him yelling is not effecting and do NOT smack him as I already know it isn't going to work). So I've got these two other people with polar reactions to my son acting out.

I try to be as consistent as possible, but it is difficult to continuously have to prove to my son that just because you're in public or with one of your grandparents does not mean you can start acting however you like.

I know it's a matter of just getting over the fact that I might look like I'm being a hardass. I am actually a naturally submissive personality. I try to say 'stop it' to him on the bus and I end up having to hold a screaming child for a 25 minute bus ride. I gave him a consequence but I know to some people I either looked like I wasn't doing enough (I was trying to be calm) and to other people I must have looked like I was being mean (You aren't going to get any television, you need to stop acting like this right now...). I couldn't control him and it was extremely frustrating. The most I could seem to do was just tell him what was going to happen if he continued and follow through. I am just getting really tired of being so embarrassed and I don't know what to do on the days/times he starts to act out and I'm trapped.

I just seem to do this all the time. Like he used to start crying and acting out in restaurants (and I did the lets get in and out, make sure he's not super tired all that accommodating positive outcome scenario things as well to try to build positive opportunities oh joy) and I would have to take him to the bathroom almost every single time for a year before he got that when we went into a restaurant he couldn't just kick off 'cause he felt like it (also in a public setting generally around family, now that I think about it).

I don't know if this is a question as much as a rant... My question would be what could I do to prevent him from continuing to act out in public or around family members (especially my babying mother). I have had to become very tough in that just because my mother is near doesn't mean I don't get him in trouble for things that I would get him in trouble for if I was alone. It's frustrating in that I will get him in trouble and have her disapproving of me, me against her and him instead of me and her trying to teach him how to act like a cooperative little person.


Rebekah - posted on 09/24/2013




Tough one.... but feel free to rant. We all need that from time to time! :)

I would continue to remove him as best possible when the tantruming starts out in public. If its a store or visiting a friend, the trip gets cut short and its time to go. If its a bus, get off at the next stop and find a bench somewhere until he can collect himself and only allow him to go back on the bus when he is calm and listening (or take a cab home if you must in that moment). I wonder if being out somewhere or with others has enough stimulation or new situations to explore that compels him to test limits. I'm curious that you feel that it happens more elsewhere.... is it really his behavior that changes, or yours? Or both? Do you think you redirect or discipline him differently when not at home? Just a question. You mention that you don't want to look like a "hardass," so I wondered if you feel self-conscious enough that you alter what you do in front of others. Do your best to tune out other people's expressions when you are dealing with him in public. While you may get a variety of responses, I have to think, as a parent myself, I would more likely feel tons of compassion for the mom who is in this difficult stage with her child (because I'VE been there TOO!). You may be interpreting their faces as judgement because you aren't feeling good about the situation, but cut yourself some slack and consider that people around you probably understand more than you think. And if they don't, then they must not have kids. And what does it matter what anyone else thinks anyway, right? You are the mom, and you have charge over this little person who needs you to step up to the plate. So keep doing what you're doing.

You also say that you are trying to provide consistency for him (that your parents don't follow through with, unfortunately), so kudos to you for trying to follow your principles. If you haven't talked with mom, keep trying to communicate with her about your parenting style and goals with your son. Is there any way she can see that her behaviors undermine your authority as a parent and ultimately encourages the behavior to continue? If you can't completely see eye-to-eye on everything, can she agree to support you on a few non-negotiable issues?

What about picking, say, two goals he can work on--whether when you go out in public or while under the care of grandma. Do a chart system with him with clear rewards/consequences. Maybe having a positive motivation will help change the dynamic. Start with short outings.... if they go well, build on those successes and point out to him what he's doing right, and then plan a longer outing. If he really likes going out to eat, I'd say delay a trip like that (or somewhere else he really likes) until he can show you that he can do better with following your directions or maintaining his behavior. That can become a reward.

Other than that, try to plan for success: make sure he's in the best shape to control his behavior... make sure he isn't hungry, or tired (might he still need naps? Mine took them daily till almost 4 1/2) or stressed out by something else. (Oh, btw, make sure that applies to you too! Parenting is hard work. Especially this stage.) And it always helps to have a "survival" bag along with snacks or small items to distract him from potential naughtiness. Good luck.


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Ariana - posted on 09/24/2013




I usually do my best to give him short positive trips and try to take him out when well-rested but it was after school when he was tired and it couldn't be avoided. He generally acts better but he'll kick off at random times. I think an emergency toy/goodie bag is a good idea since I can't always get off the bus etc.

My Dad is not to bad, but my Mom definitely undermines me all the time. I've told her this and she resists listening to me and thinks I'm being mean to him when I discipline. He always runs to her etc because she lets him do what he wants and runs over every time he cries etc.

It's like I'll say take your boots off and put them away and if he starts yelling she'll go do it for him, even if I have specifically told her not to do it for him. You know? She just treats him like a baby and he'll say things like, "I want to go with her, I'm not holding your hand, go away" to me when she's around. I used to get upset about it but now I just ignore him, or I tell him that's not nice to say and then just ignore it.

The other problem is I was living with my Mom and then moved and so now she's worse because she acts like I don't take care of him at all, and is always making little comments. It's a pretty negative relationship tbh. He really likes her and she does love him dearly, but she's a total control freak. She even recently told my sister that she thought I wasn't feeding him, which my father told me (I live with my Dad) and he knows for a fact that that is untrue and I feed my son plenty. Anyway that's this weird dynamic going on there.

I used to get frustrated but now I either ignore her antics or I simply ignore her disapproval when I discipline him in the way I see fit. He's 4 but that doesn't mean I don't expect him to act properly. He definitely acts up more around her because it throws me off and I have to fight feelings of guilt and she makes me uncertain about whether or not I'm parenting him properly (which I feel I am).

So I suppose it's got more to do with being more confident that my discipline is fair and age-appropriate and I really shouldn't worry about how outsiders (even my mother) view it.

Thanks for the advice btw!

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