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How to Get Your Toddler to Behave Perfectly in Public

Either you’re here to amuse yourself with a bucket of B.S., or you knew I was going to bait you in with the headline and completely switch it up. One way or another, you know (I hope) that there is no possible way to ensure an event-free public outing if a toddler has anything to do with it. I know I’ve said this before (see here) but today, I stand here with the strength and self-awareness to tell you that I, Carter and Monroe’s Mom, still don’t know what the heck I’m doing with this whole mommying thing. But 4 years in, I have a just a little experience with managing how toddlers behave in public.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen this picture:

This was the day I thought I was grown. I believed in myself. I prepared. I had backup. And still, it was a fail that ended with a walk of shame through the Gaylord Hotel, a screaming toddler trailing behind me, a baby on my hip, and me crying on the phone to my husband.

That day scarred me. Bad. So for the next year, I didn’t take them ANYWHERE alone, essentially punishing them for that day–for being kids. Not only were we bored out of our minds waiting for my husband to get off work every weekend to finally leave the house, but I felt like a completely crappy mom scrolling through Instagram watching all the fun moms do fun mom things with their babies–like standing on the outside of a big window, with my face pressed against the glass. I’ve been depriving my kids of memories and life experiences all because I was afraid they might act out in public. As this summer approached, I knew it was time for me to stop taking my parenting insecurities out on them and let them be kids out in the world.

Where did I go wrong that day at the Gaylord? I didn’t. Nothing I did was wrong per se. But since then, I’ve taken the time to analyze the environments I put them in, the things that stress them, and the things that keep them relaxed. Sounds like work huh? It is. Parenting is work. (Write that down) And that’s something that I need to make sure that I keep top of mind. But I also need to learn not to beat myself up while I’m still learning how to do this thing. We only have experience to grow from, so from me to you, here are a few more things that you can file in under each one, teach one:

Give yourself enough TIME.

Technically, I can get myself and the kids ready and out of the house in 45 minutes. This usually includes some rushing, some yelling, some fighting, and some crying for “no reason”. (I know because I do this most weekday mornings). But I’ve found that if I give myself at least 2 hours to get myself and the kids ready, the rushing is eliminated, which eliminates the yelling and the crying which eliminates the stress on all parties. We can leisurely walk out of the door and start our outing on a good (non-stressed) note.

ALWAYS have snacks.

I usually try to make sure that the kids eat we leave the house, but sometimes things don’t run as smoothly as you planned and that doesn’t happen. Sometimes it DOES happen, but you’re out for hours without time to stop for a meal. Either way, when kids are eating snacks, guess what they’re NOT doing? Crying. Running around. Fighting with each other. Incessantly calling your name. Capiche?

Order their food first.

The problem with restaurants is that kids get bored. And at least in my large family, everyone likes to celebrate their bday with a meal at their favorite restaurant. That includes me dragging these kids out on a week night for a meal that they won’t be served until after their bedtime. One thing that usually saves me is involving them as much as possible in the process. Go over the menu with them, let them choose what they want and let them order their food like big kids. Oh, and put their order in as the waitress in taking the drink orders. That way their food will come out quicker and they’ll be occupied and eating their food, and they’ll be able to take their time, because you know they eat slow.

Manage expectations and provide updates.

Children are little people after all, a little confirmation and reassurance can go a long way. Before we arrive at our destination I go over the game plan, explaining the run of show so they know what to expect. When we get there, I go over it AGAIN usually saving something that they’re looking forward to at the end (like McDonald’s or ice cream). Let them know when it will be time to go. Is it after two more times down the slide? Is it after you pick up two more items at the store? I find that giving them a point of reference helps make them feel included and in control of one small aspect of the planning.

These are all just a few things that work for ME and my mini’s. Of course none of these can guarantee a cool, calm, and collected toddler, but coming to the table with a strategy puts you ahead of the game at least a little bit.

What do you do to make it easy on yourself when you’re out your littles?


Chaunece Woods lives in Maryland with her husband, Maurice and her two children, Carter and Monroe. Follow this mama’s journey at @necewrldpeace