Disciplining your child in public


As parents, we’ve all had to at some point give our kids a scolding in public when their behaviour warranted it. But what are the dangers linked to this public outburst from parents? Is there an emotional impact on those children who are disciplined in public?

Read more: When discipline goes too far
What’s your discipline style?

Often, the parent’s outburst in public is not done with the intention of embarrassing or hurting the child, it is a reaction by the parent in an attempt to correct the child’s behaviour. The reaction tends to be more intense especially if the child is in danger, for example, when they run across the road without looking. Does public discipline however cause embarrassment for the child and have the effect of negatively impacting their self - esteem and confidence irrespective of the harmless intent of the parents.

According to Claire O’ Mahony, an educational psychologist at the Sandton Psychology Centre, regularly disciplining your child in public can cause an impact in your child’s emotional development. “A parent who continuously shouts or scolds their child in front of others irrespective of the reasons may make their child feel constant embarrassment and humiliation, which can influence the child’s ability to interact on a social level in later years,” she explains. Claire does advise this is all dependent on how often the parent is applying public discipline, an incident every now and then is not as harmful as parents who constantly choose to scold and embarrass their kids in the presence of others.

Some of the effects of persistent public scolding:

  • The child feels embarrassed and humiliated which can lead to social awkwardness later on in their teenage or adult years.
  • Children avoid going out with parents in public for fear of being embarrassed
  • Children grow up thinking it is okay to shout at someone else in front of others.
  • Child may grow up to resent their parents and not have fond memories of their childhood.

If you have no choice but to discipline your child at that specific moment then explain to them what they have done wrong so they can learn from their mistake. If no explanation is given then the child has no idea what has caused you to lash out at them and they tend to become unnecessarily tense in public not knowing what is going to upset their parent.

Holding back your anger or frustration though is easier said than done. It is important for parents to set boundaries upfront with their children. Parents should sit their kids down before an outing and clearly explain what is expected of them in terms of behaviour. Parents should also explain the consequences to their kids if they do not behave. This helps avoid any potential public misbehaviour by the child.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Have you lashed out at your child in public? Could it have been avoided or handled differently now that you think about it?

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