If you have high-strung kids like me, then you have become at least slightly acquainted with the inevitable scenes that they can cause in public or at family events. Many parents hardly ever venture outside their homes for fear of meltdowns and tantrums and the embarrassment of having to discipline or deal with them in public. If you fear going out to dinner with your family more than the plague, you need these tips to dealing with difficult kids in public.

Plan Appropriately

Part of successfully dealing with rambunctuous kids is planning ahead.

If you know you are heading out, give the kids plenty of notice that they need to mind their p’s and q’s. Also, you have time to prepare yourself and them for any eventualities.

Try scheduling a pre-outing nap, or at least a quiet time, so they’re not overly tired.

Make sure to pack a bag (toys, books, coloring things, non-sugar-fits-inducing snacks, etc.)

Be realistic about expectations—don’t take a toddler to a fine dining restaurant ande expect him or her to have manners fit to dine with the Queen.

Know their limits and limit how long you’re out, to reduce the risk of a meltdown.

Give them a job to do:  push the shopping cart, pick out a menu item, etc. If they feel useful, they feel less restless.

Promise rewards for good behavior, not punishments for bad behavior. Punishment is counter-productive, whereas rewarding good behavior sets a precedent for the future.

Give them choices. Even if it’s as simple as what to wear or where to sit in the car, kids love having choices, which make them feel more in control, and thus less likely to combust.

With some positive reinforcement and luck, your child will be on his way toward improved public behavior.