Q: I'm mortified when my 6-year-old daughter throws fits in public. Should I ignore it? Or discipline her right then and there, risking more embarrassment?
A: "Everyone feels embarrassed when that neon light goes off that seems to say 'I've lost control,' but now's the time to put on your mom hat and not worry about it," says Brown Braun.
Instead of lecturing or punishing your daughter right then, calmly let her know what you expect of her and what will happen if she doesn't follow through. For instance, if you're out at a restaurant, say "It is not okay for you to talk to me that way. If you stop, you can stay at the table. If you keep it up, we're going to have to leave." (Brown Braun says parents always worry that this outcome is exactly what the misbehaving kid intends, but, in fact, "having to leave is powerful stuff" - especially if it means going without dinner, TV, or company once you get home.)
"Try to avoid threats like 'If you do that one more time, you will not be able to go to Disneyland next Saturday.' Consequences need to be immediate and directly related to the misbehavior," adds Brown Braun. Of course, having to take your food "to go" will be a pain for you, too, but it's the best way to nip this type of behavior in the bud.
Last, remember to use a firm voice and avoid pleading language like "Oh, come on, honey, stop that." "Your child needs to know you mean business," says Brown Braun.