Darlings in public, devils at home

27 March 2018

Darlings in public, devils at home

  • Behaviour
by Michael Grose

“Why does my child behave well for others, but not for me?”

This is a common question many parents ask.

It’s frustrating!

I remember my primary school-aged children having very poor table manners at home, yet after sleep-overs and visits with friends we were always complimented for having children with beautiful manners.

“They showed my kids a thing or two about manners,” was the comment we received.

When one daughter was thirteen, she barely had a civil word for anyone who lived under the same roof as her. Yet following a weekend staying at a friend’s house, the supervising parents remarked how communicative she was with them.

“What do you do get such a lovely teenager?” her friend asked.

“Send her to you!” was my reply!

So why do kids behave well for others and save their worst behaviour for their parents?

It’s simple really….. because you love them.

It’s hard to be good all the time. When we are fully accepted by others we tend to show them our true selves warts n’all.

The same theory applies with all relationships, including dating.

When you first start dating you put huge energy into making good impressions. Most people dress well, are punctual, and present their best possible face.

When the relationship becomes stable most people loosen up. They don’t always dress to impress, often turn up late, and are not fussed about presenting their best possible face all the time. In short, familiarity breeds contentedness, and even a little contempt.

The same happens with kids. They become so relaxed with their parents that they will show their worst side to them.

They’ll be very polite to their teacher, barely speaking out of turn in class yet can be downright rude and overbearing at home.

They’ll be friendly to peers at school but painful for siblings at home.

It’s important that kids know how to behave

We’d all love our kids to behave appropriately all the time, but the reality is they won’t. Most kids have L-plates when it comes to learning how to fit in and behave around others. They make mistakes, yet they are always on a path to improvement……. or should be.

It’s important that they know how to behave. That means parents teach their kids good manners, they teach them right from wrong, and also they teach them how to behave well in a variety of social situations so that when they are outside the house and around others, they know how to behave in public.

Sometimes kids are worse in public than at home.

This happens with toddlers who are really on a huge learning curve. It’s easier to teach them in the confined, organised environment at home. When they are in public spaces such as supermarkets, they are so much harder to control!!

Here are four ways to teach kids of all ages to behave well:

  • Model: Yes, they need to see adults and significant others such as parents behave well, behave generously and use appropriate manners (because they will speak like you in public). When you have kids, as a parent you are a walking, talking social studies lesson (as in how to be social, generous and pleasant to others).
  • Explicitly teach & coach: Tell kids what to say in different social situations and also let them know how their behaviour (good and bad) impacts on others. Be upfront yet respectful with your messages.
  • Give kids social scripts: An extension of teaching is the provision of social scripts for kids of all ages that they can use in a variety of situations such as in a restaurant, at a friend’s house, even at school. Make sure they rehearse them as well. Behaviour rehearsal is particularly important for boys who are more tactile and practical learners.
  • Create junior versions of social situations: Sporting codes create junior versions of their games so kids can learn the basics without being overwhelmed by adult rules. The same applies to kids. Once a week set up your mealtimes like a restaurant so kids learn how to behave in a restaurant situation.
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Michael Grose

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 12 books for parents including Spoonfed Generation and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. His latest release Anxious Kids, was co-authored with Dr Jodi Richardson.