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Behavior Problems Outside the Home

A child's misbehavior often occurs at the home of friends or relatives, in the car, or in public places such as shopping malls and restaurants. These situa­tions are very difficult to handle. In instances like these, anticipating the prob­lem and taking some preventive action is best.

Decide upon the type of age-appropriate and achievable behavior you want your child to exhibit in these outside-the-home situations, and then discuss it with your youngster in terms of what you both expect. If your child is having greater difficulty in some specific situations away from home, you might mod­ify your expectations accordingly. Do not put your child in situations that you know she cannot handle.You may find that the most helpful approach is to use immediate rewards and praise when good behavior is exhibited. Be willing to utilize timeouts, de­layed timeouts, or behavior penalties in public situations. (Delayed timeouts are those that are implemented once you return home.) The use of logical con­sequences is also often helpful.

Try bringing along a child's favorite toys and books, and plan to give her some positive attention on a trip or on a visit to relatives.

In general, scolding and nagging will not work. It is embarrassing to every­one, tends to reinforce negative behavior, and could spoil a family outing for everyone.

Once you find the behavior modification techniques and punishments that work, apply them at home before using them outside the house so your child is familiar with them. 

Some parents have difficulty implementing timeouts away from home, and in cases like this you and your child may have to take a timeout together. In a res­taurant a timeout may require that you and your child sit in the car for a while. In a mall she might sit on a bench while you stand beside her; in a park or at the zoo, use a bench or a rock as a place for a timeout. If you are driving, stop the car at the side of the road and sit quietly until she settles down. You might use a delayed timeout when you arrive at a hotel, a restaurant, or a rest stop.

In the weeks ahead, evaluate and discuss positive changes in the frequency, duration, and intensity of any continued undesirable behavior, and point these out to the child with praise.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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