The Family Project: Handling three out-of-control children
Q. I can’t seem to take my children, ages 7, 5 and 3, anywhere. In the grocery store they run all over the place, and in restaurants they can’t stay in their seats and eat. I am exhausted from trying to control them. Please help.
“I read in the question that the young kids run all over the place, and can’t keep in their seats,” panelist Mike Ramsey said.
“That is very normal for kids their age,” Ramsey said. “The things I’d be more concerned about are their trying to stab each other with forks, or the throwing of food in the restaurant.”
“It may be too early for the three-year-old, but the five- and seven-year-olds need to be told what their parents’ expectations are for their behavior,” panelist Erica Carter said.
“They need to understand that if their behavior is out of control in social settings, that is not acceptable, and there are consequences,” said Carter.
Panelist Pam Wallace said she urges parents to start early introducing their young children to public places like restaurants and grocery stores.
“The three-year-old is going to imitate the behavior of his older siblings, so it is necessary for the parent to begin setting expectations as early as possible,” said Wallace.
Panelist Denise Continenza cautioned against making expectations too high, or the time frames for required good behavior too long.
Ramsey said shopping with three children is a lot to manage, asking, “Are there options where she shops? Some businesses get this. That’s why McDonalds has playgrounds.”
The need for the parent to get support was mentioned by panelist Chad Stefanyak, who suggested looking for ways to not take all three children out at the same time.
Panelist Erin Stalsitz recommended giving the older children jobs to do like looking at the menu and helping order the food, or finding where the boxed spaghetti is in the grocery store, saying, “It’s important to get them involved.”
“We’re talking about restaurants, but what about the dinner table at home?” Ramsey asked, adding, “You need to practice behavior at home first.”
Said Stefanyak, “Kids need to know what a restaurant is, and how to behave. They need to be exposed to these things.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth, and Erica Carter, functional family therapy therapist.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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