What can I do?
Have realistic expectations.
Under-fives aren’t programmed to sit still, be quiet and behave. Babies will cry, toddlers will want to run around and preschoolers will fidget and whine. You’ll have an easier time if you expect them to ‘act their age’. If you know that an event is going to be too long for them, think about arranging a mate or family member to look after them instead.
Bring along a quiet bag.
A ‘quiet bag’ with a selection of special no-noise toys and books that they only get to play with at formal occasions will help entertain them if they become restless or bored. The quiet bag could also have snacks that can be eaten quietly and without mess - and a drink bottle!
Talk about what you expect beforehand.
Kids need your help to learn that certain behaviour is expected at certain places. Talk about what you expect before you get there. Kids cope better when they understand the reasons behind your request. Be specific –“there’ll be lots of people there trying to listen so you’ll need to be quiet. If you get bored, you can get out your quiet bag.”
Don't be afraid to take them outside.
While it can be disappointing to have to leave a ceremony or service because your child is acting up, it’s less stressful all round to act promptly and remove them if noise and energy levels are rising. If it’s a regular or special event, you could arrange to ‘tag’ team it with your partner or a mate, so you only miss some of the service or ceremony.
Try not to focus on what everyone thinks about your kids.
If your baby or toddler fusses or cries you might feel embarrassed but growling or smacking them won’t help either of you. Try and put their needs first. Don’t worry about what other people think – most have been there and know what you’re going through.
Give them lots of praise when they do behave.
When your kids do stay quiet and listen make sure you let them know you’re proud of the way they’re behaving.
Think about other needs.
Take your kids to the toilet beforehand to avoid embarrassing accidents or having to leave in a hurry! If your child is still learning to use the toilet and formalities might go on longer than expected, think about using a pull up just this once and avoiding lots of buttons and zips. Take a change of clothing just in case!
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?