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Yes, I Discipline My Kids in Public

"Go stand in the corner right now for two minutes."

As expected, the protest started.

"You heard me. Go stand. Now. I'll tell you when it's time to come back." I pointed to the space next to the dressing rooms. My voice was firm. She stood there, arms crossed, pouting at me and refusing to move. So I grabbed her arm and walked her to the area that I was pointing to. Some shoppers turned and gave me intentional dirty looks. Some shoppers caught my eye and smiled. One sales person commented "I'm impressed" out loud from the register.

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I wondered if I was causing a scene. I wondered if what I was doing was normal, right, wrong or completely insane and futile. I decided right then and there that I didn't care. I made a choice. I followed through. It had to be done for the big picture. (That previously mentioned sales person then later thanked me for making the effort to teach my kids what was and wasn't OK inside a place of business. "You'd be surprised how many parents let their kids run wild and turn everything upside down. It's so frustrating ... disrespectful," she said.)

Yes, sometimes I discipline my kids in public. (Let's not forget about that McDonald's situation ... to think my actions originated years ago with "The Guys.")

I feel like I'm in the minority. Maybe I'm a real bitch. Maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I'm missing something.

Why? Because sometimes it's necessary. A family member on my husband's side recently told me that I'm "too hard" on my kids and I expect too much from them. "They're kids," she told me. I disagreed. It made for an awkward dinner.

My kids are like all of our kids: They're adorable, they're fun, they're funny, they get excited ... and they can sometimes act like crazy and disrespectful hooligans (dare I say, brats) in public places. I love them (as we all love our own) but I don't love or appreciate bratty behavior—even if they are my kids.

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I don't see a lot of parents telling their kids to be quiet, stop touching things, get out from under the table and laying out consequences to unruly kids in public. It's like we're all scared of what to do and how to do it. I make an effort to stand my ground (when my kids' behavior is concerned) and I feel like I'm in the minority. Maybe I'm a real bitch. Maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I'm missing something.

Why bother with all this stressful discipline hoopla in public? My reasons are rooted in deep respect and good old-fashioned citizenship:

I want to make it crystal clear to my kids that being conscious about being a good citizen is valuable, no matter where they are, whether it's at home, shopping or spending time at friends' houses. Every place we go to has certain expectations for certain appropriate manners. And yes, they are fully capable to act appropriately.

But I don't—and never will—expect others to tolerate extreme noise, rude actions and possible damage to merchandise because my kids "are kids" in a public place.

I also want to make it crystal clear to business owners that, when I'm in their place of business, I'm conscious of my kids' behavior and respectful of the place's property, experience and transactions that they're trying to accomplish there. No, it's not OK for my kids to run through the store, fiddle with displays, try on necklaces, throw spoons for fun, shout at the top of their lungs because the place happens to have a slight echo (and my kids want to test it out). If my kids can't handle it, I either send them into a timeout or we leave. Period. (This includes restaurants.)

Yes, it's a process to teach kids certain things and to create certain behavioral habits. They are kids, and I know that. But I don't—and never will—expect others to tolerate extreme noise, rude actions and possible damage to merchandise because my kids "are kids" in a public place. Even preschool kids are aware enough to learn how to listen, respect certain limits and figure out what's right, wrong and acceptable no matter where they happen to be.

You misbehave at home, you'll be called out. You misbehave in public, you'll be called out. True, they don't quite understand all that an 8-year-old does, but they are capable of certain things. (That's what I've noticed, anyways ... but I'm no certified expert. I'm just a regular parent who happens to appreciate and value some the old-school tactics that many of our parents used to raise us.)

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They say consistency is the key to good parenting. I'm hoping that includes public discipline. Because I love them too much to not teach them how to be considerate of others. And because I don't enjoy tolerating bad behavior in public.

Am I too tough ... or just tough enough?

Image via Getty Images

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