I have a six-year-old daughter who is almost never shy or afraid to voice her opinion, but there are times when she is just a bit much to handle. Sometimes she'll misbehave in public in a fairly loud manner. It is hard to talk with her in situations like those, especially, because much any disagreement with her will cause the situation to escalate and she will yell/whine louder.

How do I learn to talk with her in a way that gets her to listen and stop whining/complaining/making a scene in public without possibly making her someone who just defers to authority or make her someone who is of low confidence?

  • 1
    Edited for clarity.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 23, 2016 at 9:08
  • We disciplined our daughter with the time-out throughout her early childhood. So anytime she is misbehaving we warn her to put her in time out and she calms down and obeys. It's so simple. She is almost 6. I know it's pointless to say you neglected to discipline her now but this is the only way. You need to set the boundaries.
    – Grasper
    Jun 23, 2016 at 14:16
  • Children are all different. With my 5 year old, time-outs kind of worked--but only kind of. Other methods had more success. With my 3 year old, he could not care less about being in time-out. He could not care less about having toys taken away. Literally nothing worked with him, except giving him attention. He is such a physical child. He really needs us to spend time with him to feel happy. It is an instant change for him when we invest our time in him. Even if it is us having him help with the dishes, or sweeping the floor.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Jun 23, 2016 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


Her reactions are a learned behavior. She has learned that most of the time if she reacts a certain way, she will get what she wants. It is a painful process (mentally and emotionally) to undo a learned behavior like that, but it will be worth it in the long run.

First, make sure you do not get into a "dispute" with her. When two people get into a dispute, they are sort of agreeing that they are on equal terms. You two are not, you are the parent. Tell her what she is doing isn't right, and that she is disturbing others around her. But do it with love. Do not be adversarial. Touch her face/arm or give her hugs as you talk to her. When children act out on purpose, most of the time it is because they are not getting the attention they want, so they will settle for bad attention. Give her good attention.

I will pick up my 5 year old and hold him ( not restrain, just hug ) while he freaks out and talk to him in his ear while he is yelling. I will ask him what he is upset about and such. After a few moments he will calm down enough to talk, even it is just to say "Put me down!" I do, and then I continue to talk to him and he starts to be able to enter into a conversation with me.

One other tactic that may work is after talking to her about what she is doing, is to ignore her. My wife and I have had success with my three yr old boy this way. Being a learned behavior, they do it because it works. If you completely ignore her, she is also not getting the attention she wants, good or bad. Walk out of the store or public place without engaging her ( to get away from other people, because this will get loud for a while ). Don't engage her until she stops being loud. The initial "unlearning" is going to be the most difficult part. After a while she'll get it.

It can be incredibly difficult at times, but remember that a child's brain has not developed fully and is not capable of handling situations like adults can. It is our job to be calm and show the next generation how to be able to think while emotional.

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