Correct in private; praise in public


The infamous mom of 19 (now pregnant with her 20th), Michelle Duggar, has been heard advising parents to “correct in private; praise in public.” I have seen the Duggars’ show and I am so impressed by how sweet and patient Michelle is, so I love this phrase.

We have all been caught in spots in public where our children’s behavior embarrasses us. They sometimes disturb those around us, refuse to share on play dates, or even get themselves into dangerous predicaments.

As with everything the Ezzos teach us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of correction! Correcting in private and praising in public certainly applies to this. If you are in a public spot, praise your child for every good deed.

Before you go out, make special note of your child’s most troublesome behaviors. After you leave the house but before your child exhibits the misbehavior, be on the lookout for opportunities to praise him. Do your best to catch him doing something good, especially if it’s related to one of his worst behaviors.

Say you’re at a play date and your child sits nicely to play with others. Before he has time to get too interested in the toys to get greedy with them, say, “Nice sharing! I like how you are thinking about your friends.”

While shopping, praise him for walking quietly next to you even if he only does it for a minute. In restaurants, praise him multiple times for sitting still and using his inside voice.

Focus on the positive

When we praise our kids, we want to keep everything positive. So keep your language positive as well.

  • Don’t: Good job not running in the store and disturbing others.
  • Do: You are walking so nicely in the store. Thank for considering those around you.
  • Don’t: You’re doing pretty well not bouncing in your seat at this restaurant.
  • Do: I like how you are sitting so quietly and using your best restaurant manners.
  • Don’t: I see that you’re not making your friends upset by snatching toys.
  • Do: You are sharing so nicely. It makes your friends so happy when you can all play with the toys.

Be real with praise

If praise is to be at all effective, it must be real. Don’t praise a child for being quiet 10 seconds after he was shouting. Our children see right through false praise. They know it is meaningless. The key to praising in public is to get to them before they have the chance to misbehave.

Correct in private

If all of your attempts to praise your child have no effect, do what you can to correct in private. Be proactively examining and addressing your child’s worst behaviors while you’re at home. Remove him from the situation when necessary. If you’re out shopping and cannot address the child’s behaviors, you may just need to leave.

Correcting in public

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes life just doesn’t allow us to not correct our children’s misdeeds in private. Think about the times your child has misbehaved in public. Sure, it’s difficult to call attention to ourselves and the child by disciplining right then and there. But also, sometimes people judge us more if we don’t correct the behaviors.

Many parents may tell themselves that they have the strength to get up and leave if necessary, and they take pride in not correcting in public, but when push comes to shove, they may end up doing nothing at all. When it’s plainly obvious that the child is misbehaving and disturbing others and you don’t have the strength to leave, then by all means, correct him! It’s more respectful to let others see that you value their peace and quiet.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to do timeouts in public.


  1. From watching the show, I think a lot of her emphasis is on correcting in private and praising in public no matter where you are. At home or about. Just thought I’d throw that in there. Thanks for the helpful post.