When your child misbehaves, it can sometimes take you by surprise. After all, you do what you can to promote proper behavior in public and in private. But even the best-disciplined kid slips up every once in a while, and rude words and inappropriate actions are the result. On the bright side, these small slip-ups are usually short-lived, especially if you take the time to correct the behavior so it doesn't happen again.
Discover the reason for your child's outburst and inappropriate behavior. Kids rarely act out without a reason and understanding the trigger can help you first rectify the situation and then prevent it in the future. If your toddler or preschooler is throwing a fit at the grocery store, it could be that he's tired or stressed by a lack of autonomy and choices. It's tempting to just leap into survival mode and stop the behavior cold, but you'll be more effective if you can pinpoint the trigger and remove your child before you start discipline or consequences.
Ignore minor infractions if they aren't bothering anyone else. You might find your child's constant humming or loud voice annoying, but you might be the only one. Children will consistently execute a behavior when they receive attention for that behavior -- good or bad. When you simply ignore minor stuff, there's a good chance your child will quit it and correct the behavior on his own.
Withdraw your presence when your child is acting up. Kids crave attention and personal contact above all other rewards. When you put your child in time-out or explain that you're leaving the room until he can behave, he'll probably shape up when he realizes that he no longer receives attention while misbehaving. Just make sure that your time-outs aren't too log -- try one minute for each year of his age.
Allow logical consequences so your child can understand the repercussions of his behavior. If you catch him bullying on the playground, he no longer can play until he learns to play nicely. Or, if he acts up in the grocery store, he can wait in the car with Dad instead -- way more boring. These logical consequences help your child better understand how his actions are linked to a reaction and to anticipate consequences before he makes the decision to act out.
Be consistent with your consequences and reactions to your child's behavior. If your child learns that he can behave inappropriately and get a different reaction each time, he may be more willing to gamble with the consequences. Instead, setting an example and always levying the same discipline helps him know what you expect as a parent.