Ever notice how children often act out in front of company? Here's how to handle their poor behavior when guests are over.

Credit: Frank Heckers

Q: My 6-year-old puts on his worst behavior when we have friends over. When will he start behaving properly with company?

A: "Kids misbehave in front of guests for attention," says Robert Walrath, Psy.D., a child psychologist in Manchester, New Hampshire. Children see them as competition for the limelight and act out to get their parents to take notice. "Because parents are reluctant to discipline their kids in front of other people," Dr. Walrath adds, "a child learns that when visitors are around, he can get away with behavior that his parents would not normally allow."

The solution? "Before the guests arrive," says Dr. Walrath, "explain to your child what the consequences will be if he misbehaves. And if he's well behaved, be sure to praise him." Lay down clear rules about what kind of behavior you expect from him, says Dr. Walrath, then follow through on your words, no matter what you fear your friends will say or think.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.