Dear Tzippora,

Sometimes when we have company over, my son becomes very rude and cheeky to our guests. We recognize that he values the time our family spends together, and resents the presence of outsiders, and this brings him to act out. The question is, should we discipline him for his inappropriate behavior in front of our company, or should we wait until they leave in order to prevent embarrassing him. The problem with waiting is that I often feel embarrassed myself; I worry that our guests will think that his behavior went unnoticed if they don't see us respond immediately. How should we handle this?

Loves Company But My Son Doesn't

Dear Loves Company But My Son Doesn't,

I commend your sensitivity. It is important to discipline children in a respectful and private manner that does not embarrass them. Nobody appreciates being humiliated publicly. Children are especially sensitive to shame. It sounds like you have insight into your son's misbehavior, and respond appropriately.

As far as what your guests think, if they are parents themselves, hopefully they will understand that some matters are best handled privately. However, you can't allow the question of what others think of your parenting to pressure you into decisions or behaviors that are not appropriate for your children. Your obligation first and foremost is to your children, and only afterwards to your guests.

It sounds like you have discovered a pattern. You can now use this information to plan ahead. Forewarned is forearmed. Speak to your son before company arrives, and explain clearly how you expect him to speak to the company and what the consequences of an inappropriate manner of speaking will be.

You can also reassure your son that you are reserving special time for your family, or for him alone, later in the day. Knowing that he is not losing out on spending quality time with you may help him to be more welcoming to your guests.

It is also important to discuss with him the importance of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests into one's home). Use this time to explore what his role is in the performance of this mitzvah, and how his participation is necessary to ensure that guests feel truly welcome in your home. Encourage him to take an active part in the mitzvah, such as baking a cake for the guests that he will serve by himself, or serving them drinks. This will allow him to experience firsthand the pleasures of doing this special mitzvah.

The Torah teaches us that discipline is not just about keeping our children in line while they are under our roof. Rather, discipline, or chinuch, is the process of shaping and molding their character in such a way that desirable behaviors become ingrained and internalized. In short, they become the child's natural way of being in the world.