It never fails, smack dab in the middle of a store or restaurant your child decides to throw a temper tantrum. Screeching and acting as if they are being taken over by a poltergeist, parents are left baffled and mostly embarrassed. It doesn’t matter that your child is four years old, the social ramifications of having a child prone to public tantrums is mortifying. Eventually you will be uninvited to any public play group outing and find that your normal friends, while okay hanging out at your house, do not want to venture out with you and your child. Suffice it to say that temper tantrums in public, even though widespread and common, are not something moms (or dads) like to experience. Unfortunately, even though you may not be in the mood for it, your child might be. Then you need to know how to stop these temper tantrums in public as quickly as possible.
The first response is normally to give in and make excuses. As you give your child the $6 box of chocolate, hoping they will simply hush you tuck tail and scoot with embarrassment to another part of the store where you will hopefully be unrecognized by those passing judgment on you. ‘Oh, he’s tired’ you probably babble on making excuses for why your child is so out of control. You may not realize it, but this reaction or lack of action may be just the reason your child acts like such a heathen. The second typical response is to blurt out some very authorities message with pointed finger and furrowed brow, maybe even give them a little pat on the backside to show that you are mad and in control. This too, has people looking at you strangely. And more than likely, it only makes things worse by escalating the emotions. Do either of these sound like you? If so, how is your ‘how to stop temper tantrums in public’ routine working? Obviously, if you are reading this article, not well!
So what should you do to stop temper tantrums in public? First of all, take the approach that it is all just part of the job. Today it might be you and tomorrow that wicked looking mom shaking her head with her cart full of perfect acting children will find out first hand how karma works. Motherhood is not a competition and children do and will act up. Firstly, that’s how they learn. And secondly, they have a lot to learn about life. Remember, you are the one responsible for teaching your children how to behave in public.
Often, before you even leave the house you have a good idea how well the outing is going to go. When you have children under the age of 6, who typically take naps you should plan your coming and goings around their schedule. This may seem indulgent, but it really is the best way to avoid pitfalls like temper tantrums. If you drag your kid to the supermarket when they are already cranky or on a morning when they didn’t sleep well, you are asking for trouble. Even adults have a difficult time functioning and acting human when they are overly tired. Instead, reroute your errands so that they fall during a time when your child is rested. Another trick is to sort of bribe your child by getting them something to eat along the way. Toddlers and young children will sit happily in a cart eating apple sticks or French fries and it may give you some shopping time. Pop a few grapes in a Ziploc along with a cookie, and you will likely experience a happier outing. If your plans involve a restaurant, then make it special by ordering your child something fun to eat and take along a bit of table entertainment.
The next way to help prevent the tantrum in the first place is to do a little fore-planning. If you are taking your child to a china shop or to an upscale restaurant, you are asking for trouble. You would be better of paying a high priced baby sitter. Also, as soon as your child is able to talk and understand, be clear on expectations. Tell them very clearly, what they can and cannot do in a store. Even before a tantrum begins, make sure you get down to their level and as straightforward as possible, discuss their behavior. Allow them to make a choice. If you allow your toddler to come out of the cart, make it contingent upon them being responsible to staying with you. Give them plenty of choices and see if they can learn to make the right one.
Kids work well when they are very clear about expectations and no child that can walk is too young to be told what is expected of them. The second part of how to stop a temper tantrum in public takes patience and time. They may not get it the first go around. However, you have to pretty much ignore the tantrum. Ignore the screams, the pleas, the rolling around on the floor or whatever else they are doing. Tell them you will not listen to them when they act this way, scoop them up, and carry them away. Don’t run away from the situation or leave a buggy full of groceries because your child has acted up. Don’t give in to what they want and NEVER let them see you sweating. Just speak your mind, calmly as possible (because they are looking to you for self-control) and ignore them. In other words, carry on. If the tantrum is in a place that makes it bothersome to others such as a restaurant or library, remove them from the immediate setting and clear things up. But don’t duck for cover. This will only teach your child that you are intimidated by their tantrums and that they can manipulate you. Before you think it isn’t possible, realize that even a two year old can manipulate parents.
When you have said your peace and are back on your way, ignore the stares from others. After all, there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t been on your side of the temper tantrum. Stay in control of your self and say a prayer or two if you have to. This too shall pass. The thing is, once its over, it has to be over. This means no dredging it back up when daddy gets home, berating them in the car, or taking out your anger on them the entire way home. A few hours later, recap the situation and see if your child can see the error of their ways. Ask them what they could do next time and try to find out why they were so upset. It may be because you told them they couldn’t have the lollipop. And that is okay. The sooner they learn to be told no, to conform to rules and to show respect in public, the easier your life will be. But it takes time and discipline on your part.
Yes, temper tantrums can be embarrassing. However, once you learn how to stop them in public, you will be off to the next adventure in parenting. Who knows, this time it might be how to keep your kid from stealing candy at the check out aisle. Whatever it is, it too shall pass.