Dealing with tantrums in public can be incredibly frustrating, nerve racking, and embarrassing, to say the least. We may feel like we have a thousand judges rating our parenting skills based on our toddler’s wailing, and at the same time feel rude for disrupting bystanders’ peace of mind. Here are some suggestions to avoid and deal with these tantrums.

Plan ahead and have realistic expectations

I am a firm believer in making sure you have a plan in action before going into the trenches. Know how much you and your kids can handle. Maybe they can behave during one errand but not five.

Check your schedule. It may be convenient for you to go to the market or the party at a certain hour, but does that infringe on your toddler’s nap or meal time? The probability of your cranky and hungry toddler having a meltdown over a chocolate chip cookie or because they hate the car seat is almost at 100 percent at these times, so plan accordingly.

If you must go on the outing during your child’s meal time, bring easy-to-feed food with you and take some time to feed your child prior to getting everything started.

Set expectations

Explain the process before you get to the desired location. What is expected of them? What is expected of you? Where are you guys going? Involving your baby, toddler, or child in the process is a great way to let them know what is to come and also set clear guidelines for what is expected of their behavior and yours, as well. Explain in concrete and age appropriate terms what will happen if they throw a tantrum. If your child talks, ask them to repeat back to you what you said to make sure they understood you.

Involve your child in your errands

Kids love to feel like they are dependable mini adults. Give them tasks depending on their age range. At the supermarket, can they help throw some veggies in the bags? Can they call out some colors and help count out the fruits? How about meal planning together? Can your toddler/child help think of ingredients for a yummy meal later? Not only are you bonding with your child, but you are also helping them develop critical thinking skills, reinforcing basic math, and teaching them colors.

Kids love being entertained

They also love entertainment. You can bring a toy that is easy to carry and can get dirty to the errand or event, or you can entertain each other with the sights, sounds, and smells in the environment.

If a tantrum arises

If your child starts to whine or become upset over something, empathize and acknowledge their emotion. Explain to them the reason they cannot get what they want at that moment.

If your child goes into full-blown tantrum mode, do not try to talk to them about it or make them stop. It’s like they are hearing static and not even listening to you. They need to blow off the steam regardless of what you say or do.

Do not react to the tantrum, and try to remain calm — tantrums usually dissolve faster this way. Also, if you react strongly to your child’s tantrum, he or she will learn that this is a great way to get your attention and to try this method again in the future. If you cave in to your child’s demands, it will set a precedent for the child to try this again later to get his way.

Try finding a private place, either outside the store, in a fitting room, or in the car to let your child find a safe place to calm down. Once your child calms down, explain in your words what you think happened and give reason why the child cannot do what he or she did. Then, depending on the age of the child, set an age-appropriate consequence that was discussed prior to the outing. That way, there is follow-through from what you said in the beginning and what you are saying now. In this way, your child learns that you mean what you say and that you are a dependable parent. Consequences should be immediate, related to the event, and to the same level of the infraction.

If you tend to your child’s basic needs such as letting them get enough rest, nutrition, and play, tantrums should be few and far in between.


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