Tantrums in Public: Every Parent’s Nightmare

by Tina Feigal Copyright © 2011

We have all been there, or at least those of us who are lucky enough to have fire-cracker kids. We take a quick trip to the store for just a few items, and are sidelined by our child’s complete melt-down in the marshmallow aisle. Other adults are displaying looks that say, “Why can’t she control her child?” or “Look at how he acts when he doesn’t get his way! Must be pretty spoiled at home!” The embarrassment is beyond what we bargained for, and the judgment makes us plain angry.

Here are some tips for avoiding tantrums in public:
1. Take note of whether your child is tired or has low blood sugar. Do not take him out if he is tired, and give him a snack if he’s hungry. To expose a tired or hungry child to a crowd of people, coupled with a great deal of visual stimulation, is just asking for a tantrum.
2. If you are already out with a tired child, simply, unemotionally, go home. There is no substitute for rest when a child needs it, so avoid getting into, “I think she can make it through one more errand” mentality. I don’t need to tell you that this is when things typically fall apart and tantrums result.
3. Rehearse the desired behavior with your child in advance. Role play “going to the grocery store” when it’s not time to go. Your child has a much better chance of complying if you do.
4. Give heartfelt appreciation for every good behavior on the way to the store. “Wow, you got into the car so nicely. I love that!”
5. When your child shows interest in an item in the store, or an activity in the park, avoid saying “no”. Instead, listen deeply to the child’s desire for the item or activity. Say, “Wow, you have a great eye for special dollhouses! It is a wonderful one.” You have just acknowledged and affirmed the child’s desire, but not given in to the urge to take it home. The child needs to be heard deeply, but not indulged with every item she wants.

With these five tips, you have taken the child’s fatigue level into account to avoid a disaster, rehearsed desired behavior to assure success, grown good behavior with heartfelt appreciation, and listened deeply to your child. Tantrums are not necessarily inevitable. With your concentrated attention, many can be averted before they ever happen. Need parent coaching?  Click here.  You can make trips away from home happy, successful, and free of tantrums.

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