5 Pro Tips To Mastering The Public Tantrum

If there is one thing that is completely unbiased, without prejudice or concern for race, it is childhood tantrums.

It is the bane of a parent’s existence, yet an essential growing experience for you and your child; learning patience, communication, and humility. 

Parents reports on what Ray Levy, PhD., has to say about the childhood tantrums. 

Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things, but they’re a fact of childhood,” the clinical psychologist and co-author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation says.  

As if handling tantrums with grace wasn’t hard enough, it seems children love to put on their best shows when there is an audience.

Whether your child is having a meltdown over that new toy you wouldn’t buy her, or you made the mistake of packing a turkey sandwich instead of the beloved pb&j, the public tantrum requires you to have many tools in the toolbox in order for you not to lay right down beside them and start screaming yourself. 

So, what exactly should you do when you are faced with Hyde and all you want is your sweet little Dr. Henry Jekyll back? 

  1. Do not get angry with your child.

Getting mad at your child when they make the entire store think you are a bad mom with an out-of-control child (or so it seems) is a knee-jerk reaction. 

As hard as it is, remembering that you are the adult in the situation and are responsible for controlling your behavior is the first step in conquering any tantrum.

The Child Mind Institute reminds us: 

Becoming angry and responding in kind — “You’re mean, too” or (I heard this once) “You’re meaner” — does nothing to help alleviate your little one’s distress and will undoubtedly escalate the situation. It also implies that the two of you — you and your child — are expected to adhere to similar standards of behavior, which is both false and confusing.”

Repeat a positive mantra while you are dealing with your child if you need to, in order to remind yourself to display patience and tranquility as a storm rages around you, like “I will stay calm and show unconditional love.”

  1. Don’t bring up the past

This may sound like a strange one, but many parents can fall into the trap of rehashing every time their child has shown less than favorable behavior during the outburst.

As you can imagine, this is neither helpful nor healthy. Kids make mistakes, but those impulsive moments of poor choices don’t define them. 

Treat each day as a new opportunity for growth and education, and each tantrum as a single incident to be addressed.

  1. Resist the urge to calm them down

The most unified advice from experts everywhere is to ignore the tantrum until it is over. 

While this is the most effective tool against the monster that has inhabited your child, it is by far the most difficult. 

Licensed psychologist Bill Maier says on Focus on the Family:

The best thing parents can do is to simply ignore them. He recommends remaining calm and patiently waiting for your child to stop.”

There has been a handful of times that I have had to ignore a full blow tantrum in public, where my child looked like a beached whale on shore trying to make it back to water. 

I apologized to the obviously disturbed patrons nearby for the outburst, but then followed up with how it was absolutely necessary and will soon pass. 

Do get involved if your child becomes a danger to themselves or someone else by removing them from the situation while giving the child a quick explanation regarding how it’s unacceptable to harm anybody. 

After the tantrum is over, be sure to show your child that you love them no matter what.

Kids Health reports:

Also, kids may be especially vulnerable after a tantrum when they know they’ve been less than adorable. Now (when your child is calm) is the time for a hug and reassurance that your child is loved, no matter what.”

  1. Distract them from their outburst

Alisa Fitzgerald is a mom who knows how hard it is to tame tantrums while you are out. Parents reports on her go-to method of cooperation:

My purse is filled with all sorts of distractions, like toys—ones my kids haven’t seen in a while, books, and yummy snacks. I’ve also found that distraction can help ward off a major meltdown before it happens, if you catch it in time.” 

Children are notorious for short attention spans and that can work to your advantage if you use it right. 

The trick is not to talk to them directly, but to make something away from the stressful situation seem interesting.

“Hey, look at that dog over there! I bet they would let us pet it if we asked nicely,” would be one example of a quick diversion. Or break out in song and dance, making them laugh; forgetting that they were sure the world was about to end. 

  1. Don’t give in

It is so easy to give in to the demands of your child when they go full on meltdown in the grocery check out line- you think “it’s just a little lollipop, what could be the harm?”

Well, it’s much more harmful than you could have thought. In addition to showing your child that tantrums are an effective mode of communication to get what they want, you have also guaranteed that they are going to do it again the next time you refuse them something.

Ignore the ridiculous display of wills until it is over and then discuss with your child why they aren’t going to be receiving the desired object or action; being sure to include that throwing a tantrum is a sure-fire way to not get what they want.

Give your child expectations on their behavior, how they need to ask for things they want, and how to handle rejection when it comes (a life lesson that never gets old). 

Reward your child when they are able to calm themselves down by specifically pointing out the way in which they did it. “It was great how you played with your dinosaur toy to calm down when you were upset about not getting the candy you wanted,” you could say.

While these tips are surely going to make tantrums easier, they do not prevent them from happening.

This is always going to be one of those parenting moments we need to work on reminding ourselves to stay calm and know that it’s just our child testing limits and expressing their attempt at control over their lives. 

The outbursts are not a reflection of the precious little budding personalities that our little ones are growing, but just a refining of character. 

Stay strong momma, each day holds new possibilities!

Please let us know in the comments section if you have had to deal with a public tantrum, and what you did to see it through.

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