What to do when your child throws a tantrum in public?

I thought we had escaped the tantrum phase with my daughter.

I had heard for months about how my friend’s kids would scream and protest at the tiniest of things. How they would embarrass them at the supermarket checkout or Rhyme Time in the library. I just had not experienced this myself and I was grateful.

My daughter seemed like an angel in comparison to some other kids and I congratulated myself on a parenting job well done. I’d taught her to be polite, patient, quiet. In public especially. Well done me!

And. Then. Things. Changed.

For years I had judged the parents in the shopping centre who ignored their tantruming child or shouted at them to be quiet. “That isn’t what they should do!” my husband and I would say to each other. Or “What a naughty child!”. We were pretty judgmental and thought we would do much better. Well, our child would not be having a tantrum in the first place of course.

It just did not occur to me that sometimes a child can throw a tantrum for no good reason. Or for any small reason!

Let me tell you that you have never truly witnessed an epic tantrum until your own child has one. Your own bundle of joy.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen often to us (yet!) but when my 3 year old objects to something, she really objects and it comes out of nowhere, no warning at all.

I wish I had the cure to tantrums, I do not, but I do have some tips on what generally works for us to calm things down and this might work for you too.

My biggest piece of advice is to stay calm. Kids just seem to pick up on tension and if your stress levels rise, they can tell immediately.

My daughter mirrors my behaviour often and if I’m anxious, she display signs of anxiety too. So I try to be as calm as I can, speak to her slowly, clearly and quietly and in turn, she often does the same back.

You may also like: How do you discipline a 3 year old?

If I try and talk quickly or louder than her, it just winds the situation up even more. I need to get her calm so she can actually hear me and really listen to what I’m trying to say to her.

A tantrum in public just seems so much worse though. You do get the disapproving looks from strangers and you started imagining what they’re thinking: that your child is naughty and you’re an awful parent.

Some will think this way as I did and I hold my hands up to it, I didn’t know better. The vast majority will be feeling sympathy for you though, they’re perhaps parents too and they’ve been in your shoes.

Either way, try to ignore any onlookers and focus on your child. Let them know that you’re trying to understand what it is that they’re upset about, you’re really listening to them. Sometimes my daughter’s frustration is because she’s struggling to communicate what she really wants or needs.

If you cannot calm the situation down, it might be worth removing yourself from the public situation altogether, going home and trying to calm things down in familiar surroundings.

Although, I finally understand now how heavy and unmoveable children can make themselves when they really do not want to be picked up off the floor! How on earth do they do that?

We try to negotiate, we try to keep things calm and we try to listen. Does it always work out? No, it doesn’t.

Parenting isn’t always easy and tantrums are par for the course. Every single parenting friend of mine has gone through them and no one has the solution. We all have to do what works for us and our child.

Sometimes, I’ll admit it, a treat is the only cure! Because let’s face it, when you’re faced with an out-of-nowhere, hysterical, unmoving tantruming child of your own, you’ll try anything to extinguish it!

Do you have any advice on how to deal with tantrums?

Mim Jenkinson


Tags: Parenting
Mim Jenkinson

Mim is a married mother of a 2 year old little girl and baby boy. An advocate of hypnobirthing, positive thinking and laughing at herself, she blogs about family life at lovefrommim.com. In November 2015 Mim was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and, after a successful lumpectomy, is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Her career spans creative and business writing, social media...

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