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Toddler Public Meltdowns: How to Effectively Handle It

Toddler Public Meltdowns: How to Effectively Handle It

You & Me

How to Effectively Handle the Situation

Ever had that experience where your child throws tantrums in public? Add on top of this the judging stares of other people as they pass you by shaking their heads. Must be “bad” parenting some would say but according to ChildMind.org this episodes are due to “fear, frustration, anger, sensory overload, to name a few.”  Children at the age of one to four are prone to tantrums and this is so because they are not able to communicate their frustrations. As a result, tots act out due to the language barrier. Here are a few tips and tricks from other parents on how they handle their child’s public tantrums.

 How to Deal with Public Judgment

Kids are frank and sincere with their expressions, being innocent of society’s nuances when appearing in public. In short, they don’t really care what the lady at the next table is wearing or feeling. They tend to live in the moment, which we can learn a lot from them. This frankness however has a downside- they do not know how to control their negative feelings in public. This situation must have occurred several times that many restaurants have banned kids.

Other adults would expect the parent of a child throwing tantrums in public to punish the child. However, let us get one thing straight: there are no bad kids or that tantrums are signs that the child is spoiled rotten. We should always treat our kids not as half-wits but as little persons deserving of respect and none of the judgment. There are other options that can help parents properly handle the situation and punishment is not one of them.


#1 Know your Child

  • Learn to predict your child’s emotions

Learn how your child reacts to certain situations before you place them in it. For example, one child is afraid of dinosaurs so expect screams and tears when the whole family decides to go to a dinosaur themed park. Get your child used to dinosaurs and explain that they are not real, hold their hand and give them lots of hugs and that you or daddy are there to protect them.

  • Assess the situation

Hand in Hand Parenting teaches parents to assess the situation and not judge kids when they start acting out. Hold your child’s hand as they go through the situation. Let them cry but bring them to an area where other people will not be disturbed. Talk to them gently and wait it out.  Kids get frustrated too and not knowing how to explain why or how reduces them to tears.


  • Know your child’s limits

How long is it before your child gets tired or sleepy? Know your child’s body clock. If they usually go on a nap at 3 in the afternoon, then do not schedule grocery trips with them during that hour. Pattern your agenda according to your child’s schedule because you cannot force them to go with your personal plans.

Bring snacks and make sure they are well-fed before going anywhere. Check with them if they feel like going to the restroom. If they say they do not want to go to the restroom but you know they have to go then ask them if they want to accompany you instead.


#2 Set Expectations

  • Let them know what to expect

Just like grownups, kids do not like surprises. Be candid with them and explain where you are going what you will do and what they can and can not do. Get their agreement on the situation. Give as much details as you can and remember to reward good behavior.

  • Be prepared for boredom

Kids’ attentions are lower the younger they are. For example, a three or four-year old has an average attention span of 8-10 minutes while a one-year old would have 2-3 minutes attention span. Bring toys and fun activities for the kids to avoid boredom – one of the major tantrum triggers.


  • Teach them how to let go

Every parent’s nightmare: the toy store. Bringing your child to the toy store is a test of wills. Make sure to set expectations with your child on what you will buy. It wouldn’t hurt to teach your children what is a budget and why you need to limit what they will buy. Explain it in positive terms. One trick that a friend of mine does is she teaches her three -year old that the toys will always be there and they can visit anytime. Plus she gets to wave “bye-bye” when they are leaving the store. This way the child learns to let go and that there is always tomorrow or when mummy is free they can go visit her “friends” on top of this she can bring “friends” home too sometimes when mummy has enough money.

  • Give them breaks when traveling

Top trigger on the list is travel. Adults get tired just by travelling and so do kids. In between stops, make sure to let your kids have breaks or a mini-picnic if you can. Set expectations before the trip on Do’s and Don’ts, we want them to have fun but within safe limits. If you are bringing more than one kid on travel, make sure you have someone to help you manage them.

#3 Be in Control of Your Own Emotions

  • Show some love

Kids throw tantrums too because they want some attention. Give equal attention to your kids when going out. Let them know you love each and everyone of them. Remember these are persons you are dealing with and they too can get jealous sometimes. Kisses and hugs all around will save the day.


  • Stay calm – don’t stress out

Kids model their emotions to that of their parents. If they see a parent stressed out or exhibiting negative emotions, they too will get affected. If you do have to handle a situation like a sales person being rude, make sure your kids are not there to witness it.


  • Get out of there

When your child starts throwing things or hurting others during a tantrum, they should be taken to a safe and quiet place until they calm down. Take them out of the situation until they are able to communicate with you what they want.


Lastly, make sure you know your child’s tantrum spots.  According to Parents.com, the following are top tantrum spots for kids:

  • Supermarket
  • Doctor’s Office
  • Hair Salon
  • Toy Store
  • Restaurant
  • Leaving a fun place


Empower your Child

Keep in mind that not every child is the same and your kids need to know that their choices matter too. Give them some kind of control in situations. Understand also that every child is unique and may require different levels of attention, love and discipline. Give them responsibility according to their age (such as keeping the books in the living room in order) and promote an atmosphere of respect and discipline. Empower them by teaching them how to communicate what they want through signs or by expanding their vocabulary. And always remember you are a good parent doing the best you can with your amazing child.



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