Simply put – it’s inevitable – your child will have a public meltdown at one point or another; that’s not something you can control. What you can control, however, is how you handle that public tantrum.
Through my years of experience raising children, I’ve learned a great deal about the public tantrum, and I’m here to help you know the best ways to handle them.
Ignore: Depending on the parent, the child and the location of the tantrum sometimes the best thing to do is to ignore your child’s outburst and complete whatever task you were working to accomplish. Often times if the child sees and realizes that they aren’t getting a reaction from you by screaming or causing a scene then they’ll stop all on their own. When “ignoring” your child’s public tantrum it’s important to remain close to your child without making eye contact or talking.
Diffuse: Ignoring the situation does not work for all children – or parents. If you need to react to your child’s tantrum work towards diffusing the situation by kneeling down on their level and comforting your child with gentle rubs on the back and a soothing “sshhh” or a quiet song.
Warning: Many children will react to “warnings” from their parents. If your child is screaming in public bend down and tell them what they’re doing is not appropriate and this is their warning. Give them a matter of seconds – some parents will even count down – to compose themselves, and if they can’t then you move onto another strategy.
Distract: Young kids have short attention spans, and sometimes you can use this to your advantage. If your child is having a meltdown sometimes putting them into a different setting works wonders. If they’re upset because they want candy from the market, pick them up, put them in the cart seat, give them the toy you brought from home and keep moving along.
Remove: If nothing seems to be working, pick your child up and remove them from the situation. Take them outside or into a bathroom where you can calmly soothe your child and end the meltdown. If this is not working the best thing you can likely do, as a parent, is to pack things up and head home.
In any situation you need to explain to your child that their behavior was unacceptable, and sometimes this conversation works better after your child has had time to cool down.
When handling public tantrums it’s important to remain calm and firm. Don’t let your child manipulate you in this situation as that can turn into a recurring problem. And remember, this is just a phase, and your child WILL outgrow it soon.
Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of 6, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddyscrubs.com, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the Daddyscrubs.com blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a Dad’s perspective.