Temper Flare Ups

Surviving the public tantrum.

No matter how hard you try, your toddler is going to throw a temper tantrum in public some day. Be prepared for the stares, the glares and the whispers. And then have a plan.

Most parents know when a tantrum is likely. Your child is tired, bored, hungry— you name it; something will set him off. It is important to already have a plan in mind. Here are some ideas for dealing with public tantrums:

  • Walk away. Try to put a few feet between yourself and your screaming toddler in full melt-down mode. Yet, be prepared for well-meaning adults who think your child has been abandoned and needs to be comforted.
  • Stop what you’re doing and leave. Even if it means you won’t have anything for dinner, leave the grocery store if your child throws a tantrums there. Order in some pizza and go back tomorrow. Sometimes pulling the pin is the best course.
  • An ounce of prevention. While all public tantrums can’t be prevented, remember that you, as a parent, can sometimes push things over the edge. Example: doing too many errands. While it might be tempting to make just one more stop to pick up the dry cleaning, remember that the fuse on most toddlers who are hungry/tired/bored is very short. Get that cranky toddler home and do that last errand tomorrow.

Reality Check: Picking your battles (What’s negotiable and what’s not).

You will have to decide what are important issues to you and your child. Remember you are planting those seeds of discipline. While it may seem easier to avoid conflict than take these issues on, you will pay for your approach later when the stakes are higher. Planting those seeds will prepare you for the day you hear, “Why can’t I shave my head? All my friends are doing it!”— or worse. Here are some classic toddler battlefronts:

  • Tooth brushing. Not negotiable. Cavities are expensive and unpleasant.
  • Diaper changing. Changing a wet diaper while your toddler is standing up instead of sitting may be negotiable (depending on your diaper changing skills). Changing a poopy diaper standing up is not negotiable.
  • Taking medicine. Not negotiable. You can always point out that the alternative to NOT taking medicine will be getting a shot.

Parents are always bothered by their child acting up in public. And let’s face it, these tantrums are embarrassing.

Here’s the truth about public tantrums: every other parent has been there and really doesn’t think you are a bad parent— they are just relieved it’s not their kid making the noise! Again, think about the world from your toddler’s point of view. Kids realize they are smaller than most people in their world, so they need to be louder to be seen and heard. They want to be in charge, but cannot control when you plan to leave the grocery store— especially if there is a line at checkout.

So what are they going to do to get what they want? You got it— they will yell!

Remember to keep your composure, and don’t back down just because you are in public.