How Do I Deal With My Child’s Public Tantrums?

By in Parenting on 05 May 2011

If you have been the recipient of disturbing glares and demeaning stares from onlookers each time your toddler throws a screaming fit, how do you respond? Have you always wished that you had magic spells so that your child will immediately stop screaming or do you opt to be more realistic and head straight to the door in record time? A child’s “theatrical” performance in public can be so embarrassing that many parents resort to giving in to their child’s demands. While this may address the short term problem, it may only result in a string of other high-strung public performances – at your very own expense.

Young kids may throw a tantrum in public so that they can get what they want. A young child may also scream out of frustration because he wants to be understood.  Screaming is also your child’s manipulative way of getting your attention. But when they stage their so-called performances in public, many parents find themselves in an awkward situation because the spotlight shifts from a child to the parent — the person whom onlookers expect to take full control.

Face your own fears.

When addressing this improper behavior, you need to first examine how you feel when you and your child are in a public place. Even if your child is behaving inappropriately, he still has every right to be in that place just like everybody else. It may take some getting used to but you really don’t have to pressure yourself into thinking that when your child misbehaves, you are expected to calm him down in an instant. These things take time, so be realistic even if the people around you seem to think that you are an ineffective parent. If you stop caring about the onlookers, you can start dealing with the problem head on.

Take control of your own emotions.

If you react negatively, your child may think that you are challenging him and it may only result to louder screams and screeches, attracting more people in the process. So even if your child screams on the top of his lungs, react calmly but firmly. Tell him that his behavior is unacceptable and you will only respond to him when he stops screaming.

Acknowledge his feelings.

There is a great difference in giving in to what your child wants and acknowledging his frustrations. When he’s screaming and you know what triggered his behavior, acknowledge it. Tell him you know what he wants but you just have to quickly finish buying groceries then you can both head home.

Learn to stand your ground.

If you give in each time your child starts screaming, it will only fuel the misbehavior.  If you are brave enough, you can choose to ignore it for as long as you are in a relatively noisy place. For as long as your toddler doesn’t need anything, you can ignore his screams as well as the onlookers’ disturbing stares altogether.  But if you are in a rather formal place, you can take your child outside for a while so he can freely release his frustrations without the menacing glances of onlookers. Even if it’s tempting to give in to his demands, stand your ground. Your patience will soon pay off when your child will realize that screaming is not going to get him anything.

Keep your child busy.

Before heading out the door, make sure that you have enough toys, books and snacks to keep him occupied. Offer items one at a time so that you can engage your child’s attention for a long while. If he increasingly becomes unhappy, get him to help you choose items from the shelves. Never offer those toys when he’s already misbehaving because it may seem like you are rewarding his inappropriate behavior.
When my daughter was still a toddler, I have made a habit of teaching her random everyday stuff every time we went out. So when we are out grocery shopping, she is entertained by my stories because every aisle presents plenty of opportunities for learning.  If your child is no longer happy with your stories, divert his attention to something else.

Choose the right time and the right place.

If your child is clearly not yet capable of controlling his emotions and you don’t want to deal with highly critical people when he throws a fit, don’t go to places that are too formal or events that will require everyone to be on their best behavior. It’s also crucial that you choose the right time to do errands. If you do errands when your child is either hungry or sleepy, you are surely going to have to deal with his screaming fits in front of many spectators.

How do you stop your child when he starts screaming in public? How do you feel when everybody seems to regard you as a bad parent?

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