“Tantrums and fits in public. I have 3 children and my youngest is by far the hardest. He will scream, ‘I hate you,’ hit, bite, and basically do everything you are embarrassed with when out in public if he doesn’t get his way. It is always very hard, because you want to discipline your child properly, but in public that can be difficult.
Especially when you have your other children with you. Those are the times I find most challenging as a parent. But I remind myself that this is a stage, and we are working through it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I just need to remain firm yet kind … and not lose my marbles in the process.”
This is an experience shared by a mother on a public forum in one of the mother’s blog I read on internet. I am sure like her most of us have faced such embarrassing moments where we have felt that in public all eyes are on us, watching and waiting for our next move, the child has just started screaming and thrashing and everyone around is waiting to see what will happen next.
We can feel the weight of their stares, judgement and disproval. It is every parent’s nightmare-a public tantrum. It’s embarrassing, awkward and humiliating. Particularly if you don’t deal with it ‘Right’.
But can you actually deal with tantrums in public the ‘right’ way while keeping your positive parenting hat on? Or, better yet, can you prevent the whole thing from happening in the first place? Well yes, I believe you can.
You see, tantrums can be prevented before you even set foot outside the house. And even when tensions rise and a tantrum seems imminent, it can be nipped in the bud. And if the worst happens, and your child launches into a full-throttle temper tantrum in public, there are empathetic and supportive ways of handling the situation.
Let’s take a closer look at how to deal with tantrums today, particularly the ones that happen in public with the spotlight squarely on you.
1. Keep the communication open or tell them what’s going on:
Kids are like us, they expect and want to know what is happening. It’s always better to tell them upfront what is expected of them, behavior, talk & everything, and where are they being taken to, what they can and cannot do.
Let me explain this with a situation, for example you take your kids to a place like a doctor’s office, a restaurant, a hair dresser, where kids can access some toys there, most commonly kids would want to take it with them to home and may try different tantrums in public.
It is always good to make them understand and set expectations upfront that they can play but they will have to keep it back and give them enough time and notice to what is expected.
2. Be prepared for Problems:
Always carry emergency “stuff” in hand expecting some potential tantrums. When I say “Stuff” I mean food and entertainment.
Especially when you are going to be out for a longer day, kids usually lose their cool when they are bored or hungry so it’s always good to have some handy kits.
3. Give them a little attention:
Sometimes all you need to do is stop for a moment and give your kids a little attention. You could say something like, “You’re bored with grocery shopping?” and then agree that it’s boring. A quick hug also works wonders.
4. Get them involved:
Another neat trick is to get kids involved in what you’re doing. If you’re grocery shopping, turn it into a game. Maybe they get to take items from Mommy to Daddy, to put in the cart. Maybe they cross things off a list for you. When they’re old enough, they can help you find things on the shelves.
5. Keep your voice calm and low:
When you notice your child starting to get worked up, make sure you keep your own voice calm, low and slow. Not patronizing, but comforting. This helps to keep you calm, and it’s soothing for your child.
It might not stop them being irritable, but it will prevent them getting worse. It will also let your child know that you’ve heard them. By changing the tone and pace of your voice, and making eye contact, you convey that you’ve actually heard what they said.
Life is all about experimenting. Trying out what works and what doesn’t. And kids are clever. So naturally they try all sorts of things. Including tantrums. Our role is to help them figure out what works. And what doesn’t.
So if your child tries a public temper tantrum and you feel the weight of all those stares, don’t drown in embarrassment. Instead, step into your starring role. Ignore the paparazzi, and keep cool, calm and collected.
And repeat these magic words to yourself: “I am A Fine Parent! I can handle this!”
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)