One of life's most dreaded milestones that each and every parent has to face: The Toddler Tantrum -- the famous 3T's. No parents should feel smug if they have been blessed with an angelic baby thus far. It is only a matter of time before the little one sheds the angelic facade to reveal a mini daredevil and morph into an uncontrollable, crying, wailing, leg kicking, arms flapping, tear streaming toddler right in the middle of a crowded place.
Of all places. You'd think our little ones would've more sense and have a meltdown in a quieter and less jam-packed venue. But nooooo, it has to be in a public area for all to see. At first, they might be jumping and down happily. But then something will flip the switch in their little brains. There will be a feeling of frustration and an outburst of anger that they cannot comprehend and control.
They will become extremely upset, wallow in their misery and make sure everyone, yes, Everyone with a capital E knows. That my dears would mark the first public tantrum a toddler would have. Right smack in the middle of civilization. To be honest, we cannot truly blame our tots for these emotional fits of rage.
They are after all still extremely young -- too young to be able to rationalize and control their emotions. Our children, young and naive usually wear their emotions on their sleeves and therefore, their joys, sadness, anger, and disappointment are all very visible and easy to discern. And it is our role as a parent and an adult to help guide them through their tantrums, especially their first public meltdown. So what is it that we should do? Here are the top 10 things we should emulate when our child throws his or her first public tantrum.
20 Stay Calm
First and foremost, stay calm. You are the adult here, not your child. You are the one who has the ability to control your emotions, not your little one. At times like these, when your child's emotions are spilling all over the place, the last thing they need is for you to lose your cool.
You need to keep calm and take control of the situation. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this is just the first of many tantrums and you would want to set the benchmark for how to handle this in the near further because --believe it honey-- there will be many more meltdowns to come.
19 Move Toddler to a Less Crowded Place
The next step would be to move your toddler (legs kicking, arms flapping and high pitched screaming) to a more secluded place, away from the source of the tantrum and also away from people who might agitate your child further.
The less crowded the place is, the easier it will be for your child to gather his or her emotions, aka less attention from people equals less reason to cry a river. Also, a quieter place makes it easier for you and your child to connect with one another. So always scout for a secluded area every time you go to a public place. Just in case.
18 Go Down To Their Level
Sometimes, we as adults, tend to forget how physically small our children are and when we talk to them, we tend to hover over them and look down at them while speaking. This sends an overpowering sense of pressure on them, making them feel small and vulnerable.
So try to go down on your knees (cue to the song 'Down On Bended Knees') and look at them in the eye at face level while you try to talk to them. This gives them a sense of acknowledgment that yes, mummy is listening to me and taking me seriously.
17 Listen To Them
Ask them what is wrong in a soft soothing voice. Well, not too soft that they can't hear you over the crying but, well, you get the idea. Be soft and gentle, but maintain your authority. Once they confide in you, truly listen to them and try to see things from a toddler's point of view.
While the box of Cheerios being blue doesn't bother you, it might mean the world to them that the color isn't in pink hues. Or perhaps they lost their favorite toy in the park and couldn't find it.
Or maybe little Tom had poked their stomach a wee bit too hard. Listen to their voice of reason (yes, toddler brains will never make sense to us) and once they see that you are on their side, they will calm down.
16 Let Them Cry
Sometimes, if they are extremely upset, just let them cry it out. Hold them, pat them on the back and just let them wail their little hearts out.
Of course, you'll have to set a time frame. We're not going to let them cry till sundown.
We've got a traffic jam to beat! And dinner to prepare too! But if possible, experts suggest that we let them express their sorrows and not to have them bottle them up. This enables our toddlers to be able to connect better with their emotions further on in life.
15 Identify The Trigger For The Outburst
The first time is always the hardest. But know the trick and handling the tantrum will be a breeze. So one of the first things to do to help calm your toddler down would be to find the source of the tantrum. Find out what it is that contributed to your child's emotional outburst. Was it the candy bar they saw but couldn't have at aisle 25?
Or was it big brother who pulled their pigtails? Perhaps the color of the building was not to their liking? Or you forgot to bring along Mr. Froggy for the ride? Find out what it is that triggered the tantrum and from there work out a strategy (or two) to calm them down.
14 Divert Their Attention
And when all else fails (their cries are somehow escalating to a level that even soprano singers cannot reach), then divert their attention. Look at the rainbow in the sky! There's a unicorn hiding behind it! Or hey! What's that on your shoe? It's Mr. Ant!
Or perhaps you could whip out your smartphone (not the best solution but one that usually does the trick) and start playing the latest episode of Peppa Pig or Ryan's Toy Review. That might just calm them down. Note, however, that this trick will only work on younger toddlers and only for the first few times. The little ones tend to develop an immunity to diversion pretty quickly.
13 Have A Talk Before Going To Public Place
When your child is slightly older, say 3 years old, you might want to talk to him or her before bringing them to a public place. Paint a picture of how the place will be. Let them know the things they might see or the people they might meet.
Have them know that they cannot simply take the candies from the shop or that toys from stores are only on a 'can see cannot buy' basis. That way they can be mentally prepared for what is to come and the likelihood of a public tantrum will be reduced and maybe evaded for another day.
12 Have Empathy
When your child cries because they can't stay longer at the see-saw or because they can't have the little Batman figurine, try to empathize with them. The see-saw or Batman figurine might not mean a lot to you but to them, it could mean the world. Or even the universe. Even we adults get upset, frustrated and angry when things do not go our way.
And the fact that their brains are not yet wired for them to be able to rationalize and control their emotions, then we as adults should try to empathize with them more.
And even if we don't, just act as if we do. It is a lot easier controlling their tantrum when they think we are on their side.
11 Set A Limit For The Tantrum
Still, that doesn't mean we should let them bawl their eyes out and cry non stop until their throats go raw. There should be a limit for their tantrum. Some kids just don't know when to stop and when they think they can get away with anything by throwing a tantrum, then they will continue doing so in the future.
So set a limit for them. Let them cry for a bit (to release all the pent-up stress and frustration) but once you feel that they should stop then have them know that tantrum time is up. Tell them in a calm but authoritative voice that they should stop misbehaving or else punishment will ensue. Shown them who's the boss.
And here's a list of no-nos for when our kid has a public tantrum.
10 Never Lose Your Temper
The moment you lose your temper when your child loses his or hers, then consider yourself fighting a losing battle. Have you ever seen two people who are not in their right minds settling their differences amicably? Chances are, the answer is no.
As we are the adult in this situation (or at least we try to act like an adult even though we would very much like to run to our mommy's arms and munch on chocolate chip cookies in our pj's), we have to control our emotions, especially during the first time our child has an emotional outburst.
The point is we have to let them know that we are in control and that they can trust us to help them. If we burst into flames, that would send a signal to them that 'mummy has lost control, so we should go into berserker mode too'.
9 Never Ignore Your Child
No one likes to be ignored. Especially little children who crave and need special attention at a time like this. Ignoring them would only lead them to act out more because in their minds, they will think that 'the more I scream, cry and shout, the more attention I'll attract from mummy and daddy'.
So one of the most important things to never do is pretend that your child is invisible or that you are deaf, dumb and blind.
Worse yet, don't go around acting like that child isn't yours. 'Hey ma'am, is that wailing little thing clinging to the hem of your jeans your child?' 'Oh that? Heck no, that's just an accessory with a mouth. It's the latest trend. Didn't you know?' Limps off with screaming kid clinging to mommy's leg.
8 Never Use A Specific Form Of Discipline
Unless your toddler is acting excessively out of reason, the last thing you should do is to spank your child right in the middle of a crowded place. Sure, it might shut them up but it would humiliate them and make them subconsciously resent you and therefore create the desire to retaliate against you more.
So save the spanking to a more private place (if spanking is your form of discipline. It's not exactly an 'in' thing for parents these days). But if possible, avoid implementing any punishments that could result in physical pain.
7 Never Give In to Your Toddler's Demands
One of the most important things a parent has to learn is to never, ever give in to their children's illogical demands, especially during their first tantrum just for the sake of shutting them up. Once you do that, they will know that they have the upper hand. They will know that the Ace is in their hands.
Aha! Showdown mummy! You lose! Mwahahaha! You will be at my beck and call for the next few years whenever I throw a tantrum. Giving in will only encourage them to throw more tantrums in the future to get their way so that, parents, is a big no-no. It might seem like one the easiest way out but think of the long run. You'll wish they had never been born. Heh. Kidding!
6 Never Try To Talk Your Toddler Out Of A Tantrum
If your kid is not able to understand the logic of one times two then what makes you think that they will listen to reason? At this age, the synapses of their brains are not yet wired to think like an adult.
If they could reason like an adult at just two or three years old then that would be extremely disturbing.
Even though you might be tempted to explain to them why they should not throw a tantrum, especially in a public area, save your breath and find another way to calm them down. We are dealing with toddlers here people, not tweets, young adults or our own age groups. Heck, even people at our age sometimes do not listen to reason, what more to say our little tots?
5 Never Bribe Your Toddler
Bribing a toddler is like feeding them with drugs. 'If you stop screaming, I'll buy you a dog' or 'if you stop spinning on the floor, I'll let you watch the tablet all day long '. Once you start bribing them, then they will come back for more.
For the sake of your own sanity, please refrain from any format of bribing. You will just be digging your own grave here. Toddlers will think that they will be rewarded with gifts or services whenever they throw a tantrum so back off and try another method to calm them down.
4 Never Threaten Your Toddler
Worse yet, don't ever threaten a toddler when they throw a tantrum. Sure, a simple 'of you continue screaming then I'll just leave you here ' is acceptable (I mean, who hasn't tried that trick before? They usually work wonders).
But threats, like chopping off their hands or wanting to hit them or dump them at the orphanage can actually create an invisible psychological scar in them. It could make them feel unloved and unwanted and in the future, whenever they get upset, they will not dare to express their feelings and frustrations in a healthy manner.
3 Never Expect Your Toddler To Reason Like An Adult
A toddler is defined as a little human less than 5 years of age. One who has yet to experience the ups and downs of adulthood. So to actually think that one can reason with a toddler to not throw a tantrum in public would be akin to a dig trying to talk to a cat: "woof woof and meow meow".
It just won't work. So the next time you are tempted to reason with your child in why they should stop screaming their lungs out and kicking down every obstacle in their path, think for a moment. This is a toddler you have here. A mere child. So save your breath and time to trying to debate because this is one debate you won't win. Like ever.
2 Never Embarrass Your Toddler
While a toddler might still be young and gullible, they know what embarrassment is and like everyone else around us, they too do not like to be embarrassed. Especially not by their own parents who are supposed to love and protect them.
When your toddler starts having an emotional outburst that they are unable to control, do not embarrass them by saying how stupid or worthless they are compared to say, their siblings or friends. Take their feelings into consideration. Do not do unto them what you would not want others to do to you.
1 Never Say No Without Explaining Why
The word 'no' is one of the most annoying words in the English dictionary. It shuts the door in your face and ignores your cry for mercy. It is especially, even more, agitating when the word 'no' doesn't come with a reason.
When a frustrated child is told 'no' without even being told why, it sends their brains into a frenzy. They will feel rejected, punished, mistreated and worse of all, they won't even know why they can't do this or that.
Unless you are truly out of options (as most parents are when it comes to wailing toddlers in public places), do not ever use the word 'no'. Why may you ask? Because 'no' means 'no'. Imagine that!
References: Wikipedia and Parents.com.