I think it's safe to say that temper tantrums are something that parents will have to deal with for a long time. No matter how old your child or teen is — they're gonna have rough patches throughout the day that they're not pleased with. Obviously, when a person is younger, they're not going to know how to use their words when they're uncomfortable, which then causes screaming, pouting, and eventual tears. Unfortunately, for parents, they can't always control their child's tantrums, nor can they predict them. But what parents can do is know what to do when their child has a fit in public. Having a child freak out in public is way different than having a meltdown at home. A parent has everything they could ever need to ease their child at home — plus, they're not getting judged by multiple strangers. But when a parent and child are in a store, movie theatre, or mall — it's a different story.
Thankfully, parents have taken to forums to share what works best for them and their child. But before we start, I think it's important to note that no parent can ever truly make their child not have a tantrum. Each day is different in this parenting world of ours, but here are 20 tips that may help parents when their child has their moment publicly.
20 Don't Try To 'Calm' Them Down
As an adult, isn't it kind of annoying when someone is telling you to "relax" or to "calm" down when you're having a mental breakdown? It's frustrating, right? It honestly makes the entire situation worse. Well, the same can be said for your upset child. Parents suggests, "Ignore him unless he is physically endangering himself or others. By taking away your attention completely, you won’t reinforce his undesirable behavior." While this tactic may not work for everyone, it's definitely something to consider.
19 Remove Them From The Situation
If possible, there are plenty of parents who try to remove their child from the situation when they have a meltdown. And while that's not always possible, Parents says "If your child starts hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing things during a meltdown, stop him immediately and remove him from the situation." If you're in a grocery store, for instance, place your goods aside and take your child to a secluded area in the store where you can talk things through. This way, you won't feel uncomfortable with other shoppers walking around you.
18 Speak Low When They Raise Their Voice
Truth be told, this advice can work for any age. When a child starts screaming (because they don't know how to use their words yet), it's important that the parent doesn't match their voice. Yelling at someone else who is yelling is only going to escalate the situation. Parents also explains that "Your child will end up matching your volume because, ultimately, she wants to engage with you." However, if you start speaking to your child in a lower, more normal, tone — perhaps your child will quiet down to hear what you're saying.
17 Validate Your Child's Emotions
Getting upset enough to have a tantrum is, understandably, quite stressful. Not only is the parent frustrated, but the child is obviously upset enough to cry. Parent Map has some solid advice on this matter. "During a meltdown, your child will have an elevated heart rate, seem irrational and inconsolable and become 'flooded' with stress hormones (which trigger headaches and stomach aches for real!). The greatest challenge for the parent is that the child will identify the problem as the feared thing, not the core emotional problem, which is the anxiety state."
Distracting your child away from what they're upset about may seem silly, but it can definitely work. Let's say they're crying at Target because they haven't had their nap yet, and as a result, they are feeling cranky. Distract them from their tiredness by showing them something that will catch their eye. Actress Drew Barrymore said she uses bubbles when possible to distract her child.
“You cannot tantrum if you are breathing and you cannot blow bubbles without breathing. You can’t tantrum while smiling and you can’t catch bubbles without lots of smiles. Quick distraction to get back to calm.”
There are many parents out there who think the best way to get through a temper tantrum is to avoid it entirely. When your child erupts out of frustration, ignoring their meltdown could be the best way to peace and quiet. Not giving into their antics shows them that crying gets them nowhere when it comes to their parents. Eventually, tantrums may fade away because they realize that screaming, kicking, or crying will not get them what they want. They will then have no choice but to listen to their parents and use their words to express themselves.
14 Repeat Yourself
Kids may be young, but they're still humans with the same emotions adults have — they just don't always communicate them properly. When your child erupts in a tantrum, try not to argue with them. Don't ignore their feelings or act like what they're saying is ridiculous. Instead, validate their feelings and repeat what they're saying to you. "I understand what you're saying, I know you want a lollipop. Stay calm..."
Parent Map suggests "Perhaps you can share a childhood story about when you needed to use a technique like deep breathing or positive self-talk to calm yourself."
13 Avoid The Possibility Entirely
While temper tantrums seem to be uncontrollable, there are many parents out there who believe they're in control when it comes to their child's outrage. To avoid a tantrum entirely, some mothers and fathers remind others to be in control. Make sure your kids are well-fed before heading out for the day, bring snacks and drinks with you as a distraction, maybe even bring a source of entertainment (a book, iPad, or toy) to make a longer day of errands more enjoyable for your little one.
12 Rewards For Good Behavior
Similar to dogs, humans love being rewarded for things. For instance, some preschools give their students a gold star for being a good student that day or maybe even a candy to nibble on. Bellamys Organic also says "If your child comes out of their tantrum quickly and efficiently, reward them with praise (not a toy!). Managing frustration is an important tool to have in your belt, so congratulate them on a job well done."
In short, don't bribe your child if they stop freaking out. Instead, gift them something when they calm themselves down.
Just because your child can't drive the vehicle or control the day doesn't mean they don't want to know what's going on. Bellamys Organic reminds us it's important to give our kids updates on the day; where we're going, when we're arriving, and what we're doing there.
"Prepare your child by informing them that you will be leaving in 10 minutes, then five minutes, then two minutes. By the time you need to leave, they’ll be more accepting of saying goodbye. You can also prepare them by saying things like, 'We’re going to visit Grandma now for an hour, but then we’ll find something else fun to do.'”
10 Stay Connected With Your Child
I know we're all modern, busy people — but we should remind ourselves to connect with our children. Even though we see our kids every day, are we really seeing them? Are we getting to know each other and connecting with them in a deeper way? Spending time together before leaving the house can help your child feel more connected to you, making them in a more pleasant mood. It's when a child feels ignored or uninterested, a tiff could be on the rise. Make your time together special in some way — even if it's running to the grocery store.
9 Encourage Laughter!
While some parents like to ignore tantrums, others like to use humor. It may seem hard to giggle when you're super angry, but it's a little different with kids. They don't want to be upset. They're just trying to make their feelings heard. Hand in Hand Parenting says, "Finding ways to encourage laughter will help your child relieve some tension and feel more connected with you. The more connected your child feels the more cooperative she is likely to be." Not sure how to make them giggle? Think about what they love most! Sing a silly song, make a face, trip on your shoe — anything that can get them to break their tantrum.
8 Take A Privilege Away
One of the hardest things for parents to understand is why their child is so upset in the first place. Sometimes it can seem the tantrum comes from nowhere, but there could be a few reasons for it. While it's tough for some parents to control a situation, they can try to end their child's anger by taking away a privilege. Let's say they started crying in the middle of a soccer game because they didn't want to be there or someone else took the ball — a way to get them to cut it out is by saying "If you don't breathe and calm down, we won't get ice cream after practice." Or, "If you don't play nicely with your friends, we won't have movie night tonight." While the child won't be pleased, they're probably gonna shape up so they can get what they want.
7 Remind Them To Breathe
No parent wants to fight with their child. Sure, they may do some things publicly that aren't normally allowed, but that doesn't mean you want to cause a fight with them. We love our kids and just want them to feel safe and happy.
A mother told Mess for Less that she taught her kids breathing exercises in times of frustration. That way, she can kind of coach them through their anger. "Sometimes my daughters get so worked up about something that they forget to breathe and need to be reminded to do so."
6 Make Them Feel Safe
As a parent, don't you just want to make your child feel safe? Even during a tantrum, as much as you're frustrated with them or don't understand them — you just want them to know they're safe in the world. The same mother from above told Mess for Less, "This goes hand in hand with the deep breathing. I find that a tight hug makes my child feel safe and they will often collapse into me since they are exhausted from the tantrum." To be honest, it's similar to those thunder vests we give to animals who are scared by storms. Some light compression can make all the difference.
5 Watch and Learn
Part of being a parent is knowing your child. What do they love, what do they dislike, what are they scared of, what will set them off... Knowing your child inside out can help you escape a tantrum completely. For instance, if your child loves candy and you know that once they see that candy aisle, they're gonna kick and scream until they go down it — avoid the candy aisle! Distract your child until you can pass the aisle successfully! Avoiding these triggers may make your day of errands all the better.
4 Don't Hold On To Them So Tightly
I know going out in public with our young children can seem scary at times. The news never has good things to say about young children and the predators that are lurking right next door. However, that doesn't mean that we have to suffocate our children. While keeping a watchful eye and being a safe distance away, we can still give them freedom. Give them a little bit of independence. Let them grow into their own person and feel like they can handle life as it comes without their mother or father holding their hand. So if you're out shopping, let your kid walk beside you or a little in front of your cart. Letting your child roam (and not being stuck in a cart) could give them the expression they need.
3 Help Them
Listening to our child in their time of need can make all the difference. There are so many triggers for a kid that can make them throw a tantrum, do we as parents really know what set them off or do we just think we know? Listening to our kids when they're freaked out can help them calm down. They feel like their words are being heard and their feelings are being validated. Maybe the next time they're frustrated, they'll follow suit and talk to you about it since they know you're always going to listen.
2 Getting Angry At Your Child Will Only Make It Worse
It can be easy to freak out at your child when they start freaking out on you. It's the same reaction many of us have as adults! I know when I get into an argument with my partner, I'll raise my voice because he's raising his or vice versa. It's when we stop, listen, and speak gently that the argument (or tantrum, in this case) can cool off without getting worse. Plus, yelling at a screaming child in public is only cause for judgment by your peers. And no parent needs that... ever.
1 FEED THEM
This cannot be a surprise to anyone: food makes us happy! I'm not saying we need to shove sugary cereals down our kids' throats and give them lollipops every time they're upset, but feeding them before leaving the house and keeping some healthy snacks in your bag (like frozen grapes) could distract your child enough to keep them happy. I know I get much happier when I find a granola bar in my bag when I'm upset, so snacking could be an easy out for an upset child.
References: Parents, Parent Map, Pure Wow, Bellamysorganic, Hand in Hand Parenting, Mess for Less.