dealing with tantrums

Dealing with Tantrums in Public Places

I’m still scarred from it. We were flying from Washington, DC to Tampa with a two-year-old and a three-month-old. There were major delays. It was a full flight and we sat at the gate for forty-five minutes. We used toys, movies, snacks, books, and games to keep our kids occupied. My wife is a flight attendant so we are not novice travelers. We finally moved out onto the tarmac as the impatience of our two-year-old was more than building. That’s when the captain told us all flights going south were shut down and he turned off the engines. My two-year-old lost it throwing the biggest tantrum the world perhaps has ever seen. We felt like every eye in the plane was burning into us as we frantically tried to calm him.

Has something like this every happened to you? I’ve had lots of experience. You are in a public place, perhaps a store, and your child throws a tantrum. Everyone always looks to see how the parent will respond. It can be difficult to know how to handle it. Here are four strategies for dealing with tantrums in public places.

A Few Things To Understand About Tantrums

Think for a moment about the world of a toddler. They don’t have power or control of anything. The environment around them is unpredictable and difficult to understand. When I am not in the mood to do something I normally need some time to prepare myself. Throughout the day they are asked to go with the flow of an adult agenda with twists and turns they are not developed to handle. That would be enough to drive any of us crazy. It doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to throw a tantrum, but it does make it more understandable. Try to show some empathy, even when no one else will.

Remove Them If You Can

When you are at home you can try the “ignore it” method, but when you are in public you want to model care for other people. Letting a child moan and wail in public teaches the child that disturbing others is okay. If you are able, remove him/her from the area to a more secluded place. Removing them not only cares for the other people, but it removes them from the environment where they are getting agitated. Their feelings have an opportunity to soothe in the new place, alone with you where it is safe and secure.

Remain Calm

A kid throwing a tantrum is already intense, it doesn’t need more intensity from you.

If you are like me there’s nothing that makes me more upset than when someone I’m associated with makes a scene. My insides are exploding. A kid throwing a tantrum is already intense, it doesn’t need more intensity from you. It may be hard, but do your best to remain calm. If you lose control of your emotions then you simply model that it is okay for them to lose theirs. Try whispering in their ear. It’s one way to help control your emotions and keep you from raising your voice. But it may also soothe them or at least distract them because they will have to stop screaming in order to hear what you are saying.

Preventative Actions

In the end, the best way to deal with a tantrum is attacking it before it begins. First do your best to limit their sugar intake and anything else that can make their emotions get out of whack, such as food dyes. Create a regular schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Give them an idea of what the future holds so they can prepare themselves. You know better than they do how they respond in certain situations. Warn them about themselves. Recognize when coming off of a night when they were up late or a holiday, when they have had a ton of sugar that they are more susceptible to losing it. Then they have an opportunity to start monitoring themselves.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why is it good to think about others?”