As moms, we are all just doing our best to raise happy, competent children. Some days are filled with immense joy and others are inundated with speed bumps. Sometimes those speed bumps come in the form of toddler meltdowns. It’s something that plagues every parent. This phase is anything but easy. That’s why I am pleased to have Jenny from MomLovesBest, on the blog today. She is sharing her tips for how to handle those toddler meltdowns in public, while keeping your cool.
When Everybody’s Watching: Handling a Toddler Meltdown in Public
It’s happened to the best of us: our toddler loses it right in the middle of the grocery store. Or public park. Or any other place where the eyes of strangers are on you. But when it happens, you can’t lose it yourself.
I know it’s easier said than done, but you must keep your cool – even when everyone’s watching. Though it may feel like you’re being judged by the slew of onlookers, it’s important to focus on the task at hand. And you may be surprised to learn that task is NOT to get the tantrum to stop at all costs.
It’s to parent well in the midst of the meltdown.
So take a deep breath and get ready to tackle your mission. How you handle this situation will have much more far-reaching repercussions than whatever insignificant opinions strangers may have of you.
Here’s how to parent well in the midst of a public toddler meltdown.
1. Be empathetic.
Let’s be honest – it’s hard being a toddler. With little control, wild emotions, and few words with which to express them, situations can become overwhelming quickly. The truth is that toddlers don’t yet have the capacity to truly manipulate you and while tantrums may be a genuine expression of displeasure, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose just to give you a hard time. Most likely it means they’ve got some powerful feelings and they don’t know how to manage them.
Evaluate the situation and see if you can identify the reason for the tantrum. Are they overdue for a nap? Hungry? Antsy after a morning of running errands and need some exercise? Need a diaper change? Just plain mad that they aren’t getting their way? After you have identified a reason, it’s easier to respond appropriately.
2. Speak calmly.
Get down on your child’s level so you appear as non-threatening as possible. Speak calmly; a child overwhelmed with their own emotions will also be overwhelmed by yours. Look them in the eye and validate the reason for their tantrum.
“I know you’re very angry that you can’t have a snack right now. We need to finish shopping, and then we will get you a snack in the car. The faster you can calm down, the faster we can finish. Can I rub your back to help you feel better?”
Sometimes, just feeling like they’re heard is enough to stop a child’s tantrum.
3. Be consistent.
If the tantrum continues, handle it in public the same way you would at home. This teaches your child as they grow that causing a scene does NOT let them get their way. Because even though they’re not manipulating you now, you’re laying the groundwork for the future. Moreover, being consistent (regardless of the locale) provides a level of security and predictability for your child. They need to know that you are the same parent in every situation, whether at home or out and about.
4. Don’t make promises (or threats) you won’t keep.
I know. You just want it to STOP, especially in public. But that can cause you to make wild promises (or terrible threats) to coax your child into submission. Taking grand steps to get the tantrum to end may solve the immediate problem, but it can begin to develop a host of new, larger issues in the future.
It can teach your child that your words are meaningless, or that your follow-through is poor. Children may begin to believe that humiliating their parents in public will help them get their way. As children grow, the stakes become higher. The foundation is laid early on.
5. Don’t give in.
Sometimes it takes awhile for the situation to resolve. Once you’ve begun the battle of wills, you can’t back off. You’ll need to put on your patience and see it through to the end. Stay calm, stay firm, and – above all – stay empathetic. If your child continues to cause a scene and you’re concerned about the comfort of others around you, simply pick them up and remove them from the area. Continue the conversation outside or away from eavesdropping ears – but make sure you do see it through to the end. Don’t give in.
6. Make reasonable adjustments.
Let’s be honest – sometimes the tantrum is our fault. We neglected to meet a need our child had, pushed them too hard, or crossed our fingers as we blew right through the warning signs that a meltdown was imminent. If that’s the case, make the adjustments your child needs – even if that means creating an inconvenience for you. Take a time out to nurse your child or get them a snack. Sit on the floor and snuggle them for a few minutes. Leave your cart and head home for a nap.
Remember, while public tantrums are one of the hardest things to deal with as a parent, you are still the adult in the situation. Don’t worry about what others think of you; instead, worry about what’s best for your child. And what’s best for your child is to know that you are there to be loving, consistent, and help them learn to regulate their emotions effectively. Using these techniques will help to effectively diffuse the situation and allow you to parent your child well through an event that is just as stressful for your child as it is for you.
Jenny is just another Mom trying to do her Best. She loves organizing things into lists and helping others find what they are looking for. When she’s not using her powers to find her kids missing socks, you can find her giving parenting advice & tips at MomLovesBest.com or on Pinterest.