How to Deal with Tantrums in Public – The Ultimate Guide

When your child is seemingly out of control, screaming at the top of their lungs and don’t want to listen to reason of any kind, it can be difficult to deal with to say the least.

Things can feel so much worse in public too, parents all know that feeling – numerous beady eyes watching and waiting in anticipation for your response. It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable and humiliating.

It can feel even worse if you don’t resolve it in the ‘correct’ way too and before you know it, you’re in full-blown panic mode.

There is a way to deal with it in the healthiest possible way, without compromising your positive parenting style. In fact, with careful planning and execution, I have faith that it’s possible to prevent it from ever happening to in the first place.

It’s often easy to see the signs that your child may be heading towards a tantrum and understanding this stage is the key to preventing a full blown tantrum. Still, if a tantrum does occur in public there are effective methods to diffuse the situation quickly, while maintaining a supportive and empathetic attitude.

The key is to take a holistic approach to resolving tensions, which largely involves proper communication and understanding.

How to Deal with Tantrums in Public: 

Here are some of the most effective tips to deal with tantrums before they happen, during them and the aftermath:

1. Understand Your Childs Triggers

Does your child have melt downs when they don’t get what they want? Do they freak out when you won’t get them a new toy in the mall?

The key to avoiding a tantrum is to understand the events that trigger one in the first place. Take notes of the scenarios that cause your child to get frustrated and erupt. When you see a pattern, jot down different ideas of avoiding it.

2. Make Your Expectations Clear

If you happen to take your kids into a new and confusing environment, it’s important to lay down the social rules in child-friendly language so that they understand your expectations of their behaviour in these new environments.

For example, if you take them out to a new store or the mall, their natural curiosity will probably encourage them to explore, pick up things and want to play with them. The key here is to explain that they don’t belong to mummy and daddy and that they must not touch things that don’t belong to them.

It’s a good idea to explain that although we can’t touch things in the store, we can play with our own things when we get home. This helps them start to grasp the idea of ownership and prevents any unnecessary confusion. Like everyone kids like to know what to expect in new environments.

You may need to repeat yourself several ways and if they fail to understand try being creative with your language. It may get tedious, but it’s certainly better than a tantrum in the middle of the mall.

3. The Art of Distraction

It’s a wise idea to keep a bunch of things you know your kids love; this can include their favorite snacks or a toy they have a particular fondness for.

Kids are prone to going into tantrum mode when they’re tired and hungry, so having access to things you know will keep them happy and distracted is the perfect way to prevent a tantrum from occurring when you can feel some tension.

Entertainment wise you can always have a tablet handy packed with their favourite games, shows and music. You don’t have to let them know you have it of course, just get it out in emergencies only.

It may mean you have to carry a little more weight around with you, but it’s certainly worth it to avoid a tantrum.

When you can feel the Tension Rising: 

When you can feel their mood change, it’s a good time to take some wise steps to avoid a full on volcanic eruption.

So, what can you do?

1. Focus on your Voice

When your child is beginning to lose their temper, as a parent it’s so easy to react to the situation and get angry, but this only escalates the problem.  

The key is to keep your voice calm and speak slowly, so that they understand you. This also helps to keep you both calm; it will keep you present and be comforting to your child.

It also helps as it send a clear message that you are ready to communicate with them and that you are listening to them attentively. Don’t forget to maintain good eye contact too. This is a great article focusing on tactics to keep calm when your child is having a tantrum.

2. Show some Empathy

Although it may seem counter intuitive with traditional wisdom – a little attention will do a world of good in a tense situation. You could explain that you want the toy too and that we can play with lots of toys together when we get home instead.

Comforting your child will help change their focus too.

What should you do in the Midst of a Tantrum?

Even with proper planning and prevention tactics employed, a tantrum results. So here are some techniques you can employ to calm the storm.

1. Never Bargain with Them

Although it may be very difficult to give into their demands, doing so will only reinforce this negative behaviour and before you know it they will be running rings around you.

If they know that their behaviour gets them what they want, why would they stop?

Good parenting doesn’t mean giving into demands to avoid conflict. The key to being a positive parent is to establish boundaries, you don’t have to be too harsh either, empathy is key to being a good role model.

Another common mistake is trying to reason with your toddler, but this is a mistake. Infants do not start to develop reasoning abilities until they’re around 3 years of age.

2. Recognize their Emotions

When they’re screaming and whaling, it can be extremely difficult to know exactly what to say to calm the situation as fast as the possible. The best way to shorten the length of a tantrum is to show that you recognize their emotions.

When we’re upset, a kind, understand voice lets us know someone understands us.

For example, explain that you recognize they are angry and that when they calm down you can talk about it together.

This tactic can work wonders when your kid is in the middle of having a tantrum.

3. The Escape Route

If your child is relentless and nothing seems to work, getting away from whatever triggered them can make a big difference. Taking them into a new environment can remove the focus from whatever made them that way and can also work to distract them.

Getting away from a crowded area can also help you remain calm and collected too, so if it’s easy to do, always head for the exit.

What should you do After the Tantrum?

When your child has calmed down and is no longer going off the rails, it’s important to take a few steps to understand their tantrum triggers and how you can avoid them in the future.

Equally, it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up about them either. There is no guide book to parenting and in order to reach a point where you see improvements will take time and since all kids are different, you will need to experiment and see what works for you.

So what should you do?

Talk about it – in order for your child to develop a good understanding of their emotions it’s important to talk about what happened.

For young kids, the easiest way to do is this is through role playing. Go through the event again and explain that this is not the correct way to behave and suggest better ways to communicate in future. To conclude, suggest a way that the matter could have been resolved without getting frustrated and angry.

1 thought on “How to Deal with Tantrums in Public – The Ultimate Guide”

  1. I have four children – 12, 10, 7 and 5. I had a hard time dealing with my third child’s attitude when he was a toddler. He was always hard to please and always wants to get everything he wanted. I let him finish his tantrums and try to talk to him calmly after. There were times wherein he doesn’t listen to me and usually, it makes me mad and lose my temper. So I call “the husband” who’s the more patient one and let him handle the boy.


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