Temper tantrums, the moments when your sweet little children entirely lose their sh*t. It’s not that bad when you are at home. But how do you deal with it in public? As a mom of two strong-willed children, let me tell you how to deal with it.
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Temper Tantrums: When Your Kid Turns Into A Little Monster! Great. Now what?
I think we all had the moment when we were out in public and our kids completely lost it. Nothing seemed to help! People around us stared at us… Now what?
From a mom of two strong-willed girls let me tell you what to do next! But first of all…
It’s not your fault and it doesn’t reflect on your parenting.
Please do not blame yourself for your children’s outbursts.
Children are still developing, especially the part of the brain where logic happens (frontal lobe).
During your children’s development, they will have to learn how to express themselves in difficult situations without throwing a temper tantrum. To children it’s natural to throw a fit when they don’t get their way, are overly tired, or hungry.
Temper tantrums don’t mean your children are bad. They are just developing. Regular temper tantrums are worse between the ages of 2 to 3 and decrease until age 4. But then again, all kids are different. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior please talk to your pediatrician.
So, when your child is having a temper tantrum just focus on them and their needs rather than to question yourself or your child. Believe me, you both will be better off that way.
Don’t worry what other people think
Furthermore, don’t worry about others. Focus on your child and don’t worry if anyone is staring at you. I’m not going to tell you that you won’t be judged because there will be people who will judge you. Let’s be honest, we all thought we would be the perfect parent until we had kids. 😉
And for other parents, the majority of them knows what you are going through. I have to admit that I look at other parents at times because I want to know how they handle their child’s temper tantrum. I might learn a new strategy. Believe me, it’s not because I judge them.
I firmly believe that parenting is an ongoing learning process. There is no better way than to learn from each other.
Also, I had people look at me before and then later tell me how well I handled the situation. Not every look from a stranger is meant to hurt you!
Here is what you want to do when your child is losing it:
1. Stay calm during your child’s temper tantrums
This is a tough one for many of us. I had moments where I just wanted to lash back at my children because I was tired and overwhelmed myself.
But talk calmly to your child. If you need to, bring him/her to a quiet spot where you can make sure your kid can listen to you without being interrupted.
Now, if you can’t calm down just take a minute and take deep breaths. Or go to the bathroom and wash your hands and face. Believe me, I do that a lot. And then I remind myself who I’m dealing with.
Janet Lansbury follows the RIE approach that I find incredibly helpful for my kids. She names additional strategies on how to stay calm, like eating dark chocolate, doing jumping jacks, or calling a friend.
If you haven’t read her books yet here is the links above. She most definitely has made parenting easier for my husband and I. We can highly recommend her approach and her books.
2. Appeal on the emotions rather than logic.
For kids who listen during temper tantrums
- Ask your child if he/she is frustrated or upset. This shows your child that you understand how he/she is feeling.
- Tell your child that you understand that he/she is frustrated or upset and that it’s okay to feel that way. Your child will feel supported. Remember everyone is entitled to their feelings, kids or adults.
- Tell your child that you are there to help. This will show that you are there for him/her.
- Ask your child how to make the situation better or better offer a solution. This should help to take the anger out of the situation. And improve the situation. Now, be careful not to give into your child’s demand. Because your child will never forget that and most likely use crying as a new technique to get whatever he/she wants from now on.
For children who won’t listen during temper tantrums
Now, not every child will listen during a temper tantrum. My oldest daughter, for instance, will just cry louder and harder whenever I talk. She won’t even listen to what I have to say. So, I sit it out until she listens and when she does I start the above dialogue.
This may take a few minutes and people stare at me because they think I don’t do anything. But that’s okay because this is the only thing that works for my daughter at times.
While I wait, I tell her that I will help her as soon as she is calm. Or I just say “calm down and we will talk.”
Giving her time to calm down until she listens is essential for me to get through to her.
For kids who need physical support
Meanwhile, other kids just need a hug and supportive words. The above dialog is an excellent way to start.
I had this happen many times that my oldest daughter just needed a hug. However, if she doesn’t want to be hugged I respect that and tell her that she can have one when she is ready.
Now, you might not get it right every single time in the beginning. But you will get better at dealing with your child’s temper tantrums. Whatever you do, please don’t try to just distract your child. Temper tantrums are learning opportunities for you and your child. Distracting them will take that opportunity to learn from temper tantrum away from you and your child.
3. Go home if you need to
You can’t control the situation
If your child’s behavior is unbearable and you can’t control the situation. Do yourself and your child a favor and go home.
Why force something that is too overwhelming for all of you? Is it worth it?
Now, you might think I can’t just leave a play date or a child’s birthday party… Yes, you can. Don’t worry about what other people might think. Aren’t you there for your child to have fun in the first place? Exactly!
Also, this could be something else! I had situations where my kids acted up and we had to leave and the next day they were sick. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going on with them until later.
Again, this shouldn’t happen regularly. Going home is the last alternative, but sometimes it’s just necessary.
Your child will never forget that.
However, your child won’t forget that you left and you can use that to your advantage.
One time, I took my oldest daughter to gymnastics and she lost it because she had HFMD (Hand Foot and Mouth Disease) a month before that and her skin was still new and easily irritated. Jumping on the trampoline made her uncomfortable and she started scratching her feet…
Nothing I did worked because she was too uncomfortable!
So we left.
Whenever she acts up I remind her of that time when we left gymnastics and she stops right away. Why? Because she knows I mean business. She knows I’m always there for her and I will remove her from the situation if she is uncomfortable in any way.
And the most important part is that she knows I won’t let her get hurt. When that happened I just picked her up and got her clothes. While walking out I told her “I won’t let you scratch your skin open. That is not safe.” She was upset but felt secure.
5. Reflect on the situation
After you go home and your child is finally calm talk to him/her about the situation. Make sure everyone is calm!
Tell your child what he/she did right and what went wrong. For instance, “I liked how you said “hello” to your friend’s dad that was nice and made him feel good. But I didn’t like when you threw the toy. Throwing toys is not okay because you can hit your friend on the head. Also, we want to treat other people’s toys nicely.
The important part is to teach your child how to do better the next time. Such as, “ask your friend to take turns with the toy rather than taking it and throwing it through the room. If you need help you can ask me.”
You can even do a role play. He can be “the friend” and you can be “him.” Help him to see it from another perspective. Appeal on the emotions!
I always tell my daughter that talking to our friends is important so they know what we want and how we feel.
All of this is learned behavior. So, teach them. 😉
6. Try not to let it get this far
Furthermore, my children don’t do well when they are hungry. That means, I always make sure that they are fed before we go out and that they have snacks available to them while out.
Most temper tantrums my daughter experienced was because she was either hungry or too tired. Occasionally, because she is getting sick.
I learned from that over the years and now I’m making sure that we obey our schedule. That helps to prevent them from getting overly tired or hungry.
- We don’t schedule a playdate right after school (too tired).
- I don’t wait too long to get lunch during a playdate because the other kids eat later (too hungry).
- We don’t stay at a neighbors house past bedtime (too tired that night and the next morning).
Sure, I could make exceptions, but I will have to deal with my children for reacting accordingly.
Age appropriate activities
Furthermore, I avoid inappropriate activities.
- Going out to a fancy restaurant where they are expected to be quite the entire time. (I instead go to a family-friendly restaurant).
- Going to places that are not age-appropriate. There is an indoor playground around my area everyone takes their children to. My daughter doesn’t like it because part of it is too dark and she gets scared. Meanwhile, my youngest and I are not allowed in this section. So, I just avoid this place until they are older. Instead, I found a smaller version of it which we love and go to on a regular basis.
- Taking them to the movie theater for date nights. My kids are too young to be quiet in a movie theater for hours. I can do that when I have a sitter.
Again, you can make exceptions, but you will have to deal with your children being overwhelmed.
Our kids need our understanding during temper tantrums
Now all of that being said, I don’t think our entire lives have to revolve around our kids… But they are kids after all and they have needs and desires. Having a supportive and loving parent on their side is essential for a happy and secure childhood.