Any parent of a toddler will be sure to have to deal with tantrums – tantrums are quite
normal as children begin to learn to deal with anger and disappointment. Tantrums are a
normal part of growing up, especially between the ages of one and four as a child becomes
more independent. Tantrums are much more likely if the child is tired, hungry, bored,
worried or anxious. The child doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to express what he wants or
needs and the ensuing frustration will often lead to a tantrum. Tantrums are hard enough
to deal with when you’re at home but if you’re out and about, you may be conscious of an
audience of onlookers which will make it much more difficult to deal with as you’ll probably
feel embarrassed by your child’s behaviour.
If dealing with tantrums in public has you at your wits’ end, then don’t despair – all those
people who are watching were once small children themselves and every single one of them
will have had a tantrum at some point.
First point to consider is that you shouldn’t panic – stay calm and don’t get upset, this will
only make the situation much more difficult to deal with. If possible, ignore the tantrum
and continue with what you’re doing (chatting, packing shopping in the trolley) but make
sure to keep an eye on your child to make sure he’s safe. Ignoring the tantrum can be very
effective as the tantrum is designed to get your attention. Instead make sure you give your
child plenty of positive attention when he is behaving well – try not to reward inappropriate
behaviour like tantrums negative attention. To a child, attention is attention – if they can’t
get positive attention, then negative attention is the next best thing.
If the tantrum is showing no signs of abating and it really is affecting what you’re able to do,
then pick up your child (staying calm and speaking gently) and take him home. He may kick
and scream all the way but don’t let this bother you and certainly don’t let the stares of
other people bother you either. What other people think about how you deal with your
child is inconsequential – this is your life, not theirs.
Once you’ve arrived home your child should have calmed down a little. If not, then deal
with him in exactly the same way as you would if the tantrum had occurred at home. If you
use time out or a naughty step, then use it as you normally do.
Wait until your child is feeling calmer to speak to him about his behaviour – this may even
be the next day. Explain how his behaviour affected your outing and how you couldn’t
possibly carry on with what you were doing while he was behaving in that way. Then go
onto remind him of other occasions when you had a great time because everybody behaved
well (include yourself and others when encouraging good behaviour). Say things like “We
had a great time when we were at the park (or out shopping, whatever) because we all
behaved so nicely towards each other which made everybody happy and nobody was
cross”. There are some tips for avoiding tantrums:
If your child is playing or watching something, when it’s time for bed or time for tea,
give plenty of warning. Always warn your child that it’s time for tea/bath/bed in five
minutes. Don’t just expect a child to be ready when you are, give him time to get
used to what you expect of him next.
Use distraction techniques if you can see your child’s behaviour deteriorating – you
may just be able to avoid a tantrum.
Don’t shout or raise your voice – this is just teaching your child to shout. You need
to set an example here.
Never smack your child for anything – this just teaches your child to hit others.
Use positive parenting techniques – plenty of praise and attention for good