We have all been there, though some of us pretend we haven’t. We are at the grocery store or some other very public place and our child throws a temper tantrum. Maybe it’s because we wouldn’t let him get that extra pack of Ho-Hos, the blue Race-cart is missing a wheel, or maybe he just doesn’t want to be there. Who knows? Whatever the specifics, tantrums can be stressful but they don’t have to be insurmountable.
Talk to them
Tell your children what you expect of them before you go, using words they understand. That way, when you get there they know what is okay and what is not. Be realistic though; kids are always going to be kids and behave like kids. Pick the issues that are most important to you and emphasize those.
Is there a pattern?
You may be able to figure out the cause of your child’s behavior if you start paying attention to where you are, what time of day it is, and what happened before the tantrum. For example, if you skipped lunch and ran five errands before this stop, that might be a good indicator. I know my daughter gets particularly cranky when she’s tired or hungry. Consider also, where you are. My son is not comfortable in crowds, so I try to run my errands during hours when I know the store will be less crowded. If you see a pattern with the behavior, you may be able to use this newfound knowledge to make some changes.
Set an example by staying calm. If you can, make a joke out of the situation. It may not prevent a tantrum but it will set a good example for your child and will help diffuse the situation. When you are calm, you think more clearly, which helps everyone involved.
There will still be times when your child throws a temper tantrum; nothing we do can eradicate them completely. So when it does happen, be consistent. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten frustrated with my children and threatened to take away one of their treats—TV time, sweets after dinner, or going to Grandma’s—if they didn’t shape up. Unfortunately, this only works if you follow through. Kids do not associate their bad behaviors with the consequences if you follow up a week from Tuesday, or not at all. So rather than tell them they can never watch TV again or they won’t be getting a driver’s license— ever!— be realistic and have the consequences be more immediate. Better yet, don’t take something away but use the errand as a way to earn something special. For example, if my son sits in the shopping cart instead of racing around the store, he earns a balloon at the end of the trip. He knows that by behaving positively, he will be positively rewarded.
Does your child throw tantrums in public? What are some things you did to prevent or diffuse it?