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How to survive your child’s public tantrum

You’ll never know when it’ll happen, and you’ll never be prepared for it. But sooner or later your child is going to throw a tantrum in public and it’s going to be a tornado in scale. Of course, your first instinct will be to reason with them but there’s no reasoning with a child. Particularly when they’re in the midst of a meltdown. Your next instinct will be to stand back and pretend the kid isn’t yours. It’s a smart move, but we hate to say, that won’t work either. At this point in time you’re probably going to want to sit down next to that tantrum throwing bundle of joy and throw a tantrum yourself.


How to survive your child’s public meltdown

A tantrum is very common with children between the ages of 1-3. It’s when they cry, scream, run away, kick and yell or refuse to move. They will most likely do this in the most public place possible or at the most inconvenient of times. Usually in front of your fanciest friends or at your work BBQ or picnic. The first thing you need to realise is that your kid isn’t simply a jerk. They’re only little, and being little, they don’t fully know how to express all the big emotions they’re feeling yet.

There’s no logic behind why a child might throw a tantrum. They might throw one because they don’t want the banana they weren’t offered. Or they might throw a tantrum because the dog looked at them funny. They can go from being as calm as a flat ocean, to a ball of rage within seconds stomping around like a tiny T-Rex.

Tantrums can strike without any warning and you need to be ready for them:

  • Be cool, stay calm and don’t yell.
  • Before you do anything, count to ten. This will help you calm down and ready yourself for the challenge ahead.
  • Don’t try to reason with them. When they’re in the middle of it, all their little emotions are exploding and even at the best of times, with the best of people, trying to use logic or reason an emotional outburst is going to fail.
  • Give them a hug. As simple as it sounds, a hug can make all the difference. Hugging activates a calming system in the body and helps cool tempers and situations.
  • Try to empathise with them. If they want you to buy them a toy and you’ve said no, let them know that they might be able to have the toy for their birthday or at some other milestone you set. You don’t give in, because that can send the message that anytime they want something, all they need to do is throw a tantrum.
  • Threatening them with a punishment isn’t going to help. The child is already distressed so trying to put the fear of punishment into them is not going to be helpful. It’ll just make matters worse.
  • Sometimes a tantrum is like a storm, you just need to wait it out. Stay close so that they know you’re there but sometimes there’s not much more you can do than that.
  • There can be a lot of throwing themselves around, so you want to stick close just to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves.
  • Be consistent. If sometimes you give in when the child has tantrums and sometimes you don’t, then the tantrums could get worse. Don’t give in! [1]

What’s even better than stopping a tantrum is preventing one.

Usually when a kid throws a tantrum, it’s because of one of four things (or sometimes all four things together):

  1. The kid might be hungry.
  2. The kid might be angry.
  3. The kid might be lonely.
  4. The kid might be tired.

Sometimes the child might not know why they’re doing it and neither will you. Sometimes the only thing that may help them is a hug. So, don’t be stingy with hugs!





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The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.