Tantrums are hard to deal with at the best of times. By now you’ve probably learnt how to cope with those moments by refusing to give in, standing your ground in the face of his screaming rage, and taking as long as you need to calm him and restore balance.
But the rules change when he has a meltdown in public – you now have an audience. You feel embarrassed, your toddler senses your hesitation, and you feel less confident managing the outburst. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make things better. Prevent a meltdown during outings with your pre-schooler with these easy strategies.
Stay home when you know he’s due for a nap. You might think that taking him out when he’s sleepy means he’ll doze through the trip, but that’s unlikely. Tiredness usually leads to grumpiness and tears. Arrange outings at a time during the day when your two-year-old is usually at his best. This could be in the morning or just after lunch. You know your toddler better than anyone.
Distract him with small toys that he can play with whenever he starts to appear unsettled. Tantrums often erupt because your child is bored. Keep them out of sight until they’re needed – they’ll absorb his attention for a few moments.
Keep him busy during the trip. For instance, he can help you put the groceries into the supermarket trolley. This will probably make the trip longer and more tedious, but that’s surely better than having to deal with a scream fest.
Let him have some fun while shopping. He’ll have great fun choosing between apples and pears. Giving him even a very small amount of responsibility increases his commitment to it.
Be firm with warnings about his behaviour before you start out if you know he’s prone to outbursts. Tell him you know he can behave himself because he’s such a good boy, and that you’ll have fun together.
Despite all your forward planning, however, you may still have to cope with that dreaded public tantrum. Here’s what you can do:
Try to stay calm and do your best to avoid becoming harassed. It doesn’t matter what other people think. Speak to your toddler quietly, quickly and firmly when you see he’s about to erupt. You might be able to bring him out of the rage by distracting him with a toy or game. Do what you can to calm him, rather than attempt to ignore your child. Giving him your attention at this moment may be all that’s needed to settle your disruptive toddler.
You have other choices if that doesn’t work, and the shoppers are treated to the full array of his screams and shouts. You can try to complete the trip with your furious toddler howling the place down – that takes a lot of determination and emotional strength. More likely, though, you’ll decide to make a speedy exit. If you’ve had enough for now and want to remove him from the situation, leave your trolley behind exactly as it is and go to your car. You can come back with him another time.
By Dr. Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents PreSchool Guide, 2014