How to cope with Temper Tantrums in Public

The Day it Began

A public temper tantrum is every parent’s worst nightmare…

I love my little button Zowie. She is super determined, strong-willed and confident. These are amazing things, but when she gets frustrated she has some all-mighty tantrums.

The other day I took her shopping. I could see she was tired, I’d made her walk there, which in hindsight was a bad idea, I should have taken the buggy.

I forget that although she has boundless amounts of energy she does only have little legs, so this was my first error.

After having a couple of general protests and lying on the floor I could see she was running out of steam. I’m ashamed to say that there was a Mcdonald’s in my peripheral vision so off I went to buy her a happy meal (in my case this name is totally ironic).

Anyway, I thought she can sit down, recharge, have something to eat and then we can go home…

The ‘happy meal’ arrives. She hates it. The burger is ‘yuk’ she throws it on the floor. The little bag of fruit is too sweet. The chips are too salty. Goldilocks springs to mind.

She sips at her drink. I can see that look in her eye. I know what’s coming. Am I prepared? Nope.

Are distraction snacks working? Nope.

Do I have a nearby exit? Nope.

Disaster is ominously looming in the balance. It’s been ten years since my son was this age (he’s now 14).

I’m out of practice. I drink my coffee, slightly ashamed that I’m trying to feed my toddler Mcdonald’s. I’m secretly proud that she doesn’t like it.

Finally, I give her the toy. She entertains it for a minute then throws it on the floor. I finish my coffee and tell her it’s time to go. She protests. I give her a five-minute warning and then we get up and go.

Twenty paces later the mega tantrum happens…

She explodes and is screaming as loud as she can, she’s hitting me and she’s angry. People are staring, then they can see I’m shocked…

Someone comments on what’s happening in front of me. They start to laugh, I am humiliated.

I’m battling with my tiredness and my shame.

I’m trying to keep my cool but she’s pushing my buttons. I try to calm her down.

I get on my knees and talk to her calmly but she rips off my mask (indoors) and it breaks. I don’t have another one so I tell her off. Someone tuts as they walk past.

Zowie can see the look on my face and then, the whole thing starts again.

Ten minutes later it’s over.

It takes me all day to recover. In the evening I have a very strong gin and demand cuddles from my partner. The public tantrum. It’s an awful experience.

So after this happened I started looking at where I’d gone wrong and I thought I’d share some tips with you on how to handle your cool if (I hope this never happens to you) this happens…

10 Tips on How to Deal with A public Tantrum

wood bridge cute sitting
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Step one: Always be prepared

This was a rookie mistake. My tiredness got in the way of being prepared. I mentioned before that I have a son (he’s 14 now) but genuinely, I should have known better.

This was just a silly mistake. So, note to self always have a snack that they like, a drink, a favourite toy, a note pad and pencils.

These are what I like to call distraction techniques, they might not stop the tantrum but they can hold them off until you get out of the shop and somewhere not as public.

Step Two: Assess what’s wrong

So for example earlier I mentioned that I could see she was tired and I still pushed her to keep going because I wanted to get my shopping.

When I could sense something was wrong I should have stopped what I was doing and assessed what I could do to fix the situation.

For example, I could have put my shopping basket down and carried her out of the shop and taken her home.

It would have been annoying to go home empty-handed, but it would have spared me the public humiliation. Your little ones come first, shopping can wait.

Step Three: Remind Yourself this is just a phase

For me, this is a bit easier the second time around. With my son, I used to feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to be perfect and do everything I could the ‘right‘ way.

Although you’ll soon find out with parenting there is no instruction manual, you just have to learn as you go, and hopefully, do much better next time.

The second time around I realises that each phase comes and goes quickly. The terrible two’s are called this for a reason. It will pass, you’ll have your beautiful little angel back soon, I promise.

Step Four: Praise Your Kids

Children love to be praised and they deserve it too. They don’t yet have the knowledge that you do, they don’t know how to express themselves, what they’re feeling or how to calm themselves down.

That’s why you have to help.

This was something I didn’t do at all that day. I forgot to tell her I was proud of her for walking all that way, I didn’t praise her when she got up and stopped lying on the floor even though she was tired. I didn’t even tell her that I was proud of her for not liking Mcdonalds.

If they have a tantrum, you got this. Tell them you know they’re not happy and you still love them anyway. It might just turn it around, who doesn’t like a bit of encouragement when they’re feeling down.

Step Five: The Belly button

This was something I used to use on my son. I read it on someone’s blog years ago and it’s something that really worked on him.

Midway through a tantrum I’d ask him where his belly button was?

The question would completely throw him off course and confuse him. You could say something like can you touch your ear for me? Or where is my nose? Or simply just point at their belly button…

The idea is to take their mind off their feelings, even for a second, it helps them to take a deep breath.

It might not stop the tantrum but it can calm them down for just long enough for you to get some breathing techniques in or ask them if they’d like a cuddle.

Step Six: Smile in the face of adversity

This was a technique that I learnt when I was working in sales as a street representative. Yes, you read that right, I was one of those people who asked you who your energy supplier was (not for long, I wrote a blog post about it if you’re interested).

Anyway, this was one of the things we had to learn about. We used to get a lot of verbal abuse and you just kind of have to let it brush off you. Don’t let negativity get to you.

It’s not going to help the situation. If you can get to the point where you don’t let these things affect you, it’s going to make the whole experience a little easier.

The point is who cares what anyone thinks, this is your child, your life, don’t let them get you down.

Action: One of the training techniques in sales was called a negativity circle.

Someone would stand in the middle of the room and we would walk around them in a circle and fire off abusive comments that people had said to us while we were working.

The idea was to relieve stress and get used to negative comments. If you’re someone that’s quite sensitive, maybe you could practice this at home with your partner?

It can be quite funny at times to re-enact what has happened and it’ll help you to realise that the problem is there’s not yours.

Step seven: Give yourself a pat on the back

Parenting is hard work. During the pandemic, my partner was furloughed and I was working, my partner had to stay at home and look after the kids and he told me that It was harder than going to work.

In fact, he was shocked at how difficult it was.

You can’t always be perfect and get everything right. Learn from your mistakes and do it better next time, don’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t deserve that. Instead, give yourself a pat on the back. You can do this because you’re awesome.

Step eight: Stay calm

I let people get to me this day. I should have known better.

I felt vulnerable and people could see it. It was written all over my miserable face. It was in my voice and in my actions.

Keep your voice low and calm. You’re the adult, you’re in control. Keep your cool, don’t shout and don’t let people see that this is getting to you.

Step nine: Respect people’s right to protest

Sometimes people are commenting on what’s happening because they are empathetic.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone is judging you. They might be concerned or have been through a similar experience.

We are only human after all. We have a curious nature. It might feel counterproductive at the time but they might be trying to reach out to you to offer help.

Not everyone in this world has a bad personality.

Step ten: Don’t try to move them, let them ride it out

If that is where they decide they’re are having a tantrum, there it shall be.

Sometimes shit just happens, it could be in the most inconvenient place, full of people or in the pouring rain, just go with it.

Let them get those emotions out. You’ll survive. One day, when they’re 18 this will just be a funny story to tell them.

You got this Momma and Poppa, you are awesome.


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