Young children sometimes find it hard to control their emotions and as parents, we worry when our children throw tantrums or lose it when they are outside the home. We may be concerned if our children are disturbing others and sometimes under stress, we may even lose it and shout too loudly in public.
It’s good to think through how we ought to react when our child loses it in public, and here are 7 strategies to keep you and your child sane!
#1 Stay calm
To stay calm is probably easier said than done! Your child may be throwing tantrums at the supermarket queue, entrance to a store or even the library. It is easy to panic especially when you do not have the choice to bring your child elsewhere (for instance, you’re in a hurry and have to get all the groceries scanned and packed). It is easier to stay calm when you get past the embarrassment and remember that nobody will remember this incident by tomorrow. It’s almost impossible that anyone will remember your face and half the people around you would likely have encountered such incidents before.
#2 Distract your child
The good thing about children is that they get distracted easily. If your child throws tantrums or gets upset over one thing (and there’s nothing you can do about it), you can always try distracting your child with something else. It helps to have some secret stash of toys or a new activity book in your bag. Distraction, however, has to be used wisely as you do not want to distract your child with snacks (which may lead to unhealthy eating habits) nor give your child the impression that throwing tantrums come with rewards.
#3 Do not worry about what others think of you
Sometimes the more you worry about what onlookers think of you, the more you may respond incorrectly; you may be tempted to shout too loudly at your child to show that you’re handling the situation, or you may be more flustered than you normally would behave. These are likely to be counter-productive and thus it’s better to focus on helping your child get over this situation.
#4 Help your child
Not all public displays of disaster are due to your child’s fault – sometimes there are certain triggers where they get upset and unable to “hold in” their emotions. Do not expect a young child to be able to control their emotions and punishing them for showing their emotions may not be the best for their emotional health. Instead validate your child’s feeling and help him/ her to manage these emotions in the future.
#5 Present solutions
Children may not be able to see other ways of resolving a situation and as an adult, you can help present ways to resolve a problem. For instance, if the toy for Happy Meal has run out, you can let your child know that there are other options such as ordering a meal that he hasn’t tried before. Toys are for fun and one can always find other ways to have fun (other than playing with a toy). It is also your parenting style and decision on how to teach your child about dealing with disappointments in life.
#6 Manage onlookers wisely
If your child’s public display of disaster has attracted comments from onlookers, remember not to get defensive. Instead of defending your child or giving in to do what the ‘helpful’ onlooker suggested (like buying another toy), you may want to thank the onlooker and move on. For instance, you can thank him/ her for the suggestion and say that you are helping your child deal with unexpected disappointments as they are inevitable in life.
#7 Present an united front
If your spouse is with you when your child loses it in public, be sure to present an united front. As these situations are unexpected, your spouse may decide on the spot a certain way to tackle the situation while you have another approach in mind. If you can, discuss what you ought to do in such situations and remember not to undermine the authority of your spouse in front of your child.
Know that your child will gradually get better at handling his/her emotions and do not take such incidents personally or view yourself as an incompetent parent. Stay calm always and be a calming influence for your child.