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5 Ways To Deal With An Embarrassing Toddler Meltdown In Public, Because You Don’t Want to Break Down Too

Toddlers have no qualms with public meltdowns. But the parents? They’re a little more embarrassed by the break down. My kids have been carried out of department stores, birthday parties, and restaurants due to epic meltdowns, and every time I receive a stank eye or judgemental comment upon our exit. I’d be lying if I said the this didn’t make me feel a bit ashamed at times. As difficult as these situations can be, I have found there are ways to deal with embarrassing toddler meltdowns.  

I always try to remind myself not to take it personal. After all, I get pretty disappointed when I don’t get my way, so it’s no wonder my child is hysterical when he sees an awesome toy on the shelf and isn’t able to take it home. The warmth comes into my cheeks as I feel the familiar flush of panic and embarrassment.Thankfully, these feeling pass as I remember there are productive and effective ways for me to handle this situation. Being in public does not level the playing field — I am still the parent and I am still in charge. 

Using the methods below, anyone can handle a public tantrum like a pro. Here’s what you need to know before you take a hungry toddler to Target during nap time.  

1. Address The Behavior

When your child is in the middle of a Level 10 tantrum, it’s not always easy to keep your cool. But taking a moment to calm yourself could save the situation from escalating. As Kid’s Health points out, it is important for parents to remember where the behavior is coming from. Children have tantrums when they are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. Try to see if you can pinpoint which factor may be setting your child off, and address that issue. For example, if you think the tantrum was brought on by hunger, tell your child they can have a snack once they have regained control. 

2. Give Them Tools To Help Themselves

If tantrums are springing from frustrations, helping your child learn how to manage those feelings give them the skills to keep control when frustration rises. In an interview with Parenting, child behavior expert William Sears reminded parents that tantrums are part of a learning process.”Part of childhood development is learning what language gets one's needs met and what doesn't,” he said. He added that Simply telling your child to tell you what’s bothering them — not screaming it —  will show them that if they can have control and use words instead of tears, you can work through the problem together.  

3. You Don’t Need to Make Excuses

As Empowering Parents points out, parents do not need to make excuses to others for their child’s behavior. When you are trying to manage a tantrum situation, the last thing you need is the opinions of bystanders. Using clear and positive statements can help you stop a critic in their tracks and keep the urge to make excuses as bay. Hearing you say things like, “My child needs me right now,” will reinforce to your child that you are there to  support them, but not excusing the behavior.

4. Change Locations

Finding a safe and quiet spot may help your child (and you) calm down. Hand In Hand Parenting suggests moving to a separate room if in a home or to a back corner when in a store. The less distractions there are, the more you can focus on your child and guiding them back to control. Switching to a more secluded location can also help eliminate having to interact with other people who may add stress to the situation, such as onlookers who offer negative comments.

5. Don’t Apologize For Them

When a child is drawing attention due to a tantrum, parents may feel the urge to apologize on their child’s behalf. However, Professor’s House warns that making apologies for your child can be a huge mistake. The behavior was the child’s choice, thereby making it their responsibility to make any necessary apologies. Whether they make an in person apology, or write a sorry note, children need to own the behaviors that led to the tantrum. 

Even though you may be in public when a tantrum erupts, the situation is nobody’s business except you and your child’s. Staying calm and in control will keep you focused on the task at hand: calming your toddler. Having these tips in your back pocket will come in handy the next time your little one starts to come unglued in the supermarket.

Images: Courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr; Giphy