IT’S one thing your red-faced toddler hurling himself in fury to the kitchen floor — it‘s another when he does it in the supermarket, café or airport.
Unless you’re calm and stoic, the second scenario is likely to be embarrassing.
It‘s useful to know that a child in a tantrum is not trying to make life difficult for you. “They’re trying to show you how difficult life is for them,” says parent-coach, Marian Byrne.
No matter how full-on the tantrum, don‘t be deceived by what you see.
“Look beyond the behaviour. That surface behaviour doesn‘t represent the depth of the emotion,” says Byrne, who cites three strategies for dealing with the threat of a public tantrum:
* deal with it
“Know where it has happened in the past, or where it could potentially happen and don’t put yourself in that position,” she says.
“If sweets at the checkout are a problem, go to shops that don’t have them. Or treat the child at the end of shopping — allow them pick one thing they‘d like.”
Byrne says children often have tantrums because a basic need isn’t being met.
“If you’ve been shopping for a long time, they become bored. In particular, don‘t shop when they’re tired or hungry,” she says.
Little children don’t learn a lesson from tantrums, so it’s valid to distract them if you spot a meltdown on the way.
“Find ways to get them engaged — such as hopping around in a circle on one foot until you get to the checkout,” Byrne says.
On a plane, bring a selection of toys, producing one at intervals as you see boredom levels rising.
If a tantrum occurs, deal with it as you would at home. “How you deal with it has to be respectful of the child, of you, and of what needs to happen,” says Byrne.
Don‘t be overcome by what you feel other people are thinking. So — in the midst of meltdown in the supermarket — you could ignore the tantrum and continue shopping. You could remove yourself and the toddler to a quieter part of the shop, telling him gently that when he‘s calm you can continue. Or, you could leave the store and walk around outside with the toddler, or sit in the car until the tantrum has subsided. Always acknowledge when your child has settled.
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