If you have a toddler, you have probably experienced the humiliation of a full blown temper tantrum or twenty while out in public with your child.
One of the wonderful parts of being a toddler is knowing what you want and having the verbal and physical means to get (or demand) it without hesitation. The downside is that a toddler does not naturally understand that there are appropriate ways to express their needs and conduct their behaviour. This is where you come in!
Consistency is the Key.
Many parents can fall into the trap of letting their rules slip when in public to avoid creating a scene. A great example might be when you’re out having a meal and little Johnny decides he’s had enough of sitting around and starts to make a scene. Although it is banned at home, you quickly pass him your mobile phone and let him play a game so he will return to being happy and you can finish your meal without feeling the daggers from a dozen disgruntled patrons boring into the back of your head!
This teaches Johnny two things. First, that if he misbehaves in public he will get a reward, and second, that your rules can be broken. Instead, Johnny needed to learn that throwing a tantrum at home or in public is not acceptable behaviour and an opportunity was missed to show him what is appropriate.
Getting it Right and Sticking to It.
It’s good to establish with your partner as soon as possible what rules and boundaries you are going to set for your child on appropriate behaviour and be consistent in upholding them. This includes how they interact with other people, the carrying out of daily activities and the development of good manners.
Believe it or not, your toddler will be a much a happier child if you set rules and stick to them. In having established boundaries, your child can feel secure that they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Distraction technique and focusing on the positive.
A lot of a toddler’s behaviour can be motivated towards getting our attention. They will try out both positive and negative behaviour as they learn what will create a response from you, good or bad. Therefore, wherever possible, it is great to ignore negative behaviour and reward positive behaviour. This can be easier said than done, but again the key is consistency. The next time your toddler starts to misbehave in public, try not to react to the behaviour. Instead, try distracting them away from their impending tantrum by making happy conversation and laughing with your partner or other children. Don’t be surprised if your child abandons their tantrum to see what the fun is about! You can also try pointing out something that you know will take their interest, like a passing bus or a bird.
It is just as important to address positive behaviour as it is to address negative behaviour in a consistent manner. When your toddler does something positive, such as use their fork instead of fingers or uses good manners, be sure to lavishly praise them for it. This teaches them that they will get a lot of your attention and approval if they behave that way and they will be sure to do it again in the future.
Avoiding Idle Hands.
A sure recipe for disaster is expecting your toddler to sit still for more than a minute, however, having a toddler doesn’t mean that you have to give up social catch ups or eating out. You simply need to plan ahead! If you know that you’re going to a cafe for lunch, be sure to pack some activities to keep them entertained such as a book to read or their favourite blocks.
Another great tip is to look for venues that cater for both you and your toddler. If you’re after a coffee, you could get a take away on the way to the park. Or you can find a cafe that has a children’s play area; these are becoming much more common to cater to mums.
Mutually Beneficial Outings.
When planning a trip out in public, try to think of ways that you can make it fun for your toddler to come along. You may want to walk to the supermarket instead of drive. This is a great technique for giving your toddler an opportunity to see the world go by, plus you get a bit of exercise!
No time to walk? There are many other handy techniques for keeping your toddler tantrum free and including them in your errands. Get them to place the groceries in the trolley or grab them from the shelf. Give them some responsibility like holding onto something as you shop. Get your toddler to hand over your credit card or grab the receipt from the shop assistant. The key is to keep them engaged and interested in the activity rather than allowing them to get bored and possibly grumpy.
Learning as You Go.
At the end of the day, there is no method that is guaranteed to work 100% of the time when you are faced with an impending toddler tantrum in public, but the tips in this article are definitely a good place to start! You can also head to the Parenting section on this website for a lot more useful information to assist you on your parenting journey!
How do you avoid tantrums in public?