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What Do You Do When a Kid Throws a Tantrum in Public?

Claudia Sanchez Greca
Feb. 26, 2018

Care.com Question of the Week: Parents, nannies and caregivers share their thoughts on tantrums.

You've all experienced it: a child having a breakdown in the middle of a store. Kicking, screaming, crying. Ugg. But what do you do when it's your child or the child you're caring for?

We asked our community of parents, nannies and babysitters on Care.com's Facebook Page what they thought about tantrums and the best way to deal with them. Here are some of their thoughts:
 

  1. I definitely wait for them to calm down. Later we talk about and a time out or taking away something they really like help. But most important is make them to apologize.
    ~Ana F.
     
  2. Depending on the age of the child. Under 3 remove them from the situation until they calm down. Reasoning with a child under 3 normally will not work, they do not have that ability to understand reasoning. Over 3 remove them and after they calm down, then talk to them about this behavior and what you are expecting from them. Do not ever give in and give them what is causing the tantrum. You will lose every time there after.
    ~Marnie E.
     
  3. Calmly and firmly tell him he better stop and threaten to take away something.
    ~Rachel B.
     
  4. What I did to my teenager when she pulled this at the age of four was show her how she looked in front of everyone. If you're thinking to yourself, please don't tell me this mother made a fool of herself. I did. I got on the floor and started kicking and screaming because I could not have my way. It worked. She stopped so fast and looked at me like mom you embarrassing me. Then, after that I told her, that is not how we get our way. If I say NO that is what I call the end. I glad to report she never did it again and my other two never had them.
    ~Melissa L.
     
  5. The same thing I do in private. Sit down with her and talk calmly through it. It's hard to process feelings and I feel consistency is important. It is not less ok to be upset just because there are people around.
    ~Elizabeth M.
     
  6. Walk away. Once I do, my 2 year old daughter comes running to me and tantrum is over.
    ~Liz E.
     
  7. Laugh out loud and pretend something is really funny.
    ~Angela R.
     
  8. First try to calm them down, but you need to be ready, in any situation, to get up and leave. And don't make empty threats! Follow through or they won't take you seriously.
    ~Sarah P.
     
  9. I ask her if she wants to go to the time out chair. She says no and calms down
    ~Alyssa H.
     
  10. He should get the same punishment there as he does at home. Most stores have a chair, or you can go to the bathroom and have them stand in the corner or spank in the bathroom if you're worried about someone intervening with the spanking (lots of people act like it's their business) leaving when that's probably what the kid wants is showing them they have power to act how they want in public. Good luck!
    ~Tianna M.
     
  11. I had a problem like that with 3 boys. I'd tell the mom what they did, and I found out that they would all laugh about it and not take it seriously. I ended up having to quit because their mom thought it was funny for a 7, 10 and 12 year old to swear at me and hit me. Just be careful you don't let it escalate!
    ~Alexandria W.
     
  12. My niece did this once with me, full on screaming, crying, and threw herself on the floor. I told her if she did not stop, we would leave without getting what we came for. She kept going, I walked away. She screamed my name over and over but the only response she got from me was my telling her how close to the door I was (I wanted to make sure she knew I was still there but meant what I said about leaving). After a couple minutes, she stood up and came to me. We left the store and sat on a bench outside. I waited for her sobbing to stop and we had a calm talk about her behavior. She promised to behave and we went back into the store. While we were talking, a woman who was shopping during that affair came out and thanked me for handling the situation as I did. My niece and I finished our shopping and other errands without further misbehavior.
    ~Amanda F.
     
  13. I ask the person next to us or a store worker if this child is acting appropriately? That usually stops them for fear of person saying something to them which shows me they know they know respect and can hold themselves together!
    ~Sandra M.
     
  14. I have two year old twins and we talk it out when their upset, we also put their schedule first, that includes all naps and an early bedtime. So we very rarely have issues. I think it is so important when you discipline your child that you ALWAYS ask yourself, is this going to make my child better or satisfy my frustration?
    ~Katie M.
     
  15. Most toddlers have tantrums because they are frustrated, tired, hungry and cannot express themselves well for us to understand. It is embarrassing and most people think the child is spoiled rotten and need a whooping! Wrong! It only makes it worse. The best thing to do is either walk away and let them calm down on their own if at home and if in public, sit it out with them as hard as it is.
    ~Artistically M.
     
  16. Pick them up without saying a word and walk away to another area where less people or privacy preferred and then get eye to eye with them on their level and calmly talk to them explaining situation. Don't leave until calmness achieved between both.
    ~Carol F.
     
  17. I spoke with my children before we went shopping the first time. I told them the behavior that was acceptable and what wasn't. I told them if they chose to act inappropriately then I would immediately stop our trip and take them home. It took only once with each child and then it never happened again. No yelling or spanking or threats. When they were acting appropriately then the received a treat of their choice and we would go to McDonalds for a happy meal. I usually was very careful that they ate organic and healthy but McDonalds was a really special treat for them. When they acted correctly for a few weeks straight I would take them and a friend to a movie or amusement park or kids museum. It truly worked as they grew up to be good citizens.
    ~Susan G.
     
  18. Depends a lot of times I change the subject ...make them laugh and that is usually what works! I believe in being silly with kids but 99% of the time they don't remember what they were mad about! Most kids just WANT something they don't NEED!
    ~Stacey C.
     
  19. I whisper: Santa's watching!
    ~Sarah M.
     
  20. My daughter and I went grocery shopping and all 3 of the grandkids did not behave well, so they were not allowed to have ice cream. All 3 of them (ages 4 , 7 & 9) threw themselves on the floor screaming and yelling and kicking their feet . I could not hush them and when my daughter tried to get them to stand up, it just got louder and out of control. Needless to say "How Embarrassing"! So I went to get the manager of the store and had him come and watch the kids that were making so much noise in his store. He said oh my gosh what is going on here?  All 3 of them immediately STOPPED! So every time we go to the store I remind them that the store manager is working and he will have a talk with them if they act up. From that day on...no one threw a fitagain! : )
    ~Debbie R.
     
  21. Show pictures of my dog on my phone -- works every time!
    ~Lynne H.
     
  22. Well I try to avoid tantrums by making sure my kids have what they need, setting ground rules before going out in public. I tell exactly where we are going and why we are going there. Works like a charm.
    ~Candice M.
     
  23. 1, Comfort child. 2. Remove child from situation. 3. Continue to comfort child. Show compassion and try to get child to eat or drink something. 4. Figure out what triggered the tantrum. Over-stimulation? Low blood sugar? Exhaustion? Make note of the trigger to avoid this happening again. Be aware of the trigger, and avoid similar situations.
    ~ Desire O.
     
  24. My kids were well disciplined. Had tantrum-free children, now they are grown. But if they were that type of kid when they were growing up. I would take them to the near east public bathroom and give them a little talking to along with a little spanking. YES I SAID SPANKING. Then come back out to continue my shopping or just go on about my business.
    ~Doreen B.
     
  25. I'm a nanny and when a little one throws a tantrum I give them a warning and if that doesn't work then we go home. If you do this once or twice and follow through they will not do it again. It doesn't matter if your grocery shopping or at the mall or park, you pick them up and leave. This says to the child that Mom or whoever isn't bluffing and there will be consequences to fit throwing. This is a subject I really am passionate about, I don't know how many parents I see at the mall or store trying to reason with a child throwing a tantrum. That is unacceptable behavior and should be treated as so.
    ~Casie M.

Check out more advice and thoughts from families, nannies and other caregivers.

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