Dad and Toddler Zap have been shopping for quite a while. Toddler Zap throws a tantrum in the middle of the store. At first Dad is annoyed, a normal reaction to a child screaming in public. But then he realizes she is in distress. He tries to give her a toy, but she's not interested. Toddler Zap is hungry, tired and overwhelmed. Dad realizes this and picks her up to comfort her. He gives Toddler Zap a snack he brought along, but forgot to give her earlier, and quickly heads to the check-out so he can take Toddler Zap home for a nap.
Preparing for outings by bringing a child's favourite toy and a snack can be very helpful. Talk about where you're going and what you'll be doing, and how you expect her to behave (like, "Stay with Mommy"), so your child has an idea of what to expect. Also be careful about the time of day you go - children need their snacks and naps. When possible, leave the child at home or with a sitter if you think the outing will be more than she can handle.
Try to involve your child in shopping, such as by letting him pick between two cereals or by discussing the items you need for dinner and seeing if he can help you spot them. This will help keep him interested.
Often when a child "loses it" in a store, it's because she is overwhelmed with all the stimulation in the environment. She sees things she wants but can't have, there are lots of people around... Or else she just gets bored and tired.
There are three basic reasons for temper tantrums: one, the child is tired, sick or overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness and frustration, and these feelings can't be held in any longer; two, he's angry because you didn't give in to him and he wants to be independent and have his own way; and three, he's trying to get your attention because he feels left out, ignored or lonely.
The first thing parents have to figure out is why the child is misbehaving. Is it because she is tired, upset and out of control? If so, the child needs help calming down. Comfort her quietly. Yelling, nagging at, or punishing her will only make everything worse. If your child is too worked up to be comforted, let her cry it out in a place where she is physically safe, and calm her later. Then help her talk about what happened, how she felt and why she was angry.
Food for Thought:
- What can you do to try to prevent temper tantrums?
- When my child has a tantrum in the store, nothing I do seems to make any difference. How do I deal with this?
- People must think I'm a terrible parent when my child screams in the store.