What to Do When Your Child Throws a Tantrum in Public

Trying to deal with a child that is throwing a tantrum is never easy, but when this fits are occurring outside of the privacy of your own tantrum in publichome, these tantrums may create a completely new level of anxiety. In fact, some parents are so nervous that they will not be able to handle their child during a tantrum that they fear going out in public with their child altogether. They may worry about negative attention from strangers as well as being judged on how well they are parenting.

Dealing with tantrums are never easy; below are some helpful tips on what to do when your child throws tantrums in public to make it easier for you:

  • Keep Calm.  You need to remain in control. If you begin to become stressed and scream or yell, then the situation will only escalate. For example, calmly discuss with your child about why they cannot have a certain item and move away from that area. Try to redirect the conversation and talk about something else in order to help your child lose focus on what he/she wants. Do not panic and feel that everyone is staring at you. Tantrums are regular behaviors of children and do not usually phase most people;  however, more people will begin to stare if your reaction is just as loud as your child’s tantrum.
  • Never See Them Again.  Remember that the people you see in the store will most likely not be seen again. You should not worry about what others are thinking as they are not as concerned with the situation as you are imagining and it will easily be forgotten. Most people understand as they have experienced similar situations. They have their own matters to worry about and focus on.
  • Consistency. Make sure that you are consistent in how you are addressing your child’s tantrums. If a tantrum at home would typically result in a timeout, then continue to use the same consequences. Timeouts can be given in the aisle of a store, at a table at a restaurant, on park benches or even on a sidewalk.  If you start to address tantrums differently because you are in public, this will give your child the idea that they can behave differently when they are not in the house.
  • Don’t Give In or Bribe.  Do not surrender to your child’s tantrum or try to offer a bribe. Giving in or bribing your child will only result in your child throwing tantrums more often in order to get what he/she wants. You will want to make sure that you are consistent with addressing and handling these tantrums.  By saying something like, “If you stop whining and get off the floor, you can get a candy bar,” this will only result in your child throwing more tantrums to gain access to preferred items.
  • Praise Good Behaviors. Provide verbal praise and reinforcement when your child is behaving appropriately and is not whining and/or throwing a tantrum.  You will want to make sure that your child is aware of his/her good behaviors and, by reinforcing these behaviors, your child will be more likely to repeat them in the future.
  • Try Another Day. When you are going out for a special outing, make sure to discuss with your son or daughter the expectations are for their behavior prior to the event. Are you going to a place where they must talk quietly and be polite, such as in a restaurant?  Or, are they allowed to be excited and loud, but must stay by your side? For instance, if you were going to a special place, like the public zoo, you would want them to act a certain way so that everyone can enjoy themselves.  Reminding your children of what is expected of them may help prohibit some behaviors that come along with just being worked up and excited about the new situation they are in; however, if your child does start to behave inappropriately and is not able to handle behaving appropriately that day, you may have to leave the special event early.  Unfortunately, this can ruin the outing for everyone, but you do not want to encourage or reinforce your child’s tantrums in any manner.

Always remember to stay in control and calm when dealing with your child’s tantrum.  Take a deep breath and make sure that you are consistent with the consequences. If the behaviors are not accepted in the home, then they should not be allowed in public.

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