Why is it that your toddler usually decides to have his tantrums in the middle of a crowded grocery store when your cart is full and about a dozen people are giving you dirty looks as if to say, “What are you doing to that poor child?”
Yes, our toddlers have terrific timing. And yes, they are probably more likely to have their temper tantrum in public, rather than the privacy of your home. But why?
Toddlers usually have temper tantrums when they are bored, tired, hungry, or overstimulated. When you are shopping (especially late in the afternoon), this is the perfect time for a tantrum. He is probably bored, tired, AND hungry.
Types of Tantrums
There are two types of temper tantrums: frustration tantrums and manipulative tantrums.
Frustration tantrums tend to happen to toddlers that cannot verbalize what they want, or to toddlers who are having trouble performing a task. They get frustrated that they are not getting a quick result, and tend to break down into a tantrum.
Manipulative tantrums are tantrums used to get something the child wants, like a candy bar at the grocery store. These tantrums are for your benefit and are meant to push your buttons.
How to Deal
The approach you take to deal with your toddler’s temper tantrum depends on whether your child is having a frustration tantrum or a manipulative tantrum.
If your child is having a frustration tantrum, try and help him with what he is doing immediately. In fact, if you see him struggling and getting angry, try and head off the tantrum by helping him accomplish his task. Verbalize and acknowledge his frustration and guide him in the right direction. Toddlers understand short phrases and repetition best, so use phrases he understands. Praise him when he accomplishes his task.
If your child is having a manipulative tantrum, try to ignore him as much as possible. If you give in to him, he will use the tantrum as a tool to get what he wants when he wants it. That’s bad for both of you. If he is being destructive to himself, others, or his environment, try putting him in time out. If that does not work, you may have to hold him. If you hold him, explain to him that you are doing this out of love and protection for him, and that when he is finished, you will let him go.
How to Deal in Public
No matter what kind of tantrum he’s having, if he doesn’t calm down, remove him from the public eye. Either take him to a bathroom or to the car and sit with him until he calms down. Let him know that he is going to sit there until he does calm down. He will eventually get bored and stop the behavior. It is important that if he is having a manipulative tantrum that you not give in to his demands. This only sets the stage for more tantrums to come.
Most of all, stay calm and in control during the tantrum. This will keep the tantrum from reeling out of control and will prevent your child from feeding off your anxiety.
Preventing the Tantrum
Try and eliminate the triggers of the tantrum. For instance, don’t expect him to behave for a shopping trip at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Don’t give in to manipulative tantrums, or this will set a precedent.
Is your toddler having frustration tantrums? If he is getting frustrated with a task, jump in and assist him before he gets angry.