Just as an update to this, Popsugar blogged on October 11, 2016 about tantrums in public. Follow this link for a few more ideas to add to your arsenal of coping strategies ! Popsugar Blog : How to Deal with Bad Behaviour In Public.
When I decided to write about how to handle temper tantrums in public, I immediately thought of this advert that I had seen on TV. I wish that I had the nerve to do what this mom did ! However taking two or three toddlers out and about is no laughing matter. I have to admit that I avoided taking my three shopping with me for as long as I could, but there eventually comes a time when you have to go to the store with them. I frequently did my grocery shopping when I had help so I could leave them and go in peace and quiet. But this did not avoid the one thing I had been hoping for… that one of them would have temper tantrums in public. Having thought about the occasions it happened, I can’t ever remember being out and all three having a tantrum at the same time, they seemed to take it in turns, so I suppose that was a blessing !
We all know this scene, you’ve walked past the sweetie aisle at the store and they start…. All you wanted to do was to get a few provisions and get home. Its not going to be that easy…. Everyone is looking, they must be able to hear the screams on aisle 25 ! You have three choices here, you can give in ….. you can ignore the noise and continue shopping whilst everyone else stares…..you can leave the shopping and go home. In this situation, I vote for choice number 3. This sends a positive message, that this behaviour does not work and worse still, the fun of going shopping has ended.
The problem is that your toddlers dont understand that they cause embarrassment to you, they dont mean to humiliate you in public. Eyes watching you to see what you’re going to do, judging you as a parent by your actions in the next few minutes. Its not a good feeling, but these episodes do not define you as a parent. How you deal with them does. Raising your voice or making threats will not reduce the tension and bring calm to the situation. It might make you feel better for a short time, but your toddlers are not going to respond in the way you would like.
Understanding a tantrum helps in dealing with the situation. Your toddlers have strong feelings that they dont know how to handle, they are scary for your toddlers, they get out of control and are more likely to happen when they’re hungry or tired So its not necessarily to manipulate you to do what they want, but more likely frustration.
Claire Kepp, Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology at California Claremont Graduate University attributes much of the problem to uneven language skills.
‘Toddlers are beginning to understand a lot more of the words they hear, yet their ability to produce language is so limited’
A few rules to stick to when out and about with your toddler duo or trio and you will avoid many of the pitfalls of toddler tantrums and hopefully have both a productive shopping trip and happy toddlers.
→ Pre-empt Any Issues – Don’t shop for toys when they’re with you, only groceries. Trying to explain why you won’t buy the Lego or the dolly tea set is not going to be heard over their crying and screaming.
→Stand Your Ground – Do not make a ‘u’ turn down the sweetie aisle. This reinforces the behaviour, your toddlers will learn that they only have to start screaming and throwing themselves on the floor to get their own way. Even for a quiet life, this is not the lesson to teach.
→Be Firm – Tell your child to stop making the noise or behaving as they are. If they don’t, leave the shopping and head for the exit. You need to be determined about this. Doing this a few times when they start the tantrum, they will realise that playing up in the grocery store does not have any reaction only having to leave. They will enjoy shopping so having to leave will calm them down.
→Consistency – Be constant in your reaction to the tantrum. A sustained result of the tantrum will give your toddlers the right message, they know what will happen if they kick off. It will get to the point that they don’t even bother because they know what will happen. Your twins and triplets will pick up on this pretty quickly and with a constant message, you doing the same thing every time, you will start enjoying outings.
How to Handle Toddler Tantrums in Public
You are up against it with twins or triplet toddlers in the general scheme of things. The cards are stacked against you always being able to go on outings, to the store, birthday parties, etc without one or other starting a rumpus. So your reaction to the situation will go a long way to slowly encouraging good behaviour. They are toddlers and learning constantly so a consistent message from you will be comforting for them when they dont understand their feelings.
- Keep Calm – Easy to ‘lose it’ with a screaming, kicking ‘Tasmanian Devil’ that two minutes ago was being such an angel. The tantrum can be challenging in a supermarket aisle, pounding their fists on the floor, throwing things from the shelves. I’ve been there ! But consistency is the key, keep cool, you know how to deal with it and really the stares and comments from people around you, do not matter !
- Remember You Are The Adult – Do not be tempted to go back on your plan when dealing with tantrums in public. You’re heading for the supermarket door because one of your darlings has kicked off in the potato chips aisle, they know the score, if there’s trouble, you leave the store. But as you get to the door, they stop, they’re learning what happens when the tantrums start. Do not not tempted to cave in and go back to your shopping because they have stopped. Stick to your plan and leave. The ‘performances’ in public will reduce if you keep in charge the situation.
Time Out – This is a good standby to use occasionally if you are home or at a friends house when they start. They can be put in a safe, but boring spot, where you can see them but where they can’t interact. Tell them why you are doing this, why you are sitting them on the bottom step for example. Place them back firmly if they refuse to sit, do not interact or give any attention. This is a technique to use for your benefit as well. Tantrums can be tiring for you too, with more than one child to care for, so a little time out while the temper tantrum takes its course can work well.
- Talk When Calm – When the tantrum is over, talk calmly to your toddler, using words and expressions they will understand. ‘ I sat you on the step because you got cross and pinched your sister. It’s not a kind thing to do to her, so say sorry and come and have a drink’ Or’ I am sorry that I didnt understand you when you were screaming and throwing your toys, Now you are not screaming any more I can find out what you want.’
- Try to Head Off Tantrum Inducing Situations – Notice the ‘hotspot’ situations and try to avoid the trigger factors, this might be hunger, or being tired. I took my triplets to a little club in the local park in the afternoons, it was called ‘The 1o’clock Club’ I started taking them at 1, after their lunch but they were a nightmare, snatching toys from other children, forever crying about nothing. Was so stressful that I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go to the club, the timing was terrible, so they were put down for a nap at 1 o’clock after lunch and we went to the park later, The club was finished but we played on the swings or did other things. We all had a much better afternoon. If mealtimes are proving difficult, try offering choices. I would always give them the same thing to eat, but one liked sweetcorn and the others didnt, I used to get quite irate that they didnt eat the sweetcorn. They didnt like it ! I dont eat things I dont like, so I started giving other vegetables. You want them to have a varied diet but there are times when it really doesnt matter they dont like sweetcorn. Not worth fighting that battle,
- Choose Your Battles – Certain things are important to get across to your twins and triplets – throwing, biting, hitting others are totally unacceptable. Having tantrums when youre out because they didnt get their own way is not acceptable, drawing on the walls, or having a paddy because they want a toy that another child is playing with is not acceptable, but not eating certain things or not wanting their hair combed or sit and listen to a story because the other two are, is not worth getting worked up about.
Ultimately when you’re out in public, you want your twins and triplets to behave beautifully, sit and eat nicely at the cafe, or walk properly with you when you’re shopping, to listen to you and do as you ask so everyone will be perfect and have a happy time. This is unrealistic because they all have their own characters, you dont want to quash that, they will play up, but within reason, it really doesnt matter. If you stick to your plan, they will learn the right way to behave when theyre out, they will know the goal posts because you have been consistent. It is tough sometimes, you really want to stay and chat at the park or get the shopping done, but sometimes you have to be determined to send the right, consistent message to them. All the hard work will pay off, then you can take them anywhere knowing they will be good ! But please, dont take them on a plane until you have them along the way, long journeys dont bring the best out of children and sadly I have been on planes with singleton toddlers who have made the whole experience miserable for everyone. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do with them at a young age. It does mean some sacrifice on your part until they’re starting to understand how to behave but it will be worth it when you are looking at a naughty singleton in the supermarket, throwing things out of their mom’s shopping cart !
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