Set your child up to succeed, not to fail. For instance, if you know that it's already been a long day and she hasn't eaten since lunchtime, maybe wait until the next morning to go to the grocery store. If that's not an option, try to engage your child while shopping, and get in and out quickly. Remember how small they are and that they're just still learning to be patient!
Never yell at or speak harshly to your child when you want them to stop throwing a tantrum. Explain to them what they are doing, why you do not approve, and suggest another way to express themselves. For example, "Sean, you are screaming and hitting, and that's not good. When you scream and hit, it makes other people very upset. I want you to stop screaming and hitting, and talk to me. I want to know what bothers you, but I can't listen to your words if you are screaming."
If you're in a public place, sometimes the best solution is simply to leave, even if you have to carry your child kicking and screaming. Remain calm, and remember that your child is behaving from a place of huge emotions, not reason.
With eye contact and in a normal pitched tone, say that you'll listen after you have paid for the family shopping, saying names. For example, give the tot an item, saying this is what daddy likes, then put it on a conveyor belt and thank the checkout operator. Give the tot something, put it on conveyor belt, and thank her if she does it. Make her feel she's done really well and smile, saying, "I love it when you help mommy." Give her an affectionate smile.
It should be noted that children with developmental difficulties may not always understand verbal instructions. Children with developmental challenges can sometimes even repeat back the instructions but still have difficulties turning those instructions into actions. If you experience this, try making a visual chart of what you would like to have happen. Cut pictures out of magazines or draw a chart with stick figures and go over it with the child. The child may understand better if he/she can see the pictures in addition to the verbal instructions.
Children need both positive and negative reinforcement. While it may be good idea to offer a pack of gum if the child behaves in the checkout line, they also need to understand that a punishment for misbehaving will also be in effect.
Have a plan: When facing a trouble spot, such as the grocery store's checkout counter, discuss the situation with your child ahead of time. For example: "(child's name), the last few times we've had trouble at the checkout counter. From now on, here's what we'll do: When you get to the checkout counter, I'll let you choose a package of gum IF you can behave yourself until then. If you scream and yell because you want more, then you won't be able to have any gum. Now, (your child's name), tell me what we're going to do?" (Child should then repeat the directions back to you.) Once the plan is understood by both of you, there's no need to explain it all again at checkout time. If (child's name) behaves, he/she will be rewarded as planned; if not, he/she loses out. He/She already knows the rules.
A tantrum is not manipulation unless you let it become that. And often, the tantrum isn't even really about what just happened most recently; it can be the release of pent-up frustration over days' worth of the struggles of trying to do the right thing, and learning to be a socialized little person.
At some point, a child needs to accept no is no. However, if they are old enough to understand, explain why they shouldn't behave that way.
Don't cave in just to avoid embarrassment, which also teaches the child to perform for a crowd. Although parents feel as though all eyes are upon them, when their child acts up in public, the reality is most onlookers are saying, "Go for it," when they see parents setting reasonable limits for their child.
Never surrender to your child (during a tantrum), this is a sign that they have won and that they have control. Learn to handle them at home, and you will have fewer occasions to be embarrassed in a public place. You might try "giving in" to them on small issues, which gives them a feeling of greater control, thus reducing tantrums, when they see that being calm gets rewards!
Don't expect behavior that's not age-appropriate. As the parent, you don't have to accept rude or hurtful behaviors and you should set limits, but be aware of what is normal for the age of your child. Remember that the phases will pass, and your job is to guide and love your child through them, not to force them to the next phase.
If you've tried the strategies listed in this article but you're still experiencing frequent tantrums, it may be time to seek professional help in understanding your child and knowing how to work with him/her. Children with developmental or other difficulties may require the skills and expertise of a specialist. Explain to the professional what you and your child are experiencing. Take an article like this with you and show the professional what tactics you've been trying and tell how they've worked. The professional may have other suggestions or may recommend further evaluation.
If you choose to employ corporal punishment, do so calmly and responsibly. Always educate yourself on the laws regarding corporal punishment where you live beforehand.
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