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Handling Tantrums in Public PlacesPosted Monday, July 4, 2011, at 12:31 PM
Children use tantrums for several reasons. They are a way of communicating and a way to release emotions such as frustration and anger. Perhaps the most understood reason for a child to have a tantrum is to gain control in a certain situation. While in public, a child may have a tantrum in order to get something they want. It could be a toy or candy that they have already asked for and mom or dad has told them "no."
Steps to prevent and deal with a tantrum in public are as follows:
Prevention is related to making sure the child is not tired, hungry, or over-stimulated when going to a public place. Tired, hungry, or over excited children are far more likely to have a tantrum than children who are rested and who have a full belly. Being sure basic needs are met before going out to a busy grocery store or to the mall is the first step.
Distraction is the first step once the tantrum begins. Often a parent can avoid an all out tantrum by immediately changing the subject or moving to another area of the store.
Isolation is the next step. If distraction did not work, the next step is to take the child to a more private place with a much smaller audience. A bathroom or to your car in the parking lot are possible choices. This will reduce embarrassment on the part of the parent and help mom or dad stay in control and not get angry, which will only make matters worse. Give the child a few minutes to completely calm down before returning to whatever it was that you were doing before the tantrum began.
Persistence is also important. No matter what, do not give in during the tantrum and give the child what he or she wants. This will only encourage more tantrums in the future and make things harder on you the next time. In a worst case scenario, it is better to take the child home and end the outing than to give the child what he or she wants to end the tantrum.
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Shannon is a licensed professional counselor and a national certified counselor and owner and clinical director of Tender Hearts Child Therapy Center in Cape Girardeau. He and several therapists at the center specialize in treating child and adolescent mental health issues in Southeast Missouri and work with parents using family therapy to develop parenting/discipline skills to deal with misbehavior and defiance. In his blog Shannon provides education on children's mental health topics and uses a question-and-answer forum for local parents to ask questions related to his field. Shannon can be reached at email@example.com.