Tantrums – How to Avoid the Supermarket Meltdowns
Toddler tantrums are very common, some parents and guardians are confronted with them more often than others, but first and foremost we must remember that showing our own frustration can only serve to exacerbate the situation. It is hard not to be frustrated though… You have worked tirelessly to ensure your little one is happy and has everything they could possibly need, yet they seem so distressed and angry. This often happens in the very worst of places such as visiting family, supermarket shopping, or in front of all the other parents at the childcare centre, that’s a firm favourite for sure!
So what causes these outbursts, and what can we do?
Well, more often than not, a tantrum is the result of your toddler wanting to do more than their developing little body will allow. Imagine thinking I’m a bit hot, I really need to take my coat off, but not knowing how. Or, I have a headache, but I don’t know how to describe it in order for you to help me. The brain is often advancing at such a rate that a toddler has thoughts and feelings they can’t process properly or discuss… it would probably make us cry and wail too!
With this in mind, we must never punish a toddler mid-tantrum as we are simply fueling the fire. We must not do it later either, this will add to their frustrations and they may not even associate it with their earlier behaviour, causing even further misunderstanding. The best thing to do, though easily said, is to remain calm and steadfast. If we have said ‘No’ to something we must give a simple and reasonable answer as to why, and we must not give in. Giving in to avoid the escalation of a tantrum will ensure that the next tantrum is escalated automatically, children are clever, and for survival, they are hard-wired to be great at getting what they want!
See the NSW government advice site, which suggests many ‘how to’ tips for parents who are struggling with tantrums. They include distraction as a great method, which can also be very productive with a little practice. If they are bored they can ‘help’ you with what you are doing, even if it means giving them an unrelated little task to keep them busy. If they are demanding a treat of some sort, find something you approve of and share with them, or spend a few moments making it interesting to distract from the tantrum-mist. I like to make little ‘goldfish’ out of carrots or make a smiley face out of fruit in a yoghurt. Anything calming and inclusive.
Tips for public meltdowns are more prevention than cure. If you are going to a restaurant or on a shopping trip, try to make sure your youngster…
Is not tired or hungry
Has a small snack and a drink with them
Has been to toilet or potty
And is not too hot/cold
(Take layers and remember they don’t regulate their body temperature as quickly as we do)
Most importantly ALWAYS praise good behavior. Positive learning is by far the best way forward and it is rewarding for both parent and child. Whether it’s a sticker, a big cuddle, or both, show your little one just how proud you are!