You know the moment…The public spectacle that is the dreaded grocery store meltdown. Emotions go from calm to red hot in a matter of seconds. Panic sets in. The line between sanity and a loss of all control gets very thin. Oh, and your child is freaking out, too. We have all been a party to the public toddler meltdown whether as a toddler, parent, or spectator. Toddler development is all about testing the limits and learning to express independence. Part of this learning experience is learning expectations for public places. In essence, your child’s tantrum is part of a learning experience which will help him develop a sense of self as well as tools for community interaction. Just because your toddler tantrums in public does not mean you are a “bad parent”. I repeat, you are not a bad parent! Take a deep breath, this too shall pass. When this battle comes, it helps to be prepared. This three-part blog series will include some suggestions to help both parent and child journey through this “rite of passage.” Part I of the series focuses on ways to avoid tantrums while planning your trip.
Before the trip:
-In the case of toddler public tantrums, the best defense is a good offense. Know before you go and prepare for the possibility of a meltdown.
-Consider how long your child is able to sit in one place. Toddlers have different attention spans and need for motion. If your child is not able to sit still for 30 minutes at home, consider whether or not he or she will be able to do it in public. Plan your trips to the store around what your child can tolerate. This may mean starting with quick trips to help your child be successful, then gradually increasing the amount of time.
-Plan to have something for your child to do during the trip. Consider what your child likes. Maybe a snack will be helpful. Your child probably loves your attention, so plan ways to interact throughout the trip. Talk about what you are seeing, get your child to remind you of things you need to get, give choices of what to put in the cart, or make your child your “helper” by putting things in the cart. You know your child best, play to his or her motivation.
-Plan your trips when your child is at his or her best. Avoid taking shopping trips during typical nap times or when your child is feeling under the weather. Your child will be less tolerant during these times and tantrums will be more likely. Also, consider how you are feeling. Are you at your best?
-Talk about what you are going to do and your expectations before getting in the car. Your toddler may not completely understand everything you say, but this will help him or her prepare. Consider having a “grocery store” routine. Through practice, this can make these experiences and expectations more predictable for the child.
For children who have special needs
Public outings can be uniquely challenging for children with special needs. Consider how noise level, social interactions, movement, and crowds may impact your child. Consider your child’s strengths and motivations to help him or her learn to manage these situations.
Remember to consider what works best for you and your child! No one strategy will be a good fit your every family. Your strategies should fit your needs and comfort level! While tantrums are a part of development, consider the frequency and intensity of tantrum behaviors. If your child is having difficulty participating in daily routines due to tantrums or you have concerns about his or her development, we can help! Remember, Babies Can’t Wait! Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB: http://www.racsb.state.va.us/