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How to Handle Toddler Tantrums in Public

How to Handle Toddler Tantrums in Public

We’ve all been there. You pick your child up from daycare and are scrambling around the grocery store trying to get everything you need to cook dinner for the night. He’s tired and cranky, and you’re running against the clock. It won’t be long before he ends up having a full-on public meltdown. He sees a favorite snack in one of the aisles and begins to cry when you tell him you can’t have it. This happens all the time and you’re desperate for a way to make these trips less of a battle.

#1. Be proactive.

If you know beforehand the struggles you child may encounter during this errand, come prepared with snacks, toys, games, or whatever else you may need to distract them for the time you are there. Asking a cranky kiddo to sit politely for 20+ min in a cart after a long day can sometimes be asking a lot. Letting them munch on some Goldfish while they play with a couple of their trucks or dolls goes a long way preventing them throwing a fit.

#2. Stick to your instincts and try to distract them.

Let’s say you forget to bring something to distract your kiddo at the store. This time he ends up having a public temper tantrum because he asks for a snack but you didn’t want him to fill up before eating dinner. He starts crying and screaming. Try to avoid giving him the snack just because you don’t want people to stop and stare at your screaming child. The best way forward is to try and distract him. Have him walk alongside the cart and pick out the items you need by making it a game. “Can you find me a GREEN vegetable please?”, “can you find me a fruit that starts with the letter ‘O’?”. Let him toss the sturdier items into the basket or cart like a basketball. If all else fails, try not to worry too much about other people staring at your screaming child. Most parents have been there and will understand (and even sympathize) and pay no attention to the ones that don’t.

#3. Stay calm.

Your reaction to your child can just as easily escalate the situation as it can deescalate it. Getting angry or agitated may be a knee-jerk reaction but will likely only add fuel to the fire. Calmly address the reason your child is upset by acknowledging their requests and explaining why you can’t give them what they want right now and swiftly move on.


These are just a few more general tactics you can employ during an outing. At Just Parent, we help you identify specifically why your child is struggling and give you tools to mitigate that challenge—personalized to you. If you’d like to sign up for our program or learn more about how we can help your family,

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