I'm always mortified when we go out in public and my child throws a temper tantrum. How can I avoid these embarrassing situations without hiring a babysitter every time I need to go shopping?
When I was working as a nanny I have to admit the public meltdowns never really fazed me. I would calmly do my thing but if the tantrum continued, so be it-- I wouldn't give in. I often wondered if I would feel differently when I had my own kids. Suddenly I'm standing in the middle of the book store with this little creature who has thrown himself to the ground sobbing for injustice everywhere---and he belongs to me. Fortunately I haven’t found myself reaching for the dark sunglasses and wig just yet. Here are a few suggestions for managing public temper tantrums and the embarrassment that goes with them.
Keep your cool: The only sound that reverberates louder than a child screaming in a toy store is the mother who is yelling at her to "be quiet." Keep your response calm. After all, a 4-year-old's tantrum is not that interesting to listen to, but a frazzled mama who is at her wit’s end is going to draw a much bigger crowd. You won’t always be able to avoid a tantrum but your audience will be impressed if you are able to keep a level head in spite of it.
Play fair: Imagine if you were in the bookstore reading the back cover of a novel and suddenly you're dragged out of the store by your arm mid-sentence. Give your child the same courtesy you would expect for yourself. If she’s playing nicely when it's time to leave the store/park/playdate, give her a warning. I find a 2-minute warning followed by a “One last turn (on the slide etc.) before we go” usually give us the smoothest transition.
Nanny Carrie's Tip: I'm all for a bit of bribery in the right situation but if you set out with "If you behave I'll give you....." then everyone's going to be disappointed when the trip is a bust, including you. Instead, wait for a successful outing and end it with 'I'd like to take you for an ice cream because you did such a wonderful job waiting patiently in the shop this morning without making any fuss!' An unexpected reward will make a longer lasting impression because she will be delighted to have made you so proud rather than expecting a treat in exchange for good behaviour.