Melt Down in Aisle 7

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.

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Author: Nanny Carrie

Nanny Carrie always knew she wanted a big family, so she made it her business to borrow everybody else's children until she had her own. You can find her embracing the organized chaos of life with five kids and loving (almost) every minute!

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