When you live with a toddler, tantrums are a fact of life. Your best defense is a good offense — try to avoid situations that could provoke a tantrum whenever possible. Tantrums are more likely when children are tired or hungry, for example, so try to schedule your grocery shopping and trips to the post office for times when your child is fed and rested. When you’re out and about together, keep snacks on hand.
Frustration is also a big tantrum-producer. If you know your child is going to insist on visiting the pet store when you go to the mall, make sure you have time to do it, or think twice about the trip. Thinking through his likely reactions, the consequences, and the alternatives isn’t really “giving in” to him; it’s being a wise parent.
Avoiding a tantrum isn’t always possible, of course. Once one starts, you may find it impossible to reason with your toddler. If you find the situation embarrassing, your best move is to leave. Becoming harsh or punitive will only get you more upset and angry; it certainly won’t help end the tantrum. Your job is to remain as calm as possible. Leaving the situation helps everybody, even if it means you’ll have to go back to the store later to finish your shopping. If you can’t leave altogether, try to exit the immediate scene. For example, if you’re in the dentist’s waiting room, go out into the parking lot or the hallway until the storm passes.
Because he’s out of control, a tantrum can be scary for a child. So once it subsides, give your toddler hugs and reassurance. But don’t change the rules. If you told him that it was time to leave the playground and he responded with a tantrum, it’s still time to go when the tantrum is over. It’s fine to acknowledge how strongly he feels, though. In this case you might try to make leaving less painful by offering to read a favorite story or let him ride his favorite tricycle at home.
Keep in mind that your child’s tantrum is nobody’s business but yours. Your toddler will have tantrums, and some of them are bound to happen in public. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, only that you’re the parent of a toddler. People may be looking at you, but it’s very possible that they’re feeling sympathy, not criticism. Regardless of any looks you get, remember that your child doesn’t understand your embarrassment. Public tantrums aren’t meant to humiliate parents, so you should treat your child the same way as if the tantrum happened at home.
It may also help to know that the frequency of tantrums increases between 18 and 30 months but tends to decrease as children reach their third birthday. If your child is prone to tantrums, you may simply want to curtail your outings together during the peak months.