5 Reflections on Surviving A Public Tantrum

5 Reflections on Surviving A Public Tantrum

Let’s be real

We’ve all been there. The moment your toddler has a tantrum {{ beyond what you thought they were capable of }} in the grocery store, at the park, the birthday party, during prayer at church …you name it!

Man oh man, these are tough, fragile moments. I struggle with feeling like I’m failing and then humiliation sets in. It’s almost like I feel a physical weight on my shoulders.  IT. IS. SO. HARD.  I am deep in this season of life right now. And having two kids, 19 months apart…I know it’s only a matter of time before baby girl joins in the tantrum party.


But I am feeling a glimmer of hope. I have been discussing this subject with several of my mama friends. It is comforting to realize I’m not alone in this struggle. I have been given so much advice lately that I felt the need to share…but also to put it into words to remind myself of what I’ve been learning. God is good to have given me so many wonderful mamas that pour wisdom into my life!

1) Be Present

My 27 month old is teaching me to be more present. He caught my husband and I by surprise last week by telling us both at different times, “Put the phone down and play with me!” Oh my! Talk about convicting! Now I absolutely think it is necessary to check the phone for various reasons throughout the day. But my sweet 2 year old reminded me that I absolutely could be spending less mindless time on social media and more time being engaged with the real life people around me.

I’ve been the mom that is at the park with my toddler in the swing while checking Facebook. And I know that’s okay. Mamas, we all need a moment to just breathe! But I’m learning that sometimes when I “check out” so to speak it can be a trigger for my toddler to breakdown. I think he can feel like he is competing for my attention and that stirs up emotions. I want to be more thoughtful about when I check my phone.

Another bonus to being present is that you will more clearly recognize your child’s limitations. I know my son has clear signs that he is getting hungry, tired, doesn’t feel well etc. When I feel more in tune with these signs it can possibly give me the ability to opt out of what we are doing before a meltdown.

2) Accept help

This sounds simple but is easy to forget. Often when I’m dealing with a public tantrum it feels like I’m  the only one who has ever dealt with this kind of behavior. (Obviously that is ridiculous!) I feel so embarrassed and overwhelmed I can’t imagine roping someone else into my situation. I am apologetic to the people around me and feel taking it all on by myself is my only option.

Recently a friend at the park really blessed me during a difficult 15 minutes. We were having a lovely time on a brisk fall day with vibrant, crunchy leaves all around us on the trail. It seemed like in a moment my toddler escalated from 0 – 100. I had my baby strapped to me in the carrier and was dealing with a darting toddler that was inconsolable because he wanted to be carried. And guess what, we had a solid uphill, quarter mile + to go to get to the car! It was overwhelming. I had thoughts of regret…Why hadn’t I brought the stroller? Where are my snacks?  If only I dressed him warmer!

My friend, who also had her toddler, stepped in and offered to console my child. Even her gentle, sweet words weren’t helping him calm down. So finally she just looked at me and said “It’s ok, I totally understand how hard this is.” Her sweet words in the midst of the chaos allowed me to take a deep breath and persevere. I was glad I had allowed her to help me gain back my confidence. We finally made it to the car & by the time we got there my toddler was more composed.

I learned so much from this experience. Sometimes the help we need to accept in these moments is just a kind word. You might need to ask the cashier for help out the car with the groceries. There might be instances we need to hand off our other child(ren) to a nearby person we trust. And other times we just need to ask a friend to help us out to the car so we can get home.

3) Learn from past experiences

Your child is constantly growing and changing so tantrums can be extremely unpredictable. Something that made he or she so happy last week could completely frustrate them the next week. However, it is great to reflect on past experiences to help setup your outings for success.

I learned from the trail walk that having a toddler walk on trail with no option for resting is a BAD idea! Typically we could have sat down and gained some strength before making it back to the car. But the air was getting colder and sitting still didn’t seem like an option. Next time I will be ready with a stroller and warm blanket!

Checkout lines are the classic breakdown location right? It is so true that this is the case! I realized how hard it is for my child to watch all the yummy food go into the bags instead of into his belly! Distractions have been my best friend during this 5 – 10 minute time period. We’ve tried several things…sticking a bunch of stickers on his arms right before we checkout, making conversation with the cashier, encouraging words and promises of a delicious meal soon, warning him in advance, giving snacks…you name it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But the checkout line has become less intimidating as I feel more equipped to help my toddler survive that experience and that is encouraging!

4)  Remember you’re an amazing mama

YES…YOU ARE. I’m not kidding.

I’m sure that is the last thing you are feeling during an emotional breakdown, for all to see, from your little one. But consciously reminding yourself how much you love your child, how hard you work to care for them and how amazing you are, may help!

If you are struggling to remember these things in the moment, try to reflect on them after your child is calm and you are back in a safe place. Make a list of the positive moments you’ve had with your child recently. Talk to your child about a happy memory you’ve had with them. Talk to other moms who can relate. Share your difficult moment with your partner or a friend and get a hug.

5) Reflect on how much you love your child

I think it’s true that as much as we KNOW we love our children it is important to remind yourself of this unconditional love. Journaling is a great way to reflect or talking to other moms about positive aspects of your relationship with your child, can be encouraging. It helps me to pray for my child. When I remember how much God cares for them it spurs me on to continue to show grace to them.

We’ve all been there. Tantrums are no fun at all. But it truly is a season of life. You are amazing mama. You really are!

♥ Thrifty Pittsburgh Girl

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