I was walking into the grocery store the other day when simultaneously a mother was doing her darnedest to drag a screaming, kicking four or five-year-old out of the store who was absolutely livid because he couldn’t have caaaaannnnndddddyyy! I’m usually not a judgmental mother, but I (and everyone else around for that matter) couldn’t help but silently note what a pathetic scene I was witnessing and how preventable meltdowns are with children.
I want to preface this post by saying I have raised, thus far, two daughters who are now nine and six and not one time have I ever had to deal with a child who threw a tantrum in public. Never. When my girls were as young as two and three I could take them with me to the bookstore, museum, grocery store, library, everywhere really, and they always knew how to behave and that’s because my husband and I always set boundaries for our children and stuck to the script. You don’t have to be a cruel parent who believes in corporal punishment to have well-behaved children. You just have to understand a few rules.
#1 You Are the Parent and Your Son or Daughter is the Child
I don’t know how many times I’ve been out in public and heard a mother or father say, “Timmy, are you frustrated?” Meanwhile Timmy is screaming at the top of his lungs and flailing all over the floor and embarrassing the heck out of his parent.
The only reason a child will act out like that in public is because he knows there will be zero consequences. As the parent you have to set boundaries for your child and remember you are the parent, the authoritarian figure. There is no negotiating with a three-year-old. They have no say-so. If you tell your child, “No, you cannot have candy today,” they should understand that you mean it. Don’t say “No” and then throw a piece of candy in the cart because they whine for it. No means no.
#2 Don’t Overindulge Your Child
Your child does not need every piece of plastic crap your bank account can afford. My husband and I always bought our girls a few really nice toys that they played with endlessly and they have always been perfectly content with having a few things. Now that our girls are older they have a room packed to capacity with books, but we still limit the amount of toys they have. For Christmas this year, they will get the things they really, really want and that’s it. You don’t need to give your child everything, just enough to keep them content. You’d be surprised how happy a child can be with two or three dolls and a tea set or two Tonka trucks and a racetrack. Allow your child’s imagination to soar, not be overburdened with too much stuff to choose from.
#3 Set Real, Concrete Boundaries and Don’t Be Slack
From day one let your child know what to expect from you and they will comply with the rules. Promise. When you make a rule, stick with it. Children will always test you to see if you mean what you say. As a parent you have to mean everything you say. When you have given your child a consequence and you don’t follow through, then when they act up it’s all your fault. Stand your ground and stick to the plan. It’s when parents are on shaky ground that children walk all over them.
#4 Get Down to Their Level
There was only one time when my youngest daughter tried to throw a fit in the grocery store. I caught it right away, got square in her face, and I told her in a stern voice that she was not going to whine about not getting what she wanted. She got the drift and we went merrily about our way. Never shout at your child or threaten them from afar. Bend down or pick your child up, look them in the eye and tell them that you are not going to tolerate a certain behavior and then have a consequence ready should they try to test you. I would always threaten my daughters with having to take a nap when they got home, which was only a very rare occasion. They hated taking naps and so they would straighten up right away.
#5 Tantrums Are Not Endearing
I think many parents tolerate tantrums because they somehow believe it’s all a part of a child growing up. Nope. That’s just not the case. Teach your child about good behavior and tell her that tantrums are really bad. Let her know the difference between good and bad behavior early on. Young children are capable of understanding fundamental concepts such as right and wrong, good and bad. If your child has a tantrum in public, nip it in the bud that day. Don’t let it happen again and again. That only gives your child the OK to continue doing it.