21 answers

Please Help Me Control My Childs Public Tantrums!!!

My oldest Daughter, she is 3 and a half, is throwing HUGE EMBARRASING tantrums when we have to leave a place where she is enjoying herself. The most recent example of this behavior happened earlier today. Her first day of preschool starts next week. The school has the kids come once for 20 minutes to meet the teacher and see their new classroom (this was today.) Tomorrow I will be bringing her back to meet her classmates for 30 minutes and I'm hoping to get some advice on how to prepare in advance for tomorrows fit.

I explained to her days before taking her today what she should expect. When it was time to go I gave her a two minute warning and she immediatly responded "no, no minutes!" I responded "Skylar, you have two more minutues and then we will be leaving" I then reminded her that tomorrow she will be coming back and on Tuesday she will be able to stay for an entire day! When the two minutes were up I let her know. She immediatly started throwing a fit. She started yelling at me. I told her that that behavior was unacceptable and told her that she will get 5 minutes of time out, with the door shut, when we get home (which works with her in most other scenarios.) She would not listen to me and as every time I told her that her timeout would be extended she would just get worse. I finally just picked her up and started walking her out the door. I had my youngest daughter with me who is having a bad case of seperation anxiety. So, I had my baby crying and my oldest screaming and she even started hitting me! I couldn't push the baby stroller and hold my oldest, especially while she was hitting me. I put her down in the hallway. She layed on the floor in the middle of the hallway screaming and crying. Another parents were just staring at me, it was embarrasing. I stayed calm though and kept teling my oldest that this behavior was not okay and that she needs to stop. Of course she didn't listen. She kept screaming that she wants to stay here and play. I explained to her that she had her special time with the teacher and now its her friends turn and that tomorrow she will be coming back to play and that her behavior was only going to make her friends think that she isn't very nice. Nothing I tried worked. The director of the school was nice enough to offer to push the stroller for me while I picked up my oldest. I was very thankful for that. So, I picked up my oldest and at one point she promised that she would walk herself. I fell for it and I put her down. As soon as she was close enough to the floor she shoved herself out of my hands and pretended to fall on the floor. While she did that she actually lost her balance and hit her head pretty hard. I was so mad at this point and couldn't wait to get her to the car. I apologized to the Director for her behavior and she assured me that I didn't need to apologize, that she has seen this type of behavior many times. I still cannot help but to be completly embarrased and I really, really, need to find a way to stop this. This happens whenever its time to leave someplace where she is having fun (ie. playground at the mall, the playground at McDonalds, and now at school)

She is currently in a 40 minute time out!!! I put her in the room with the door shut until she can be quiet (stop screaming!!) for 1 whole minute. Then it turns into quiet time with the door open. I have also taken away her computer privledges for the rest of the day. This is probably a very harsh punishment but its is the only thing I have found that works when we are at home.

thank you so much in advance for your advice.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all so much for your advice. What ended up working WONDERFULLY was having something planned for fun to reward her for good behavior. Since we had my second child and also since we moved out of state Skylar hasn't been getting out as much as she would like and so anytime she is out, she doesn't want to leave. We spent a very funfilled weekend with her. While my husband and I were driving around looking at property Skylar surprised us by apologizing for her behavior. She also thanked us for taking her out to fun places more. It really brought tears to my eyes to hear her say these things so unexpectedly. I really appreciate all your help and I'm very happy to say that I think this behavior was short lived, lets hope anyway :)

---D.

Featured Answers

Poor D.,
You did very very good! You stayed calm, and kept explaining to her. Not that that helps, because she is not listening, but at least that's what other parents expect you to do because all the books tell us to do so.
To me it sounds you did everything pretty much as a perfect mother. And it's not working at this point. My oldest is the same. My experience? Reasoning doesn't help at this point. Just pick her up and leave as soon as possible when you feel she is going to throw a tantrum. After explaining once, skip the explaining, it makes you frustrated because she is at that point not able to listen and to correct her behavior once she has started it. She is stuck in the tantrum mode, and nothing helps. But I know, that's not what the books tell you.

I always talked with him afterwards, when he was calm.
The tantrums come and go in waves with my son. For months they're gone, and than we have some horrible weeks/days. He's now 4,5 and he has them less and less. So: one full year to go for you! just kidding, every child is different.

What helps by my second one (2,5 y) is counting. I show him 5 fingers and tell him: 5 more minutes. After 20 sec I show him 4 fingers and tell him: 4 more minutes. After 20 sec I show him 3 fingers .... That works for him. But it didn't work for my oldest. You can try.

Good luck.

I.

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More Answers

You have gotten lots of great advice, and to me it sounds like you handled things pretty well. But since this is a recurring problem, maybe you could try to reward her when she does leave when she is asked. Whatever it is that she likes, stickers, princess fruit snacks, a sucker, or something else that you could allow her to have in the car. If she helps you pick it out, and you can explain to her what is is for, then I would always have it in the car, and every time you are going over your expectations before hand remind her that if she will come with you there is a special treat in store..Now, I understand that many people would say that you should not have to bribe a child to behave, but I think it helps for a little while to change the focus from something negative to something positive when its time to leave. Remind her how proud of her you are when she leaves nicely, and I would even comment on how well other children are behaving around her. Ie."see how nicely that little boy is leaving Mcdonalds with his mommy. She must be so proud of him, I cant wait for the other moms to see how well you can behave when its time to go." Anyway, I hope it helps, and that you find a workable solution too! Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi D.,

This posting made me laugh because I can relate to it so much, too! My 2 1/2 year old son does this sometimes, and the complicating thing with us is that I also have a 9-month-old son to take care of in the midst of my older son's meltdown. The most recent place for my older son's tantrum was IHOP. He didn't want to go into the highchair, but I knew he would just run around the whole time if he didn't go into it. So, he went into the high chair and cried and screamed and wouldn't stop. We have brief time-outs at our house but I hadn't ever put him into a public time out yet. That day was the day we started a public time out. The highchair had wheels on it, so I just wheeled him into the corner for a public time out. It worked there, but I know we'll have the same problem when we go back to preschool in a few weeks. I've been trying to prepare him for preschool and make it sound like so much fun, but he just politely says "no thanks" when I bring up going to preschool and having fun with the kids and playing. So I guess I still have the same question as you but with not wanting to go rather than wanting to stay. But it is harder with two when meltdowns happen. And so normal to think that everyone is watching you. (At IHOP I actually looked around briefly and everyone WAS looking at us!) :)

Good luck and let us know what works so we can try it, too!

1 mom found this helpful

wow, this is interesting to hear. you sound like me. my 3 year old will be 4 in december he has cried since he was born. anything i do that is fun for him, he is crying. my oldest son is 8 and i feel bad for him, because he gets frustrated like i do. he does help me alot. but it is sooo hard. i cannot keep my son in day care because of this. just keep up with your patience. this is what i do. i notice, that the more patient i am the better he acts, but not every time. just want to let you know your not alone.

1 mom found this helpful

I wish I had more time to write, but I want to give you a few quick thoughts. First, try not to be too embarrassed. Everyone's child acts up in public sometimes. When we start worrying about what other people are thinking, it just makes it harder for us to think clearly and make good decisions.

Second, it sounds like your daughter has trouble with transitions. I would give her way more than two minutes notice. You might need to start with 10, then 5, then 2, then 1, then time to go. Encourage her to start putting stuff away and saying goodbye to the toys or whatever at the two minute mark. Then when it's time to go, you just go, even if that means carrying her out. Granted, this is tough to do when you're caring for other children; you may need to enlist the help of others when you're first learning to get a handle on things.

A couple of other quick recommendations - I highly recommend the book Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. You might also want to check out some of the suggestions here:
http://www.aolff.org/quickreference.html

I've got to run, but HTH some.

1 mom found this helpful

D.,
I just want to show support for what you are going through! All parents (well, most anyway) will sympathise WITH you & are not looking down on you in anyway when your child has a tantrum. We've all been there. Honestly, when I see something like that, I am just thankful it's not my child! So, please don't feel embarrassed. I too have two young children (2 1/2 & 1 yo) & it can be really tricky when these things occur in public. You kept yourself together! That alone deserves some kudos!

I also love the idea of being able to have a traveling time-out spot (ie, corner of store) when needed. Great idea. There is nothing better than good advice & support from other mom's.

Always remember you are a great mom! Good luck!
A.

1 mom found this helpful

My son did the exact same things at that age and I remember feeling just as you did. One time I had to leave him with my mother inside a restaurant, go outside and just cry for a minute so I could calm myself to discipline him without strangling him. What worked for me was the book 1-2-3 Magic. He rarely does that any longer but if it happens usually exhaustion and/or sugar are factors. That book helped save my sanity as much as it helped me address his behavior. Hope this helps. I feel for you!

1 mom found this helpful

Oh my gosh my 3 1/2 yr old daughter is doing the same thing!
I've found some tactics that work are distracting her with questions. The 2-minute warning is great, but we also have a "fall-out" occasionally, even with the warning. When the 2-minutes is up, start asking questions: "It's time to put your shoes on, do you want to put them on yourself, or do you want mommy to do it?" My 16 mo old and 3 yr old are close to the same size, so they can easily swap car seats. "Do you want to choose your seat in the car, or shall I choose for you" works every time. "When we get in the car, do you want to listen to the Wiggles CD or the Barney CD?" Snacks work too, "I have a small snack in my bag, would you like to have it in the car, or when we get hom?" 4 or 5 graham crackers at a time have bought us a lot of peace over the past few months!
When she has to think about things, she's no longer focused on the things that upsets her (leaving something fun) and it seems to ease the transition.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with Inge, explaining yourself over and over just gives her more control of the situation. I would definetively take her out of the situation by physically carrying her if nothing else works; That way she knows you mean bussines(I know it's easier said than done since you have the little one in the stroller).
By the way it's great that she likes pre-school, I get the "I don't want to go to school!" everytime...
Hang in there, when they get older they learn to control their emotions much better.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

D.,

I feel for you - my 4 year old would throw fits like that but not for that reason - normally at home when she didn't get her way. Luckily I haven't really had the "embarrassment issue" but still hard (and she too would try to hit me, etc.).

I see that she doesn't like to leave places that she's having fun at - my advice would be to warn her BEFORE you even leave the house to go to the fun place...."when it's time to leave you need to just say "okay mommy" and then leave - that way we can come back, but if you throw a fit, we will not get to come back" and then remind her of this during her countdown warnings to leave. If she throws a fit then I would say -"oh no, now we can't come back tomorrow and all your friends will be here" and then truly make her stay home the next day. Then try it again the next time (skipping the punishment day).

It is my experience that spanking during these fights does NOTHING except make the mom feel bad. I'm sorry - it's hard having a child who does this - I know....

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow! Take a breath. I'm not sure how much help I will be but it sounds like you need a break after that! I have the complete 180 from where your at. I took mine to Pre-K this morning and she didn't want to stay!! Ok here's my advice this is only for tomarrow as I wouldn't what to start this bad habit...plan something extra extra fun for after school tomarrow and talk it up tonight so she will be willing to leave one fun thing to go to the other just put a time limit on it so she knows if she doesn't leave after her 2 minute warning..you might want to start at 10 min. so she has time to finish what she is doing. Or better yet don't even say the word minute since thats what set her off today just tell her she can pick one last thing to do before you go. Maybe to get her out of the room(away from the other moms)you could check out the playground before you left school at least you would be outside if she had a fit!!Ha! Well good luck let us know how tomarrow goes.

1 mom found this helpful

Poor D.,
You did very very good! You stayed calm, and kept explaining to her. Not that that helps, because she is not listening, but at least that's what other parents expect you to do because all the books tell us to do so.
To me it sounds you did everything pretty much as a perfect mother. And it's not working at this point. My oldest is the same. My experience? Reasoning doesn't help at this point. Just pick her up and leave as soon as possible when you feel she is going to throw a tantrum. After explaining once, skip the explaining, it makes you frustrated because she is at that point not able to listen and to correct her behavior once she has started it. She is stuck in the tantrum mode, and nothing helps. But I know, that's not what the books tell you.

I always talked with him afterwards, when he was calm.
The tantrums come and go in waves with my son. For months they're gone, and than we have some horrible weeks/days. He's now 4,5 and he has them less and less. So: one full year to go for you! just kidding, every child is different.

What helps by my second one (2,5 y) is counting. I show him 5 fingers and tell him: 5 more minutes. After 20 sec I show him 4 fingers and tell him: 4 more minutes. After 20 sec I show him 3 fingers .... That works for him. But it didn't work for my oldest. You can try.

Good luck.

I.

1 mom found this helpful

D. - you have received excellent advice so far - (and I have copied and pasted into my own document for reference)But I wanted to reassure you about being embarrassed. Do NOT be embarrassed. Seriously, if a tantrum like that HAD an "ideal" place to happen, it would be at preschool, where the teachers, directors, and other parents are very used to it and are completely sympathetic to what is happening. Oh, I so feel for you - just when we think we're doing it right, our kids go and show us they're still in charge, hahaha.

No need to be embarrassed. I wish you luck - and after a few days, update to your post and let us all know what worked.

1 mom found this helpful

I think you're doing the right thing. It's a rude awakening to us parents when we realize we can't control their every move or emotion. Wait until they turn into teenagers!
I think 40 min. is a long time but it sounds like you have differnt levels of time-out.
I found the one thing that's fool proof every time with every age group is you have to find their currency. Dr. Phil has said this before and it's just so true. With my teenager it's the cell phone and computer. With my younger girls it's the computer and the X-box. With my baby it's time out in her bed. It really just depends on the child. I think if you remind her while she's throwing the fit that she can't play on the computer for the rest of the day if she doesn't stop then she will probably stop. Don't get me wrong...I don't think she'll stop the first time. I think you'll tell her and she probably won't think that's such a bad thing, until later when she wants to play and she realizes how long a day can actually be.
She's just at that age when she's expressing her will. I think she'll learn very quickly what your boundries are as long as you stay consistant.
Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job! Just hang in there.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, I have a 7 1/2 year old that as I tell others now, really enjoyed the terrible twos. He started at 18 months and didn't calm down until around 4 or so and now is a very well behaved child. Reading your story brought back so many of my own where Bradley acted the same way. I know things have to be tough having another little one as well. When Brad would throw these fits I would remove him from the situation (physically) if I had to. The 40 minute time out might not be good because a child that age doesn't have the attention span to know at the end of the 40 minutes why she is even in time out. I think I would consider maybe taking something away that she really likes vs the "eternal" time out. In this case, you might have even told her if she could not behave she could not come back to preschool. It sounds like she is really enjoying it (which is wonderful for when she has to go full time), but for now you may just explain that they have rules and if you don't follow the rules then you can't go to school. If all else fails, if she has a favorite toy you might consider taking the toy away when she doesn't behave correctly. I mainly just wanted to let you know that she should be getting to the point of getting out of the terrible twos and things will get much better.

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I do feel for you. My daughter is 3 1/2 yrs. and thank goodness her outburst are few and far between now. What I did is I stopped taking her places for awhile. Once I was at the store and she started an episode becauese she wanted something that I would not let her have. I told her that if she did not settle down we would leave. Well it escalated and we left. I dropped at home with her dad and returned to the store without her. Now that happened a few more times and well she's pretty much stopped all that. She can not stand to be left behind. She also pulled that at Putt-Putt before when it was time to go and I put her in the car turned the music up and let her cry her little self out. I took her home and took her favorite toys (dinosaurs) all of them put them in a bag and set them on top of my closet and told her if she did not stop I would start throwing them out one at a time. Well by the 3rd dinosaur in the trash she straightened up. And I did not rescue those toys they went in the trash. So now i have the upperhand and she is fully aware that I stand behind everything I say. So for the most part she's stopped the huge episodes. Good luck and stay calm.

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Lots of good advice. You made the best of a common situation with most if not all children at some point. The best thing to do is after the preparation of telling a child 5 more minutes or 2 more minutes, when the melt down begins, the child is not listening to what you say. Just pick her up and remove her from the situation immediately. It is tough with an extra little one to manage during that time, so I would have asked the director for help in pushing the stroller to the car, and just scooped up the toddler and walked out. Waiting until home for time out or any time longer in time out than the few minutes appropriate for that age is not profitable. When she is calm, a simple statement "When you throw a fit, we will leave immediately." should be all that is needed. Just be consistent in leaving immediately when she melts down. I know it is tough, but stay calm. Any display of frustration or anger on your part puts control into the child's hands. In any case, this too shall pass. She will grow and mature and will handle transitions better.

Careful with spanking though. It worked with me, but with one of my sisters and now with my little girl it does the oppisite and just makes them hit me and others more. Since I have stopped spanking she doesn't hit too much any more (except for Lindsey F's little one once! SORRY CICI!) But you can try cause with some kids it does work. As far as what to do instead I am not sure but am looking forward to hearing the responses as I am sure everyone goes through this at some point and it will definatly help me prepare for it.

is it necessary for her to go to pre-school. tell her only big girls who know how to be good gets to go to school. DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR HER BEHAVIOR, MAKE HER APOLOGIZE. IT WORKED FOR MY SON. HE SOON REALIZED THE ONLY PERSON WHO WAS HURT BY HIS BEHAVIOR WAS HIMSELF. ITS WORTH A SHOT, ANYWAY WHAT IS A 5 YEAR OLD DOING WITH A COMPUTER? MAYBE YOU SHOULD TELL HER THAT ONLY BIG GIRLS GET TO USE THE COMPUTER, TELL HER WHAT YOU EXCEPT AND IF SHE WANTS COMPUTER TIME SHE HAS TO BEHAVE. USE THE COMPUTER AS A REWARD. HOPE THIS HELPS

You're doing a good job. You are going thru with what you say to her. If you say 2 minutes, make sure it's 2 minutes. If she has a fit when you say it, grab her hand and drag her out the door and to the car. Don't say something you cannot follow thru on. You may need some more help, she could have some other issues. Maybe a psychologist wouldn't hurt.

All mom's have had days where we wish invisibility cloaks were real.

As if you didn't already have enough advice.....I'm going to add on to what Maggie advised. You can try the whole Love and Logic thing. Give her choices all day long. Ones that you are okay with either answer. "Do you want carrots or celery with lunch?" "Do you want to put on your shoes or do you want me to?" etc. When it comes time to leave somewhere, "Do you want to leave now or in 5 mintues?" If your child protests or if it is a situation where you cannot offer choices and they protest, you can tell them, "I have given you lots of choices today, this one is Mommy's choice to make (or it's my turn now)." Something to that effect. Your daughter might just want control of the situation & if you give her some sort of control for a lot of things, she might be okay with letting you have some control sometime (not realizing that you've had control all day).

Hope this helps.
Jen

First of all you should be congratulated for staying calm! I have found that what works for my kids is a little distraction. I still give them a 5 minute, then 2 minute warning before it is time to go, but I will always hear from one of them that they are not ready especially from my almost 4 year old. A lot of times I can joke or tease and say with over the top cheerfulness, "Okay, you can stay here and I can come back next week to pick you up!" It catches her off-gaurd, then I follow up with, "I wonder where you can sleep? What will you eat? How will you brush your teeth?" and all kinds of other silly questions as I am busy ushering her out the door. When my oldest (now 11) was smaller, I made a point of reminding him before we actually got out of the car to go in, that when Mommy said it was time to go, that was the end of the discussion and he better be ready to go. We did have to make a few trips to McDonalds or the park just to eat not play to prove a point that if you are not cooperative when it is time to go then you lose the chance to play at all. Hope you find a solution that works!

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