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.

1 mom found this helpful

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 :)


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.


1 mom found this helpful

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:

I've got to run, but HTH some.

1 mom found this helpful

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!

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

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.