Tantrums in Public

Updated on December 15, 2006
J. asks from Lenexa, KS
5 answers

My 20 month old throws tantrums in public. I have strategies in place to deal with his tantrums at home but in public, I get flustered, embarrassed, and am at a loss as to how to handle them. Usually they happen right when we are leaving somewhere and won't let him walk to the car. I pick him up to carry him out the door and across the parking lot. The whole time he's screaming and kicking. By the time we get to the car, I'm near tears and completely frustrated. Not going on errands is not an option for me as my husband works 80 hours a week. We also don't have family in town. Also, I work full time, so we're limited on the time of day that we can do our errands--usually on our way home from the sitters. Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.

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answers from Kansas City on


If you are working all day and picking him up from daycare (like a lot of us working mom's do), going straight to do errands....you might be seeing meltdowns more often. After care elsewhere, he is craving time with you. You might pick him up and spend 10-15 minutes with him (even if it is in the car) talking and doing an activity. Let him know after, that you both have to go to the store......and you want him to be your big helper. Actually give him a chore, holding a box of cereal, helping you pick something out...including him in your errand (as much as possible). When you get back to the car, reward him with a sticker and praise. Keep your cool, or he will feed off of it. Good luck.

A. L



answers from Kansas City on

I have worked with a lot of children with autism and so I am going to give you some advice with what I know about those kids who throw tantrums about anything they don't want to do.

I AM IN NO WAY SAYING YOUR CHILD HAS AUTISM OR ANY DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEM!!!! I'm just passing on advice based on what I know.

I think what he is doing is communicating with you that he doesn't understand or like what is going on. Most kids at this age rely on routines to get through their days and to understand the world. When you do errands, he doesn't know what to expect next and tantrums to say 'I don't understand and I don't like it'.

What to do: Have an age-appropriate conversation about what is going to happen that day. It may be helpful to cut out pictures (or take them with a camera and print them out) about what is going to happen (i.e., the grocery store, someone's house, the mall, your house...). You can glue them onto 3X5 cards and then give them to him to hold.

When you leave the store, give him a picture of your car or your next destination and tell him that this is where we are going next. Also, give him the choice of being held, holding your hand, riding in the cart... and let him pick what he wants to do. Give lots of verbal praise or a reward when you eventually get to the car without a tantrum. If you don't make it, turn around and go back. Say, "You didn't hold mommy's hand/go without kicking/go without yelling... and now mommy gets to pick how we go." Some stores will help you out with your purchases and this may be most helpful until he understands.

If this makes no sense at all please e-mail me at ____@____.com you hate this advice just ignore it.

I hope you find a soulution.




answers from Kansas City on

You've been given a lot of good advice here, and I hope some of it works. Each kid is so different. I just want to tell you a story that I hope will comfort you in a different way.

Years ago I had a friend, Robin, who had a daughter, Carly, about the age of your son. Carly made Robin's life absolute hell. Any transition with Carly, even if it was just from the car to McDonald's and then again from McDonald's to the car was noisy, violent and painful for both of them! I remember watching, mortified, as Robin carried the kicking and screaming Carly to and from wherever she had to go. Unfortunately, this was just Carly's way - a few years later I watched her climb the front of someone's china cabinet and before I could register that it was actually happening, the entire thing pitched forward and nearly fell ontop of her. Thank God I moved fast! Anyway, I want to tell you that Robin read books about it, talked to friends and tried everything she could think of. NOTHING WORKED. But - here's the good news - Carly did outgrow this behavior all by herself within a year or so. Fast forward: today she is a brilliant straight A college student with an incredible singing voice and a "girl band," making all who know her very proud! So take heart. I dearly hope that one of these wonderful suggestions delivers results, but if they don't, just try to remember that they pass through these phases very, very quickly!

Good luck,



answers from Springfield on

All I can say is that I have an 18 mo son and he can definitely make errands difficult, too with his tantrums. I have found that it really helps, in my case, to have lots of snacks and drink for him when we are out and about (especially in the car!). It seems like the hungrier he is, the more likely he is to throw a fit. This may or may not fit your situation but it is just what has worked for me. Unfortunately, the tantrums are normal and I wouldn't worry about being embarrassed. The other day Jack threw himself on the floor at the grocery store. Anyone who is a mom and sees it completely understands and anybody else who doesn't, who cares?!



answers from Kansas City on

i am same wya have 16 month old girl who throws fits in the store because wants somethign
i am to an working mom

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