What Is Your Best Advice on How to Handle Public Tantrums?

Updated on April 08, 2012
J.B. asks from Lanoka Harbor, NJ
21 answers

I take my 3 year old to the park every day because we both like the exercise and interaction. However, lately my son has been throwing these horrendous tantrums in public whenever something doesnt go his way. He will immediently throw himself on the ground and scream so loud that it looks like someone is murdering him. When this happens, I pick up, take him to the car and leave. However, its become exhausting. The whole time hes screaming and kicking and its a struggle just to carry him to the car. Its come to the he point where I dont even want to bring him to the park anymore because of the impending screaming. How would you handle it?

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answers from Las Vegas on

They understand...so before you leave the house, explain to him tantrums are not acceptable and if he throws one, you will leave the park and he will take a [insert punishment]. Explain to him he has to use words when he is upset and maybe the problem can be fixed.

If you see a sign of a fit, remind him to use his words or he has to leave the park. If he has to leave the park, he has legs, he can walk. Grab him by the back of the pants and an arm and escort him out. Otherwise, what will you do when he weighs 60 lbs?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

Does he enjoy going to the park?

If so then I WOULD use that against him. Tell him before you leave that you do not want him throwing any tantrums for anything. If he does you will leave right away. If he throws it when you leave tell him you and him will no longer take trips to the park. Remind him how little boys leave the park and how much you realize how fun it is to play. Give him a proper warning time of when he has to leave, tell him this before hand. I would go over all this before you even get to the park.

If he still throws a tantrum don't take him back. (For a while) When/if he asks if he can go remind him about how he threw a tantrum so we are taking a long break from the park until he can handle going without throwing them.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Same way you already are.

I once had my son OVER my shoulder aaaaaaaallllllllllllllll the way from a giant Banes & Noble with him kicking and shrieking (this was years ago) and knocking stuff off the shelves. All because their Thomas table was better than our Thomas table at home. Really? haha

The plan : UP and OUT. Immediately.

Remind him when you arrive at the park, that IF there's a tantrum, he'll be leaving immediately.

Don't waffle. He'll smell it like a shark smells blood in the water!

(Maybe do some bicep curls in the evenings? LOL)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You are doing exactly the right things. The other option is to put him in the car, close the door and step away for a few minutes (you can see him, but he can't see you). This way he knows that you aren't going to listen to him when he's out of control either.

At 3, you can remind him BEFORE getting to the park (or anywhere else) what will happen if he has a tantrum. It's not a threat, it's a reminder. "Jack, remember to use your words if you are upset. If you start screaming we will leave."

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

so miserable. but i think you're doing it exactly right.
in the long run it will pay off.
not fun in the short run.
good job, mama!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It is exhausting, but keep doing it. Be consistent. Also, try not to go to the park when he's tired, or hungry or cranky already. I would bring a snack and a drink just in case, and talk to him about his behavior. "Son, we are going to the park, won't that be fun? But if you want to stay at the park you must remember to use your words. If you have a tantrum, we will have to leave. If you are good, we can stay."

You can also take him somewhere for a time out/calm down if you are somewhere you can't leave entirely (like halfway through grocery shopping).

My DD is also much more of a hair trigger (she just cries) and I sympathize. I've read that it's a common thing with 3s. A month or so back she was rude to my friend's daughter and I carried her through the library, screaming the whole way. The next time we went, I reminded her that we speak softly, we share and we use words, not have fits. It seemed to help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Think about the calories you're burning hauling the boy to the car every day.

You're doing the right thing. You're removing the audience from his performance, or vice versa. (Does he scream at any particular time or at any particular thing, or does he just do it randomly? Where is his blood sugar level when these performances happen? Is there anything you can latch onto?)

One thing you can do while your son is working on his behavior is to catch him doing the things you want him to do. "I sure like the way you came when I called you, Dennis." "Thank you for taking my hand before we crossed the street." Don't make a huge deal of it. Just mention aloud what he does right. It can't hurt, and it might help. Sooner or later it might sink into his head that he's actually training his mama to say good things to him when he acts like a big boy.

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answers from Washington DC on

You're doing the right things. Do NOT ignore it because in public it is not acceptable. If you want to ignore it at home, that's totally your choice. But in public, its up and out.

At 3 he should know better. I say this with a big heart because my baby, at 5, still does it sometimes. He's a new 5, but he's babied because he is the baby. I don't do it as much anymore, but my husband caters to him like there is no tomorrow. Drives me mad.

So if he can't learn to walk away when he gets frustrated, then he needs to go. If he's too heavy to carry, grab his hand and bring him along with you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Leaving the park when your child is in tantrum mode is absolutely the right thing to do. If this is an ongoing problem then pay close attention and learn the signs that a tantrum is coming. Wrap up your trip to the park immediately when you see them. Also, what are the triggers for the tantrum? Can you avoid them? Hunger and being tired are the most common, but also for us the park being too crowded can be an issue.

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answers from San Francisco on

Is he doing this because he is too tired to handle life at that point? I ask because if that's the case, then maybe he just needs a nap (or go to the park at a different time of day, when he's better able to deal with frustration).

Having said that, yes, if he is throwing a tantrum in public, then you need to wrestle him to the car and drive him home. Bad behavior needs to result in immediate loss of privileges. It IS totally exhausting to deal with a tantruming preschooler, but I imagine that left unchecked, it would be even more exhausting to deal with that behavior in an older child, right? ;)

So, I'd take a look at the time of day and see if maybe late afternoon (or whenever you're going to the park) is not the very best time of day for him to be his perky best. Then, before you go, remind him of your expectations, and what will happen if he throws a fit. A lot of times, that will help. He wants to play, doesn't want to go home, and a reminder may keep him within the boundaries!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Just like you are. He has to learn how to behave in public. You can also (if it is safe), walk away or make your self appear interested in something else, and he may stop because he is not getting the attention (negative or positive) that he wants.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Let him scream. Sit on the bench and read a book.

No attention - no tantrum.

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answers from Norfolk on

You're doing fine.
It's exhausting but keep it up.
They do grow out of it sooner or later.
When my son was roughly 3 1/2, he was in a phase where sometimes he'd get in a mood and would scream for no particular reason - just to show his general displeasure with the world.
If we were home alone in the house, sometimes I'd scream with him (not at him, not even words, just 'aaaaauuuggghhh!' ) but you get those high pitches going so you get a buzz going in the ears.
At one point as we're doing this he stops, looks at me like I'm nuts and says "That is so annoying, Mommy!".
I almost fell over laughing.
Like "Yeah. No kidding."
And we decided together that we we're done with screaming.
But if you happened to walk past my house on one of those days, I'm sure people must have thought we were killing cats or something.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Just like you, though I did a lot of "beforehand" chatting with my daughter before we went places at that age. I would tell her what was expected of her, and she would get three counts. On three, we'd head home. If she threw an outright tantrum? Home immediately. But super fussiness? Strike one. Not listening? Strike two. etc.

Your best friend at this age is this phrase: you get what you get and you don't get upset.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

Leave him on the ground kicking and screaming. Touching my son during a tantrum sen him THROUGH THE ROOF! So I quickly learned to keep my hands to myself unless there was a safety issue! And to expect to be hit/kicked/scratched/bitten if I DID need to move him out of the middle of the road or whatever.

And to help MYSELF keep my cool I often provided semi-serious snarky commentary on the tantrum! "I am SO sorry you have the worlds meanest mommy!" "Can you scream louder? I don't think the giys back in the meat department understand how you feel!" "Gee, yesterday's tatrum was a LOT better than this one!"



answers from New York on

Once the tantrum starts, you're already too late to stop it. I totaly agree with the other parents saying you are doing the correct thing by taking him back out to the car; however, I would go further and take him home. Leaving the child kicking and screaming on the floor only embrasses you and makes other people think you're not a "good Mom." (I've heard the comments people say under their breath.) It can also be dangerous, since people do not always watch where their walking and the dirt on the floor can even contain dog poop. (You have no idea what people tramp in.) You do need to tell your son ahead of time where you're going, and you need to talk to him about having temper tantrums. Tell him you expect him to act like a big boy and big boys don't have tantrums, how dirty the floor is and how many germs are there waiting to harm him, (Don't be afraid to get graffic.) tell him how much time it takes out of his play time to wait for him to get done with the tantrum...You might also promise him something if he doesn't have a temper tantrum like an ice-cream. The other thing to keep in mind is that shopping or going adult type places is boring, so you need to have a plan in mind to keep him occupied. I used to have my son sing. (He'd sing the ABC song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," ect.) It helps to keep him calm and makes other people smile. For church, I would always bring a pad of paper in one of those cool leather covers that business men use and a pencil so he could draw til his heart's content. (I created a love to draw by having Mommy and son drawing sessions for 15-30 min. per night...This way it encouraged a thirst to draw.) Children need to learn quiet activities as well as active. We would also play really hard outside every night to burn off extra energy. Boys especially seem to be a bundle of energy so if you don't give them a chance to burn it off, you'll have a lot of trouble with temper tantrums. I would also read out load to him 2-3 times per week and use a big word from the dictionary in my conversations with him to increase his vocabulary. It is very important to encourage them to talk, so they can express themselves. Sometimes tempertantrums are brought on, because they don't have the vocabulary to tell you what they really want so they get frustrated. I've always encouraged my son to talk by asking him questions and even let him join in on conversations. You'd be surprised how much they really understand. I'd ask him things like, "I like the the red Power Ranger the best, which one do you like the best?", "Why do you think that one's the best?", "I feel like making cookies, what kind do you think I should make?, "I'm thinking about painting your room, do you think blue would be a good color?", "Look at that little girl crying over there, why do you think she's crying?"....etc. The more they can talk and the busier you keep them, the less risk of tempertantrums.



answers from New York on

I am the mother of two children, my daughter 10 and my son 5.
I remember those days when they both tried to pick up that habit
- I looked at them with confusion as if I didn't know them - that's
because in my eyes I didn't. So after awhile they stop because 1.
exhaustion and 2. No attention. Walk away ( but of course not too
far !) I hope this helps it will take some time so maybe take him every
day anticipating his show and you'll be training him at the same time.
Good Luck !



answers from Rochester on

Let him lay there and do all the kicking and screaming he wants. Anyone that is, or ever was, a mother or father will understand what and why you are doing it. Once the tantrum is over, take him home immediately!

I had a friend that had twin girls and whenever she took them to the mall and if they were there too long, they would throw tantrums while sitting in their stroller. She would put the stroller brakes on and step to the side and watch them. Once in a while others would stop and watch also. She met some very friendly and understanding people doing that. One of them is her best friend to this day! ME! LOL



answers from San Francisco on

I'd just leave him on the ground kicking and screaming. When he got done, then I'd pick him up and take him home. Who cares who's watching or what they think.



answers from Minneapolis on

I agree up and out is the only way to go in public. Yes it's awful when they're fighting with you, kicking and screaming, back arching and all, but it's a lesson. Throw a fit, we leave.

When that happened to me I try to think afterwards what triggered it. Hunger? Time of Day, too tired? Sharing squabbles? Too hot/cold? Whatever, I take mental notes to do everything to avoid the same scenario repeating itself. Sometimes that does mean taking a break from certain "fun places" if your small child just isn't able to maintain control there yet. Sometimes it means there are certain places that are just too boring for her and my small child could not handle holding together good behavior for as long as required. I remember a "no restaurant" phase we went through years ago. I did plan certain things when I didn't have to take the kids. One of my kids at this age would be fine with 2 stops on an outing, but the 3rd one was often a disaster. Just too much in one morning or afternoon. She needed a break to chill and play quietly at home.

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