7 things you are doing wrong when your toddler throws a tantrum in public

Public tantrums are every parent’s worst nightmare. Trust me, I’ve been there.

The difference between managing a toddler’s tantrum effectively and escalating it further often comes down to approach.

When your little one throws a tantrum in public, you might be doing a few things wrong without even realizing it. And don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

In the following list, I’ll share 7 common mistakes parents make during tantrums and how to avoid them. Because, let’s face it, when your toddler decides to throw a fit in the middle of the grocery store, you want to be prepared.

So, stick with me as we navigate the often-stormy seas of toddler tantrums together.

1) Overreacting

We’ve all been there. Your child starts screaming in the middle of a store, and you can feel every eye on you. It’s embarrassing, and the natural reaction is to try to stop the tantrum as quickly as possible, often leading to raised voices or empty threats.

Here’s the thing: your toddler’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for self-control, is still developing. So when they’re having a tantrum, they’re genuinely unable to control their emotions.

Reacting negatively only adds fuel to the fire. It can escalate the situation and teach your child that loud and aggressive behavior is an effective way to get attention.

Try to remain calm and composed. Your child looks to you for cues on how to behave in new situations – so by staying calm, you’re teaching them a valuable lesson in managing emotions.

So next time your toddler throws a tantrum, take a deep breath and remind yourself: it’s not about you; it’s about helping your child learn to navigate their world.

2) Trying to reason

I’ve got to confess, this was a mistake I used to make all the time.

My son would be in the middle of a tantrum, and I’d try to reason with him, explain why he couldn’t have that toy or why we had to leave the park. But the more I talked, the more upset he seemed to get.

Then I realized something crucial: Toddlers aren’t mini-adults. Their brains are still developing, and they can’t process logical arguments the same way we can, especially when they’re upset.

Trying to reason with a tantruming toddler is like trying to have a deep conversation with someone who’s just run a marathon. They’re not in the right state of mind to hear you.

Now when my son throws a tantrum, I first ensure he’s safe and then give him space to express his feelings. Once he’s calmed down, we can talk about what happened in simpler terms.

In the heat of a tantrum, less talking is more. Comfort and reassurance will go further than reasoning.

3) Giving in to the tantrum

This is a hard one, especially when you’re in a public place and all eyes are on you. The quickest way to stop the screaming seems to be just giving in and letting your toddler have what they want.

But, let’s pause a moment. By giving in, what are we really teaching them? Essentially, we’re reinforcing the idea that throwing tantrums is an effective way to get what they want.

Standing firm might mean enduring a few more minutes of crying or screaming, but it also means teaching your child that tantrums aren’t the way to solve problems or express their needs.

Even though it’s tough, try not to give in. Stay strong, you’re doing a great job!

4) Skipping the debrief

Often, once the tantrum has passed, we’re so relieved that we move on without a second thought. But skipping the debrief is a missed opportunity.

After a tantrum, when your child is calm and receptive, it’s a good time to talk about what happened. You don’t need to delve into a lengthy discussion – a simple conversation about feelings and better ways to express them can go a long way.

Use this as a teaching moment. Help your child understand their emotions and how to handle them. This not only helps them grow emotionally but also builds trust and communication between you two.

Tantrums are tough on toddlers too. They’re still learning how to express their feelings and needs. A post-tantrum chat can be just what they need to navigate their emotions better next time.

5) Forgetting empathy

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that your little one is experiencing a world of emotions they don’t fully understand yet.

Their tantrums, as loud and public as they may be, are a cry for help. They’re saying, “I’m upset and I don’t know how to handle it.”

Forgetting to show empathy during these moments is a mistake that’s all too easy to make. We’re so focused on stopping the tantrum that we forget to acknowledge their feelings.

Next time your toddler throws a tantrum, kneel down to their level, look them in the eye, and tell them you understand they’re upset.

You’d be surprised at just how far a little empathy can go in calming your child down and making them feel heard and understood.

6) Neglecting to set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations before you venture out can be helpful in reducing tantrums. Telling your toddler what you expect from them and what they can expect from the outing provides a sense of structure and predictability.

For instance, telling them, “We’re going to the store to buy groceries, not toys. But once we get home, we can play with your favorite toy” can set the stage for a smoother trip.

Skipping this step is a common error. We often assume our toddlers should just ‘know’ what’s expected. But they’re still learning about the world and its rules.

Do your best to set clear expectations and see if this helps minimize those public tantrums.

7) Failing to show consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to managing toddler tantrums. If you’re inconsistent with how you respond, your child may get confused about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

If you ignore a tantrum one day, but give in to it the next, your toddler won’t understand what you expect from them. This inconsistency can lead to more tantrums in the long run.

No matter how challenging it may be, strive for consistency in your responses. This will help your toddler learn that tantrums aren’t an effective way to get what they want, and over time, they will start to understand and manage their emotions better.

Final thoughts: It’s a journey

Navigating the turbulent waters of toddler tantrums is a unique journey for every parent. It’s filled with ups and downs, moments of frustration, and episodes of embarrassment, especially when those tantrums strike in public.

But it’s important to remember that these challenging moments are just that – moments. They are fleeting instances within your child’s larger growth arc.

These tantrums are opportunities for your toddler to learn about emotions and healthy ways to express them. And they’re opportunities for you as a parent to guide, teach, and even learn.

So when you find yourself in the middle of a public meltdown, keep in mind that it’s not just about quelling the tantrum. It’s about understanding your child’s needs, demonstrating empathy, and guiding them towards better emotional management.

Because at the end of the day, these tantrums aren’t just about the here and now. They’re stepping stones on the path to helping your child become an emotionally intelligent individual.



Hello! I’m Emmarose, your guide and fellow traveler on the sometimes bumpy, often beautiful road of parenting, here at "Careful Parents." With a master’s degree in social work tucked under my belt, years as a life counselor, and my own hands-on experience raising a pre-teen who’s as witty as she is wise, and a newborn who’s convinced sleep is for the weak, I’ve navigated the complex landscape of parenting with its highs and lows. My journey’s been packed with learning curves—like decoding my daughter’s silent language (it’s all in the eyes) and mastering the art of doing practically anything with one hand while cradling a baby in the other. Balancing professional life with being a mom has been less about finding a perfect equilibrium and more about embracing the chaos with grace—and a healthy dose of humor. Indeed, I wholeheartedly embrace a philosophy of gentle parenting, yet with a solid backbone. It's all about setting boundaries with a soft touch, leading the way with a heart full of empathy, and holding a firm belief that mistakes are merely stepping stones to learning. Moreover, I'm deeply convinced that it's through sharing our stories that we carve out our common ground, teaching us the invaluable lesson that, in our parenting journeys, we're never truly alone—whether we're navigating through the tough times or celebrating the victories. "Careful Parents" is built as a haven for us to exchange these stories, advice, and moments of “Oh, I’ve been there too.” Whether you’re wrestling with the bedtime routine, figuring out screen time, or exploring ways to foster your child's growth, this is your space. Let’s journey together with a mix of confidence and curiosity, embracing parenting with all its imperfections and joys. Welcome to "Careful Parents"—where real talk meets real solutions in parenting.

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