Public tantrums

Public tantrums,as with most of life’s problems, cannot be ignored by us, while we hope that they just go away. Offcourse there are exceptions to every rule and tantrum’s is one of them. By using the right techniques, you can ignore your child’s tantrums and hopefully stop them from happening completely.

This does, however take time, patience and a whole lot of determination and perseverance on your part.

When my youngest son was little, rather than telling me his frustrations, he would scream, cry and sometimes even lie on the floor kicking and screaming. This made taking him out in public a huge challenge. He would find something in every shop we went to and hold onto it for dear life. If I tried to take it away, even to pay for it, it would cause a tantrum. Sometimes the tantrums where so bad that I ended up just leaving the shop, feeling very embarrassed and leaving my half filled trolley behind.

What I hated the most was the disgusted looks from people, who did not realise that my child had special needs and I kept thinking that he isn’t just a bratty child that I had no control over.


For me, this situation was just not acceptable, so I did a lot of research and also spoke to a behaviour therapist. There is no method that works one hundred percent, every time your child has public tantrums, but through trial and error this is the method I use to gain control during a meltdown or public tantrum:

  • Firmly hold his hand
  • Hold onto your child’s hand firmly so that he doesn’t run away, hurt himself or anyone else.

  • Speak once only
  • Let your child know in no uncertain terms, that only when he stops screaming will you speak to him. Don’t say anything else, until this happens.

  • Turn your head away
  • While the tantrum is going on, pretend that you don’t hear him and turn your face away. Don’t worry about what other people may think, concentrate on gaining control of the situation. Continue walking, and if your child drops to the floor, stop, keep holding his hand and wait, for as long as it takes. If you have to pick him up and carry him, do so without any emotions and put him down as soon as you possibly can.

    (This is easier said than done, but bite the bullet now and put in the effort, I promise you that it will make your life much easier in the long run.)

  • Make eye contact when he is calm
  • Once your child has calmed down, stops screaming and talks to you properly, get down to his level and give him your undivided attention for as long as he is behaving properly. Make eye contact and talk to him in a calm, friendly voice, the complete opposite of how you where behaving while he was throwing a tantrum. Pay attention to what he is saying, but remain firm in your position about whatever bought on the tantrum.

You may have to repeat these steps often, and you may even have to switch back and forth between ignoring and listening several times, using your child’s behaviour as the trigger. If he starts to cry and scream again, take his hand, stand up and turn your face away. Don’t say anything, and he will soon realise that he becomes invisible to you whilst having a tantrum.

Your child will soon learn some self- control, and you need to hang onto yours. All children want attention, and if he only gets yours when he is calm and behaves properly, he will soon realise this and behave accordingly.

Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to manipulate you!

We often underestimate our children with special needs, and let them get away with inappropriate behaviour because we think they don’t understand the difference between right and wrong. This is not only >b>detrimental to your child’s well being but can also negatively affect your emotional well being.

Be warned, ignoring your child’s tantrums in the beginning will cause them to get worse.

Your child has learnt a certain behaviour pattern, and in his mind the kicking and screaming worked before, so if he does it louder and worse than before, it should work again. When this happens don’t assume that your efforts or this method is not working. It will take time to change the behaviour patterns in your child and instil new patterns. It may take a while for the penny to drop.

Temper tantrums

My youngest is now 14, and I practised self-control which I never knew I had. It wasn’t easy, and for a while each public tantrum seemed to get worse than the one before. There where many times that I just wanted to give up, but suddenly, and completely unexpected, the tantrums became fewer and then stopped all together. He still struggles occasionally when we are out in public, but generally he is very well behaved.

Patience and persistence does pay off in the end.

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Before disciplining/ Public meltdowns/ Time-out discipline/ Time-out spots/ Give yourself time-out

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