Every parent’s worst nightmare is that their kid will start melting down in public.
But it’s pretty much inevitable that one day your beloved child will shrill to the high heavens, lose their mind, and fall prostrate on the floor flailing their arms and legs without control.
And you will slowly die inside.
And forget what to do in the moment because everyone is looking, you have groceries you must get home with, and did I mention everyone is looking? So, of course, everyone is judging you.
(Don’t forget to check out episode 1: Parenthood is hard & I’m about to break. Help!)
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Extremely Good Parenting Podcast EP. 003
Dayna from Lemon Lime Adventures discusses her struggles with meltdowns herself and strategies she uses and teaches others to use for both tantrums and meltdowns, especially while in public places.
GO TO PAGE TWO TO LISTEN TO THE HELPFUL EPISODE.
Set aside your embarrassment and your feelings of failure for a moment and know that every kid on earth has moments of catastrophic meltdown.
Now let’s peel your child up off the floor and solve this problem. Read more below and listen to a companion podcast episode above.
The difference between a tantrum and a meltdown
First, there are important distinctions between tantrums and meltdowns. Tantrums are typically your child wanting and needing something and trying to get their way. They in control. Meltdowns are an emotional loss of control.
Watch Dayna’s video to see the end of a tantrum.
The difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. This right here friends, is a tantrum. She is controlled. She knows what she wants. She knows what she needs. With a little bit of validation and help, she is able to come out of it quickly and return to her happy self. Tantrums are part of the learning process. They should be nurtured and used to help children learn their needs and wants and how to communicate those things. Fyi. .. no princesses were harmed or shamed in the making of this video. #positiveparenting #tantrumvsmeltdown #toddlers
How to Handle a Tantrum or Meltdown in Public
Speak in a Calm Voice
I have even been known to whisper during tantrums and meltdowns in order to lower the energy of the room and to not escalate the situation. While that’s not always something I can do emotionally on my part, when I can it’s very effective.
Remove your Emotion
You can’t take back the words you say. So again, if you can regulate your emotions and not match the energy your child is bringing to the table, especially in public, this will prove to be a better outcome for all.
Read all about ending overpraise in children.
Write down the things that bring you back to center.
Obviously not when you’re in the middle of handling one, but when you’re calm cool and collected, go ahead and write down the things that help re-orient you. Since you can’t control anyone but yourself, work on yourself first.
Have a Plan.
In public, know your options. So if your kid starts melting down in public you know the drill. Leave the cart where it is, grab the kids, double check for keys, head for the car. Or maybe it’s different for you. Just make sure it’s routine so you’re not scrambling and feeling even more helpless in the situation.
This is my go-to when the meltdowns come rolling in. It’s my number one way to keep my cool when a tantrum starts too. And it has helped my daughter not spiral out of control many times.
What you need to know about your child who is melting down
Kids having a meltdown are looking for a “brick wall”.
They may not want to hit it, but they’re spiraling out of control to the point that they need something to stop their emotions.
Keep them safe.
And your other kids if you have them. And yourself. Remember that safety is more than just physically too. In public, if you leave a store with a screaming child, don’t just speed off. If they’re melting down near stairs or glass, move them. Hold them tight and love on them.
Repeat what they need to hear.
Not only will repeating something like “I’m holding you because I love you and I want to keep you safe” be something that is great for them, it is something to remind yourself in the situation.
You’re not a bad parent. Forget what others might think of you.
In public, you feel like everyone has eyes on you. And that everyone is judging you. But the reality is regardless of what anyone thinks, every parent has been there.
Kids typically aren’t receiving information during a meltdown.
They’re beyond reason. So stop trying to rationalize with them and simply work to keep them safe.
Evaluate why they’re Melting Down & try to Prevent it.
Hangry? Over-tired? Need Heavy Work? Something else?
Learn to see the triggers happening before the meltdown follows. You’ll be more prepared as a parent to start implementing your exit strategy before you’re frazzled from the escalating emotions.
Don’t forget to listen to Dayna & I talk about this, she has so many great ideas!
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!