Public tantrums are especially tough because, well, they are so public. They make us feel like we are under a magnifying glass and everyone is staring at our flaws. What is more, many toddlers turn up the shrieking if we seem embarrassed or unsure how to respond.

Avoiding aisle-three meltdowns is a lot easier if you plan ahead. Keep your trips short, organised, and timed to when your child will not be tired or hungry. (Meandering aimlessly through a mall is sensory overload for a little Stone Age brain.) Also, make waits easier by bringing along little snacks or treats (like stickers, drawing materials, or 'tagalong' toys that your child gets only when you are out on errands). If, however, these best of intentions do not work out as planned, you can stop tantrums fast—the Happiest Toddler way.

Here is a great example of how one mother used connecting with respect using the Fast-Food Rule (FFR) and Toddler-ese to short-circuit her child’s tantrum:

Sandy brought Corey, 22 months, to the toy store while his sister, Chrissy, shopped for a present. It was their third stop that morning. Sandy sat Corey before a display of toy trains, keeping a close watch while she helped Chrissy.

When it was time to go, Corey refused. Sandy made a weak stab at using the FFR. 'I know you don’t want to go, sugar, but we’re late and I don’t have time for this right now.'

Then Sandy went to pick Corey up and he erupted in tears. The clerk frowned, Chrissy moaned, and Sandy checked her watch. Corey should have had lunch and a nap an hour earlier.

Ignoring the stares of the other shoppers, Sandy realised she needed to do a better job of connecting with respect. Kneeling next to him, she exclaimed, 'You say, "No! No, no, nooooo!" You say, "No go home! No! Corey likes trains!" Corey says, "No go home!"' 

Corey’s crying weakened a bit and he stopped flailing, so Sandy continued. She stomped her foot, shook her head, and waved her arms to echo some of her son’s intensity. 'You say, "No! No, no, no! Nooooo!" You say, "NO go home! Corey not ready!"' Magically, Corey stopped crying. 

Then Sandy dropped her voice to a whisper. 'Hey! Psssst! Hey! Let’s play train. We’ll be the train…choo! Choo-choo! Let’s choo-choo all the way to the car.'

Chrissy was so embarrassed that she pretended she did not know her chug-a-chugging mother and brother, but Corey was thrilled to make train noises and held on to his mum’s hips all the way out the door. 

While public tantrums are awkward affairs, with some planning and practice you can keep the public meltdowns to a minimum…and the private ones, too!

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.