Although tantrums are a normal part of child development they often dial up the anxiety in parents, especially in public situations. Most parents of young children would probably agree that going shopping without bringing kids along is a smoother and more productive experience.
When the electronic double doors of Target open you can hear the music inside you and feel the freedom. You can wander aimlessly without the complaints, screams, fighting and grabbing arms! Don’t get me wrong-some children behave wonderfully in stores and if yours do too consider yourself lucky!
Like many parents, I too have experienced my share of “retail meltdowns”—the ones where others stare, judge and feel glad they are not you! Maybe you have been there, trying to figure out how to successfully exit a store with a screaming child? It happens, it takes young children a while to learn how to handle feelings of sadness and frustration. Although experiencing fiery temper tantrums comes with parenting, you can reduce your anxiety in public settings by keeping these things in mind.
Tips for Handling “Retail Meltdowns”
Stick To It: When your child has a tantrum in public it’s very easy to give in to whatever it is they want. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Vasco Lopes, even if it works five out of ten times that they tantrum, that intermittent reinforcement makes it a very solid learned behavior. So they’re are going to continue that behavior in order to get what they want.” If this is your method be careful because this quick fix may not be beneficial in the long run.
Keep Your Cool: Easier said than done right? But know that adding your emotions to an already stressful experience will not help. Take a deep breath, speak in a soft tone and handle the situation. Whether your goal is to exit the store or continue shopping it's always important to model good behavior. After all, children need to learn how to handle their emotions. Remember that the only behavior you can control is your own.
Ignore the Attention: It’s inevitable that a child having a tantrum often will draw a crowd of onlookers! Every now and then you will get the “I’ve been there” nod or you may get the person who gives you a dirty look (forget them). Nobody is perfect and your child having a tantrum does NOT make you a bad parent. Worrying about how others will perceive the situation is unproductive, try to be positive and focus on helping your child.
Come Up with a Plan: Try to figure out what triggers your child and come up with a plan to better handle the situation in the future. Sometimes it can be as simple as avoiding certain aisles or bringing a toy along to play with in the cart. Coming up with a plan can be helpful sometimes but keep in mind that life does not always go according to plan.
It is unrealistic for parents to avoid taking their children to places that might trigger a temper tantrum. Letting your children tag along will help them gain social skills and learn appropriate behaviors. It’s important for parents to know the tools for dealing with any challenges their young children put forth when passing those electronic double doors at the store! You can always find a Wake Forest Counselor for yourself or a Wake Forest play therapy program to help your child -- either way learn those tools!