How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

We’ve all been there… the dreaded grocery store meltdown (as random people flash dirty looks). So, how do you handle your child melting down in public? 

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

How Do You Handle You Child Melting Down in Public?

I remember the first major meltdown. We were stuck in a long line, and my daughter was not having the shopping cart or its belt any longer. She squealed, and wailed, throwing her little body around in ways that would impress even the most talented of contortionists. 

I tried comforting her, singing, and dancing. The harder I tried, the louder she got in an insane battle of the banjos. Then I made the ginormous mistake of taking her out of the cart. I had thought I could carry her and the change of view would help. Nope. She tried to get onto the conveyor belt along with the groceries. And then the woman behind me “tsked” as if I wasn’t already in a cold sweat, horribly aware that my terrible parenting was on display for all to see.

Needless to say, I did not handle my child’s meltdown very well. But, that’s okay! It was only the first one, and I learned from it. The best thing about parenting is that there is always room for learning and improvement. After that bad meltdown, I learned what I could, and talked to some of the other moms in my life. I also tried to tune into my kid and see it from her side.

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

Tips for Preventing Children’s Meltdowns in Public

  • Pack distractions like books, small toys, and snacks: I had left the diaper bag in the car that day which basically set me up for failure. 
  • Have those distractions in place when you get to the checkout line. The checkout line, with all of its yummy candy and magazines is enough of a temptation for an adult, let alone for kids! When my daughter was younger, I would try to prep my money and coupons before I even arrived at the checkout line so that I could focus on distracting her with a yummy treat or one of her toys. Now that my daughter is older, we discuss ahead of time whether or not we have it in the budget for a small treat in line, so she knows what to expect. She also loves helping to put items from the cart onto the conveyor belt, so her distraction has become a helpful activity!

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

  • Make sure that no one goes to the store hungry. I always make sure we at least have a quick snack before grocery shopping, or running any errands. When my daughter was younger it was more to keep her from having a hangry fest, but I also find we put more unintended items in the cart when we shop hungry!
  • Try to work around naptimes and stay on your little one’s schedule as much as you can. That first major meltdown coincided with a missed naptime due to a pediatrician appointment. I quickly learned to keep naptime sacred!

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

Tips For Handling a Child’s Meltdown in Public

Those preventative measures aren’t going to mean there will never be a meltdown. It kind of goes with the territory, no matter how well-rested, fed, happy, or well-behaved your kiddo is. Here are some ideas that have worked for me in the middle of a meltdown.

  • Get down to the child’s level and really try to see it from their side. Like, seriously crouch down, get eye level with the child, and try and understand where they are coming from. Maybe it’s drafty in the spot you’re in, or the well-intentioned older lady who is making faces to earn laughs is terrifying from the child’s angle. Maybe the tag on their shirt is really freaking itchy, and they aren’t just being extra about it. 
  • While you’re eye level, talk, but also listen. Kids are working on developing their emotional side as well as trying to process things, and convey it all. That’s hard, especially under duress. They want to tell us how they feel and it’s frustrating when they can’t. Have them take a deep breath (step out of line if you have to), and hear them out.

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

  • Remove them from the area if over-stimulated. Leave your cart, step outside, or move to a quieter section of the store and allow them to calm down. 
  • Don’t allow yourself to see the Negative Nancys. It used to really bother me when people would harrrrumph, tsk, sigh, roll their eyes, etc. if my child had a meltdown. But you know what? My child and your child are not the only kids to put on such a show, and they won’t be the last. Instead, take that energy and try to be the lady who winks in solidarity at another mama in the same boat. 

The Secret Weapon to Stop Your a Child’s Meltdown

  • When all else fails, whisper. I STILL use this, and my daughter is 11. From extremely observant baby to curious toddler and kid, my daughter has always needed to know what’s going on. So, whispering has worked like a charm in the midst of a tantrum. Get close enough to their little ear (I would usually cuddle or hug her if I could) and just whisper. It could be anything–grocery list, “I love you”, your list of things to do for the rest of the day. She would quiet down. Every. Single. Time. It was almost comical. I promise, whispering is intriguing, scarier, and more effective than yelling at a child. 

How Do You Handle Your Child Melting Down in Public?

  • Keep your calm, and remind them they are safe and loved. It’s hard in the middle of a meltdown, but when their big emotions are all over the place they need your calm. They need to feel safe and loved, no matter what. 
  • Be consistent with rules and punishment. Don’t give in and accept bad behavior (but base expectation and punishment on age level).
  • Check out the Playing Motherhood Free Online Event for awesome parenting advice from 14+ experts! 

Playing Motherhood Free Online Summit For Moms: Speaker Dayna Abraham

If you want to hear more awesome parenting advice regarding children’s behavior, register now for the Playing Motherhood online summit for moms! Dayna Abraham from Lemon Lime Adventures will share all of her best behavioral tips for raising children.

Playing Motherhood: Free Online Summit for Moms!

Dayna Abraham
Lemon Lime Adventures
In Trouble: Physical Game Plan to Change Kids’ Behavior
Dayna Abraham, author of the best-selling book The Superkids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day and founder of the popular blog, Lemon Lime Adventures, helps parents and education professionals unlock the unique super powers in children so they can live a more peaceful life filled with clarity, connection and empowerment by providing them with a proven plan designed to Calm the Chaos™ of everyday life.
When she’s not writing, you can find her drinking lots of coffee and being the best sidekick possible for her own three Superkids. Check out her other books, Sensory Processing 101 and STEAM Kid

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