In children who are not yet verbal, tantrums are commonplace. They send a clear message to adults that the child is unhappy with the current situation. He might want down on the floor, want the m&m’s in the checkout line, not want to give up that magazine he was destroying or just be tired. Almost all children go through a stage of frequent tantrums. The goal is to make tantrums only a temporary stage.
For children under 12 months, distraction often resolves the tantrum. For older toddlers, ignoring works well. After you start to ignore tantrums, you may notice that your child checks to see if you are watching and then revs up the tantrum to get your attention. In other words, “if I’m a little more obnoxious, maybe they will give in.” Shortly after this part of the tantrum, your child may attempt to get your attention by being cute or kind. This is your cue to give some attention while remembering you still need to ignore the tantrum.
Tantrums are a lot of work. If they never result in getting what your child wants, your child will give up and try a different strategy. If they work occasionally, then they are worth the effort. (Think of how many times you checked the change slot of a coke machine after finding a coin once.) You may also find that your child stops tantruming with the adults who ignore the tantrum and continues with the adults who occasionally give in.
Ignoring tantrums in public places can be difficult. In a store, you can take your child to the car until the tantrum is over. The employees will happily hold your grocery cart for a few minutes. The restroom is another way allow your child to finish in a less public area. Regardless, if you give in while in public, your child will realize that tantrums work in public places even if they don’t work at home.