What do you do when your child throws an embarrassing fit in public?

Brandis - posted on 03/29/2011 ( 25 moms have responded )

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I have a 3 year old son and every week on Wednesday mornings he has a school skills class that he goes to to prepare him for school and gets him involved with other kids. Last week when we picked him up from the class, he had a number stamp that he didn't want to let go of, so I figured I could distract him with one of his toy cars while putting his shoes and jacket on. Well he put it in his pocket and when my husband stuck his hand in his pocket, my son threw himself on the floor and screamed really loud at my hubby (extremely embarrassing). I didn't know what to do since there were kids and other adults in the room. I wanted to spank the crap out of his little butt but I didn't think that was appropriate in front of other children especially if they don't get spankings. All I could think to do was yank him up and yank the items he wanted away and took him outside. It makes me very uncomfortable when he does stuff like this in public...



I mean i just don't know how to handle things like that publicly. Now, if we were at home his butt woulda been smacked, and he'd be in the corner for 5 mins.....

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Laural - posted on 04/03/2011

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We stand in line at the post office and observe tons of misbehaving children. We talk about it on the way home. "What kind of misbehavior did you see at the post office today? How did that child look, acting like that? Would you ever throw yourself on the floor and scream like that? Did you see how foolish that little boy/girl looked doing that? Do you think that child's mommy enjoys taking that child places?" The result? VERY well behaved children of my own out in public.

Katherine - posted on 03/30/2011

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I have a 2yo and I take snacks with me. Honestly spanking way after the fact isn't effective because they will have no idea why you are doing it. They are too young to understand.
Now yours is three, I wouls just not say a word, pick him up and take his butt to the car. I would SERIOUSLY ignore the behavior. When he acts appropriately reward him, when he acts inappropriately ignore it. Trust me I have a concentration in behavior modification and spankings don't help. I have been there with my 5yo, and I have wanted to just spank the crap out of her in public, but I just drag her out and put her in her car seat and we leave. Now I can reason with her. She has a sticker chart, maybe that will help for you? He is 3 he may understand that, just make it really simple. If he doesn't tantrum 3 days in a row he gets to watch his favorite movie or something. Trust me it works :)

Lori - posted on 03/30/2011

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It seems that you have a lack of consistancy that will end up confusing your child. You need to ask yourself if you're treating him appropriately at home too. If you're doing things at home that you're afraid or embarrassed to do in public, then you probably shouldn't be doing it anywhere. With that being said, you clearly ARE doing things differently at home than you are out in public, so your son will begin to figure out that he can get away with more in public & he'll start to push his boundaries. Kids are a lot smarter than people tend to give them credit for... They find a way to get what they want if they sense that you're afraid to punish them, so make your punishments consistant.

A lot of people have spoken about being embarrassed... IMO, the only reason to be embarrassed by your child's actions in public is if you do not properly and immediately respond to those actions. It is true that even the best kid can have a bad day, but if you handle it swiftly, all people will think when they look at you is, "Oh, what a good mommy. She really knows how to handle her kid!" Despite the consensus that people look at you with sympathy & think, "Oh, that poor mom." I have to disagree. When I see a child acting out, I think one of two things, depending on how the situation is being handled. Either, "That poor kid, what bad parents." or, "Thank goodness for another good parent in the world, maybe there's hope for this planet yet."

Amber - posted on 03/29/2011

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Doesn't matter where we are, which store we are in or who is around, if my 3 year old does something that she knows to be wrong I just tell her in my mom voice,"I can always find a timeout spot here too". Usually this stops the unwanted behaviour but on the few times it didn't, I found the nearest wall and put her against it for however many minutes I decided(usually 2). I don't want to teach my child that discipline only happens when no one else is around, wow, I would have a free roaming child on my hands if that were the case! :)

Megan - posted on 04/06/2011

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You did fine with what you did. Because there's only so much you can do in public. My son had a major meltdown at the doctors office in the waiting room and was beyond out of control. He was running around, biting, hitting, kicking, screaming, and punching. Pretty much you name it he was doing it. And he's 4. Normally we just have to deal with little meltdowns every once in awhile but that day for whatever reason he was just horrible. I had to physically restrain him while trying to take care of my 20 month old at the same time. Had he done that at home he would have gotten spanked and put in time out with the possibility of having his toys taken away. It got so bad that I had to call his father who works 3rd shift to come and help me because he just kept getting more out of control and I was running out of options with everyone staring at me like I was the worlds worst mother for not being able to control him. His dad showed up, I took him into the bathroom and spanked him and he actually had the nerve to keep saying "ha ha that doesn't hurt". Then he wouldn't leave the bathroom, so I just left him and walked back to my seat because he just kept infuriating me more and I was out of ideas. Honestly I miss the good old days where a kid could get spanked in public and the parents not be judged or have children's services called on them for a light spanking. And by 3 most kids have figured out that they can do whatever they want in public with no consequences because we literally can't do anything, it's always a lose-lose situation when they act up in public. You ignore the behavior you're a bad parent for not controlling your child, if you spank them or do whatever else to stop it you're a bad parent for "hurting" your child. It's crazy. I understand the need for protecting children if they are being beaten, but seriously I think a little swat for discipline is fine. Heck I've carried my son out of many places before because of the tantrums, including preschool and the store. He gets put in his seat in the van and we wait on his dad to finish the shopping with his little brother. And I just ignore the screams because there's really nothing else you can do. Don't worry you are a good mother and I'm pretty sure everyone's been there with a child acting out in public at one time or another. Sorry for the novel but I wanted to let you know you are not alone. Do what you gotta do and don't feel bad about it.

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Lisa - posted on 04/06/2011

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When one of my kids misbehaves in public, we remove him. Even if that means I have to pick him up and carry him kicking and screaming and walk through the entire store with everyone staring at me. No one is staring because they feel you are a bad parent. They typically are staring because they rarely see a parent with enough balls to remove a difficult child from the store! :)
And I have made my middle child stand in the corner at church. Why, because standing in the corner is the only thing that makes me stop his behavior so we can have a conversation about it. No one has ever even given me a look about it!

Summer - posted on 04/06/2011

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I am not against spanking, but I reserve it for REALLY serious offenses such as violent actions (hitting, biting, kicking) or willful acts of disobedience where safety is concerned (playing with the stove, electrical outlet, scissors, etc). I think the punishment needs to fit the crime and the truth is that 3 year olds do not have the ability to control their emotions yet. The pre-frontal part of the brain doesn't understand the concept of "future pay-off" yet. In other words he lacks the cognitive ability to really grasp that the toy isn't his and will still be there a week in the future to play with again. All he is experiencing in the moment is loss. And like all humans he is feeling some grief about that. You do it too, when someone steals your parking space or eats the last cookie or hangs up on you. It is actually healthy and normal for him to react to loss, it is up to you to teach him HOW to react. Mainly he needs to be heard and listened to, to have his feelings repeated back to him, and then to explain to him the correct action. "Honey, I know you really like that toy, and you are sad that we can't take it home with us, but it isn't ours and so it needs to stay here with the other toys. You will see it next week. Let's go put it in the box with the others and say good-bye to it." I find that telling the things that we don't want to leave "good-bye" is super helpful. I also have an almost 3 year old so I am definitely in the thick of it too. But I am constantly surprised by how reasonable my 2 year old is when I am reasonable to him. Mainly, kids are going to have emotions, we have to teach them how to handle and express them. My son will say to me, "Mommy, I sad, choo-choo broke." Listening and talking definately pay-off!!!!

I don't mean to sound rude but really what you did was throw a temper tantrum back. If you can't control your own emotions, how can you expect him to? If you are jerking him around and yelling at him, you aren't teaching him to not yell when he is upset or to not throw himself around. I have done alot of research on child behavior and I really like Patty Wipfler's website. She is the best I have found. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/
Hope you have a better luck next time....(-=

Elizabeth - posted on 04/03/2011

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Never show them you are embarassed. In fact, I ignore them completely and sometimes throw in a comment like ..."scream louder if you like..but you aren't getting what you want like this" and we continue doing what we were there for. Or sometimes I have commented on how well behaved a child in another cart is and my girls just stop completely.

I always make sure that when they are well behaved I tell them how proud I am and how happy they make me when they are good. If there is a child misbehaving I point it out to them and say "look at that..he/she is not behaving at all! that is terrible" ..sometimes they point it out to me..and I know they know it is unacceptable behaviour.

Laural - posted on 04/03/2011

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When I had to get something out of my three-year old's hands, I'd say, "Let me hold that for you and keep it safe while we walk to the car or until we get home" so that the child would understand that the thing was not being "taken away" but just being put away for safekeeping. It worked really well. I really didn't have a problem with my twins misbehaving in public. I explained to them that they were to behave in public and always made sure they were well fed and not tired before we headed out anywhere. If I saw them getting close to their limit, then it was time to go home. They don't go to pre-school because I teach them at home. That has worked great for us.

Laural - posted on 04/03/2011

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When I had to get something out of my three-year old's hands, I'd say, "Let me hold that for you and keep it safe while we walk to the car or until we get home" so that the child would understand that the thing was not being "taken away" but just being put away for safekeeping. It worked really well. I really didn't have a problem with my twins misbehaving in public. I explained to them that they were to behave in public and always made sure they were well fed and not tired before we headed out anywhere. If I saw them getting close to their limit, then it was time to go home. They don't go to pre-school because I teach them at home. That has worked great for us.

Kristina - posted on 04/01/2011

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Remember when our parents threatened us with "You better stop or we are going to the bathroom"! My son is 2 and he throws a fit and I tell him to stop so when he doesnt I take him by the hand and start heading to the bathroom. When we get in the bathroom I go to the nice big handicap stall and spank his butt. After that I look him in the eye and I tell him you dont do that! You dont throw fits in public places like that. I think with the spanking and the harsh talking to he gets it because he says ok and hugs me and we walk out and dont have a problem again. Dont be ashamed to spank your son he is YOUR SON!! I hate it when other mothers tell me that its horrible that I spank my son. You know what I have to say to that? Look at all these problem children we have who run all over their parents and their teachers. Kids need to have disapline! He will learn to respect you a lot faster.

Brandis - posted on 04/01/2011

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when i took him out to the car and sat him on the trunk and talked to him he really calmed down. all i was trying to do was get him out of there and take the stamp away when we were outside and away from everyone but my hubby being the way he is tried to snatch it away which made things worse and my son threw his fists down and flopped on the floor screaming no with a mean expression and thats where it just went down hill from there....my hubby cant stand when my son gives mean looks and neither do i but we react differently when it happens, my hubby thinks he will listen if he's being yelled at....yet i do yell but not in every situation...i try to talk to him calmly with pleasing expressions on my face to try and get him to be happy...my hubby works so much and usually im the one doing all the disciplining that when my hubby tries to discipline it makes things worse....

however this past wednesday when we picked him up from class we brought his favorite toy (his alfie robot his grandpa bought him) once he saw it , he dropped everything he had and couldnt wait to leave..he's only been in the class for about a month so he's still learning with the ways of it...

Karen - posted on 03/31/2011

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I wonder if the whole situation could have been avoided with the stamp being dealt with differently. How do you think your son would respond if you explained about the stamp belonging here. Maybe you could ask him where he would like to put the stamp down - "pick a special place to put the stamp". Give him a couple of minutes to get used to the idea and then help him to find a spot if he can't do it on it's own. Make it a game - "what's the best place we can find???"
If there was still a meltdown I'd empathize with what he's feeling and try to reflect it back to him, "Are you feeling really upset because you can't take the stamp with you. You seem sooooo mad." etc. If that still doesn't calm him down I'd just cuddle him in my arms and take him out to the car and wait for the storm to pass.

Amy - posted on 03/30/2011

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I have thrown my son over my shoulder and walked out of Walmart empty handed (him sreaming all the way to the car). It IS embarrasing. And you have to try not to be ANGRY. Just snatch him up and go. The audience is removed and there is no one to watch the performance. Then you can discipline him as you see fit at home but hopefully he will get the message that fits won't get him what he wants. The adults that saw the show will have to appreciate that you are doing the best you can at the time. I would rather see a parent DO something, than let the kid scream!

Kelly - posted on 03/30/2011

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I agree with several of the others, that you have to be consistent and discipline the same way at home as you do anywhere else. It is considerate of you not to upset the other kids by spanking in front of them, but if you believe in spanking then I would take him to the car immediately and spank him. However, I do think there are better ways to handle it, like calmly taking the toy from him and picking him up and walking out, then discussing the situation as soon as you get to the car (don't give him time to forget about what happened). I work with 2-3 year olds, and trust me, they are perfectly capable of understanding the rules of a classroom after having them explained a couple of times. So just keep letting him know that this is not acceptable, either keeping the toy or throwing the fit. And don't be embarrassed, as others said, we have all been through it.

Bonnie - posted on 03/30/2011

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When out in public people are going to have opinions or make comments whether you do good or bad. Just ignore them and do what you have to do.

Summer - posted on 03/30/2011

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unfortunately you have to be Consistant, what you do at home is what you doin public, and to hell with what others think, hes your son and you are rasing him to be a GOOD adult not a thief or a brat like the others in the generations these days

Medic - posted on 03/29/2011

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My kids get time out anywhere, I don't care what other people think. I have also been known to tell them that people can see how they are acting and if that is what they want people to know of them. More often than not that stops it. I also NEVER get my kids anything at the store that was not agreed upon before even leaving the house, and usually they don't get anything because if I got them something every time we went to the store I would have too much junk and they don't eat candy. If I can feel its going to be a tough trip I just give the older one jobs...like finding things in the store or helping load the basket or amusing his sister. At home he is more than welcome to scream and cry as long as no one else has to listen to it, so he goes to his room or the garage and gets it all out and is ready to talk when he rejoins the family. He has even asked for a few min in the car to get his little fit out. Kids get stressed out too and if it helps calm him then by all means scream away.

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He's old enough that you could talk to him about it. I would talk to him next time you're on the way to class. Make sure he knows that those toys stay there so that he can enjoy them with his friends next time he goes. I really like the book, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp. I'm now a "book" type of parent, but there's a lot of good ideas for curbing tantrums in children.

Erin - posted on 03/29/2011

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It sounds like you might not know how to handle these situations at home either. There isn't anything I do to my child at home that I wouldn't do in public. I find that quietly saying that the stamp has to stay here and you'll see it next week works. I tell my son that I'm sorry he's upset and I understand that he wants ______ but he can't have it. If you continue to calmly hold your ground you won't have as many tantrums. I've also realized that tantrums happen no matter how well behaved your child is and that everyone who has a child has been thru it...so, don't be embarrassed ever. At first I always redirected but there comes a point where that isn't really an answer...it's like bribery. It may work periodically but it's not a real solution. Good luck...love and understanding (and sometimes ignoring) get better results than spanking.

Brandis - posted on 03/29/2011

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@marci in my pre-kid years when i saw a kid act out in public my initial thought wouold be "ugh what a bad kid".....NOW i understand...my son is usually behaved in public and usually when he does act out its because he's tired or hungry...every grocery trip the fit happens in the car before we go in cause he hates walmart for whatever reason, usually when we pull in he'll say in a whiny voice "i dont wanna walmart mama" then i usually say i dont care get over it. i always remind him that the better he behaves inside walmart the quicker the trip will go, and if he starts whiny for whatever he sees that he likes which is usally a car or candy or straws?!?! i kinda pay him no attention hoping to not fuel the whininess...its just when he's at class that he gets bad cause the place is like a kids paradise and we have none of what they have at home

Brandis - posted on 03/29/2011

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hahaha omg i had a good laugh at the feral animal comment thats too funny

Marci - posted on 03/29/2011

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I've recently had to start dealing with this now that my little angel is 2.5. ;) I seem to go to the grocery store at the wrong time and that's usually when it happens. No matter where you are, if they throw a fit, yes it will make every one look. But remember they are looking at him and thinking, "that poor mom." I know it's hard to not be embarrassed when you kid is acting like a feral animal in a public place, but chances are that if he notices this he will store it in his little intelligent brain for ammo later. I also have to restrain my self from duck taping my kids mouth and to the cart in public, but just remember, if he gets special treatment when he's not at home, outings can end up being disastrous. No, you probably shouldn't spank in front of other (unfortunately) ;) but still tell him how it is and give him a time out, or threaten him a time out/spanking immediately on returning to home or privacy. Others don't have to hear, just as long as he does and he knows you mean it. Then do it, or it will have no effect ever again. So far this has worked with my daughter. Yes, she is still a 2.5 year old monster, ... but she's 2.5!! What can you do .... except love them and laugh about it later!! =)

Brandis - posted on 03/29/2011

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i mean once we got outside i sat him down on our car and explained what he did was wrong and told him he wouldnt be coming back if he continued to act like that...i think his reaction was so big because it was my husband who took it away first...my son seems to overreact more when my husband does something he doesnt like...

[deleted account]

when you take him to this class next, and its time to go pick him up, take something of his from home that he would be willing to trade for, and say to him that the object he has needs to stay there, and give him the object that you brought from home and see if that works! Spanking, even in the privacy of your own home only encourages bad behavior...I always told my son to use his words, so my advice to you is to use your words, and maybe his response will be a positive one instead of a negative one!

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