Tantrums In Public – How Do We Cope With A Mortifying Display?

My three kids and I had a lovely morning this morning, relaxed fun and lots of cuddles. This evening was pretty cool as well; a drama free dinner and contented and quiet train track building on the floor while I nursed babygirl on the sofa. Then a fairly painless bedtime.  Good times.

But the middle of the day horrendous.

We had a busy mid morning planned but with enough activities to keep 2 and 6 year old boys interested enough to prevent any playing up I thought.  A trip to the health visitor to have babygirl weighed and measured (toys for the boys to play with, check).  Walk into town dropping off christmas cards to 2 year olds nursery (exciting to be seeing nursery staff on a non-nursery day, check). Pop into Waitrose for a few groceries (drink and cake at the cafe, check) then a visit to the shop for 6 year to spend his £5 pocket money.

I remember while we were sitting in the cafe and I watched my two boys excitedly eating their cakes and blowing bubbles with the drinking straws, that being a stay at home mum was a really lovely thing.

Then came the visit to the toy shop.

What I expected was that my son would pick a couple of items from the under £5 shelf.  He would take a little while making up his mind but we should be out of there in ten minutes or so.

What transpired was horrible.

He did not want any toys from the under £5 shelves of course.  The planned 10 minutes turned quickly in to twenty with all kids and myself getting more and more frustrated.

In exasperation I told him that we would take a catalogue home and he could choose something from there.  Then we could come back to the store tomorrow to get it.

A full on melt down tantrum followed.  Screaming, crying, begging, shouting; all but throwing himself on the floor.   This lasted for 3/4 of an hour.  All the way from the toy shop, down the high street, passed the park and down our long street.

I was mortified.

There are two positives.  I did not raise my voice to him and I did not smack him.  Not yelling and not smacking – not getting angry – is my daily struggle/fight/battle.  It must be like doing AA.  I made a promise to myself some time ago, for the happiness of my children and the quality of life of our home, that I would not lose my  temper with them.  But kids will test you to the limit.  And I live in constant fear that I will fall off the wagon.

But I’m still emotionally raw from the experience because I know I did not handle it in the way I should have.  Instead of being firm and consistent I hissed in his face, told him to shut up (really upset about that) and pulled out threat after threat to try and get him to behave.

Why?  I know I’m not feeling well, that I’m tired and that I was seriously embarrassed but these are not good enough excuses.  Who is the adult here?  It’s my job to show my child how he should behave.  Teach by example.

He did not have a good example today.

So what should I have done?  I have thought about it all day.  I don’t want to fall of my self imposed wagon again.

Here’s what I think I could have done.

  1. I should not have taken him when time was short and I had all three kids.  Dad would have quite happily taken him tomorrow.
  2. Forward planning.  I could have taken the catalogue home a few days ago, let him choose his toy, and dropped into the store to pick it up.
  3. I could have set his expectations more effectively.  Laying down the ground rules well ahead of time and priming him continually so he was well aware of what was expected of him in the store.
  4. I should have handled it as a mature adult.  Let him scream and cry.  Later at home when he was calm we could have talked about his display.  If I had handled it as I wanted, I could have used my behaviour as an example.

Either way I should have kept my cool.  There is no need to loose my temper.  I don’t want to loose my temper.  And for me to feel good about my parenting and myself I need to keep my temper.

I’m sure there are those that would say I am overreacting and a good clip around the ear and a forced march home would have sorted him out – but that’s not the way I want to parent.

So, tomorrow is another day.  And I will do it better.

How would you have handled the situation?


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.







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