When the troublemaker in your toddler starts misbehaving in public, you can only hope to be fully armed and prepared. The hard part is you are trying to do this in a way that helps your young toddler cope with their emotions, and all with an audience–an audience that we often fear is judging us.
If we give in, we are spoiling them. If we are authoritative, we are mean. Right?
I have a strong-willed child. She is stubborn, independent, and has a strong personality–all the things that I love and struggle with at the same time. Taking her out in public can sometimes be a challenge. We recently went on an airplane trip to Arizona to visit family, just her and I. She is 22 months of sass and fervor. Our first meltdown was right as we were heading into security. TSA was waiting for our ticket and ID, and she wanted to push the now empty stroller herself… in the opposite direction. As I corralled her in with one hand and tried scanning our boarding pass from my phone with the other, she took this time to show how frustrating this situation was for her.
We have to remember toddlers are new to their emotions. They are just trying to figure out the limits of what they are feeling.
It may seem impossible to keep them in control out in public, but remember they don’t yet know how they are acting is effecting the people around them. Instead of threatening your toddler with consequences when they don’t behave, try to coach them on what behavior is appropriate, and encourage them to strive to be the person that behaves this way.
5 Strategies for Successful Outings with Toddlers
1. Never take a hangry toddler anywhere.
Don’t take a hungry toddler out in public. Come prepared with snacks, even if it is before going out to eat.
2. Help your child to be prepared.
Talk about where you are going, what you are doing, and what your expectations for them are. Letting your toddler know you are going shopping or you are going to visit someone prepares them for what is to come.
3. Don’t ignore the signs.
Sometimes you can see the early signs of a meltdown before the grand finale. If your toddler is starting to get restless, looks like they need a nap, or appears to be getting bored with their surroundings, don’t ignore the signs. Have a getaway plan set in place!
4. Don’t participate in the outburst.
If you are returning the feelings of anger and frustration towards your toddler, they are just assuming that this is exactly how they are supposed to respond in these situations. Keeping calm and stern with your child that the behavior is unacceptable helps guide them to respond in a more positive manner moving forward.
5. Find a Private Place.
Meltdowns will occur. When it happens, don’t be afraid to find a private place to move you and your toddler to and take a moment to calm down and regroup.
Toddlers are just trying to figure out these big emotions inside these tiny bodies. They need us as parents to help guide them through the process. It may feel like all eyes are on you as your toddler publicly displays their emotions, but try to ignore the audience and focus on your task. Your goal is to guide your child towards the behavior that you want to see them grow to emulate.
Good luck out there!