How Moms Manage a Toddler's Temper Tantrum in Public

It's unpleasant, but here's how real moms handle the public tantrum.

Expert advice on how to deal with a toddler tantrum is great, but it's a lot easier to manage discipline when you're in the comfort of your own home. When you're caught off guard at the grocery store with a major meltdown, sometimes leaving isn't an option... especially if you have a list a mile long and family to feed. Here are a few true stories of public toddler tantrums that moms survived with a few tried-and-true strategies as well as some tricks of their own. The biggest lesson? How to diffuse the situation depends on the kid and on not every tantrum is the same. 

Give the Toddler Time to Calm Down

Angry Little Boy in Beach Towel
Annie Otzen/Moment/Getty

"I get down on my daughter's level and speak calmly with her. There was a time at Target when she wouldn't have it. She just sat down and screamed. I just told her that we're leaving. We sat between the two sets of sliding doors at Target for a good 20 minutes. She eventually calmed down, and we went back inside to shop. Lucky for me, the cart with all of my things was still there. The things I learned with early on is to stay calm. You might be seething inside, but put on a calm front with your toddler. And, be patient. It may take 20 minutes or more for the tantrum to pass, but it will pass. If all else fails, don't be afraid to abandon your cart and leave." 

Mom of a 3-year-old daughter

Ignore the Tantrum

"When my daughter was 2, we were in target and she threw a tantrum because she wanted a toy. She was sitting in the cart kicking away and screaming. I still finished the shopping. Best advice is to ignore the stares."

Mom of one daughter

Keep a Snack on Hand

"I read  and kind of follow the recommendations for handling tantrums -- basically stating my toddler's name and saying he was sad/mad over and over for a bit until he can calm down. Giving my son a Kleenex seems to help, which is weird, I know. We do this at home, too, so I think the consistency helps. Also, I try to make sure I have a snack on hand. It usually either helps prevent the tantrum or distract him from it."

Mom of a 2.5-year-old son

"Snacks are important. I don't like to make a habit of snacking the whole time we are shopping, but I try to make sure they aren't hungry before we go. Sometimes when I can tell things are heading south, I just ask if they're hungry. They usually are."

Mom of two toddlers

Pack up and Head Out

"Once in a restaurant, my son went through a stage when going out to eat was impossible. My husband took our toddler outside, while I got all of our food to go, graciously thanked and generously tipped our server, and left." 

Mom of a 3-year-old son

"I had to just throw my daughter over my shoulder kicking and screaming once. When it gets to that point, you just have to stay calm. Sometimes, there really is just nothing you can do to fix it. They need to get it out, and they will calm down eventually." 

Mom of a 2-year-old daughter

Give Your Toddler a Hug

"My 2-year-old son usually just needs a hug. He only loses it when he's really tired, and I've figured out how to avoid most meltdowns. Too many transitions for a tired or hungry kid is no good. We also call our shopping cart a rocket ship, which really helps keep him happy when we're shopping. Instead of walking or getting back in their seats (we get the big cart with big kid seats) after looking at toys, I warn them that the rocket ship is about to leave them stranded on the moon, and they need to get buckled in for takeoff! They forget that they were about to ask for 20 toys and that they don't want to leave the toy section."

Mom of a 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter

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