As parents we have all been there quietly sitting in a doctors office or wheeling a toddler through a supermarket in the shopping cart and the inevitable squirming begins. They move their arms, kick their legs, they might tighten their bodies, throw their heads back, and begin to whine. This is the red flag for the tantrum or meltdown that will soon arrive. We have all felt the dread grip us as we know that soon everyone will be staring at us and shaking their heads. The older generations will often even mutter their disapproval because it was different ‘in their day’. What can we do to stop the embarrassing scene from happening? There must be something to stop the toddler meltdown.
Here are five ideas that I have utilized successfully while raising my children.
1) When you head to the supermarket, mall, friends house, or office appointment make sure your child is well rested. Go early in the morning or right after the afternoon nap. A rested toddler is more likely to interact with you instead of squirming as they grow tired and then throwing a fit. Toddlers are more prone to serious meltdowns when they are sleepy.
2) Any time you plan an outing make sure that your child has been fed. A hungry toddler will definitely fuss, squirm, and complain more then a child with a full tummy. They will also want every piece of junk food that they see in the store because they are no different then us. When adults shop on an empty stomach we want to buy foods we really don’t need.
3) If you are going to a doctors appointment or a friends house that does not have other children be sure to pack toys and activities for your toddler. If your toddler has something to do to occupy themselves then they will be less likely to squirm and have a meltdown. You can bring coloring books with crayons or simple games. They also have wonderful toddler and preschool laptops now that amuse my children for long stretches of time. You can brings books that your child will enjoy hearing you quietly read. I even have puppets that I will bring to a doctors appointment to play with my toddlers with. You can buy cute and realistic puppets from various toy stores or a website called Folkmanis which sells hundreds of animals to choose from. Children enjoy puppets as a way to broaden their imaginations. I will give my daughter a furry Folkmanis puppet to wear on her hand at the supermarket and then I will treat the puppet as an addition to the family. We will play games where we tell the puppet things and teach it as we go along.
4) Always pack snacks wherever you go. I place dry cereal in zip lock bags, apple slices, carrots, and even pieces of celery. I also use Tupperware containers that are small for little hands. If we are going to a doctors appointment or a friends I will also bring juice boxes for the little ones to drink. This helps stop squirming and tantrums.
5) The biggest way to avoid squirming is to truly interact with your child. Talk to your child every step of the way and make your toddler a part of the trip. Ask them to help you find items in the supermarket, have them help you place the items on the conveyor belt, help to arrange the bags in the cart, and if you have a baby ask your toddler to even help with the baby by talking to the little one as well. This makes your toddler feel useful and occupied. Ask your little ones to point out various items on the shelves as you go by and to say the names. Make a huge game out of everything. Toddlers adore games, they crave learning, and true interaction with their favorite person which is you and your spouse.
Remember to always be patient with your child. Try to see things from their eyes. If you do this it will give you a fresh outlook on how they feel and how to cope with their rampaging emotions. If your child does start to squirm try to distract them from whatever is upsetting to them. If this fails and a tantrum erupts then remain calm and talk to your toddler. Get down to their level and look them in the eye. Simply let them know that you understand and that its okay that they are upset or frustrated.0
If the situation truly gets out of hand walk them outside for a breath of fresh air. You need to never get mad or yell at your toddler because this will only make the situation worse. Just try to be patient, loving, and understanding because the tantrum will eventually pass and your little one will be back to being a happy child. Toddlers ride an emotional roller coaster so the meltdowns and tantrums truly do not last very long. Remember that being impatient is all just a part of growing up and enjoy the good with the bad.