Coping with kids' public tantrums

Coping with kids' public tantrums
Ms Nah Li Chuan (left, with husband David Boh and their two-year-old daughter Megan) on her tactic of taking her daughter’s favourite toys on their shopping trips

A trip to a toy store turned into a frantic search exercise for Ms Yasmin Lazaroo, when her six- year-old son ran off and disappeared among the aisles.

She found Ethan 15 minutes later and hauled him home immediately.

Ms Lazaroo, 31, a senior marketing and branding executive, says: "He ran off and did not listen to my instructions to stay close, so I told him that we were leaving without a toy. He will learn not to do it next time."

Ethan has not repeated the episode.

Parents such as Ms Lazaroo say staying firm and calm when their children misbehave in public is the way to go, rather than losing their cool and screaming.

Family counsellors urge similar restraint, to avoid publicly embarrassing the child. They advise parents to develop a plan on managing public tantrums before taking their child out.

Often, tantrums or waterworks ensue when a parent does not agree to buy or do something the child has set his heart on.

Tutor Nah Li Chuan, 29, says she takes a bag of her two-year-old daughter Megan's favourite toys on shopping trips to occupy the girl with, preventing her from becoming fixated on something in stores and clamouring to buy it.

Ms Nah says: "It is a good distraction tactic and reminds her that she already has many toys at home."

Having a "reward system" may also help, says housewife Tania Heng, 33.

Her seven-year-old daughter, Faith, sometimes cries and refuses to budge when she wants a toy, so Ms Heng tells the girl she will get it if she practises playing her violin or does well in a test.

Communications executive Angeline Ng tries to reason with her three-year-old daughter Cherice when she insists on buying an item that her friends own.

Ms Ng, 31, reminds her daughter of the toys she has at home to get her to appreciate her lot. She also explains to the girl that she does not have to own toys that her friends have.

This usually does the trick. But the bigger challenge is to keep tempers in check when Cherice wants to visit her favourite place - the playground.

Ms Ng says: "She usually repeats many times that she wants to go there, then cries out loud. At the height of the tantrum, she stays rooted to the spot and flaps her arms."

She would carry her daughter to a quiet corner and talk to her about how not all excursions lead to the playground. She adds: "Tantrums are very normal for children, but the challenge is for us parents to keep our cool."

Moving a child who is in the throes of a tantrum away from the "drama area" diffuses tension, says Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

She says: "When you move the child away, it lessens the stress of people looking at you and for your child, who is anxious about what is going to happen next."

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