Childhood Behaviour

My 5-year-old son throws tantrums and screams loudly in public whenever he doesn't get his way. What can we do?

What the Expert Says

By Cheryl Ng

Director of Paper Scissors Stone Montessori Kindergarten

Children’s Behavior Expert

14 years’ experience in teaching and working with preschool children and parents.

Throwing a tantrum, screaming and crying are ways for children to cope with their feelings and disappointments. Sometimes they feel overwhelmed or simply misunderstood. When we understand that they are just venting their frustrations, we can better handle the situation positively, with patience.

Acknowledge his Feelings

Bring your child away from the situation so you and your child can communicate without him having to worry about other people watching him. Give your child a hug, let your child calm down and listen to him before speaking to him at his eye level in a calm and firm manner. Your tone indirectly communicates the boundaries you are setting while showing him that you understood how he felt. He will be more willing to listen if you acknowledge his feelings before setting clear expectations.

Set the Tone, Mean What You Say

For example, if your child refuses to leave the indoor playground when it’s time to go, you may speak to him calmly and firmly in this manner, with eye contact, “I understand that you want to continue to play here.. But we need to go for dinner now. We can come again another day.” Your child may continue to make a fuss. You have to mean what you say and leave, to move on to the next activity, assuring him that you will go back to the indoor playground another day. Never give in to your child when he throws a tantrum or screams, hoping to get his way. Be as descriptive as you can and state your expectations clearly and calmly without getting angry and emotionally affecting your child.

Setting expectations clearly prior to entering the indoor playground will also help you set the tone and gain better cooperation from your child, who is mentally prepared to act upon what you have stated prior to the session.

Talk to your spouse and other caregivers and set expectations and boundaries together and speak of them to your child prior to the events. Apply them consistently so your child knows how to react appropriately in various situations and you will more confident about handling your child in public.

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