skip to Main Content

What To Do When Your Toddler Melts Down In Public

I am sure you’ve never been out in public with young children and been embarrassed by their behavior. Never, not you. Not your kids. But just in case you ever have a friend (wink wink) that finds themselves in this situation, I have a tip you could pass along. I learned it when I first had a one and two year old, and I’m re-using it over a decade later with child #5 and child #6 (who are one and two years old). 

The Dreaded Public Meltdowns

First, I’ll paint the scene for you. You are in a store, and toddler #1 wants something. You say the dreaded word, “No,” and the screaming starts (from the toddler, not you). In the meantime, you tell toddler #2 to come here, and he wants nothing to do with your desires. You then decide to leave the store, but before you even walk out the door, toddler #2 is melting down and toddler #1 won’t hold your hand as asked. 

Just picturing this scene can give a headache. 

Now surely there are multiple ways you (or “your friend”) could tackle these unfortunate circumstances. Certainly there’s wisdom in strategic timing— for example not dragging overly tired and hungry toddlers to the grocery store is probably a good idea. Knowing your kids and what would help them be successful during a public outing is surely relevant. Knowing when to stand your ground is key, and knowing when to just be done and go home is important. But the tip I’m about to pass on is less about what you do while in public, and more about what these difficult outings should motivate you to do when you are not in public. 

Practice Practice Practice

It’s not rocket science, but here’s the wisdom I was given: Practice at home. A lot. 

Here’s the rationale: surely you can’t correct, train, and discipline your child in public the way you want to (loving correction is not always interpreted as loving to the onlooker if it involves any kind of discipline). But you are not usually in public, so practice at home! And I mean really practice. Go out of your way to create opportunities to train your child in whatever way he/she needs training. 

For example:

If your child struggles to come to you when asked, make a point to ask him to “Come here” 5 times everyday, and deal with any disobedience with firm (loving) correction (if you are not sure what biblical correction looks like, I wrote about it here). 

Or if your child can’t handle hearing the word, “No” — find one time everyday where you tell them  “No,” and deal with their outbursts at home, calmly and clearly. 

Or If your child needs to obey basic instructions like “Don’t touch,” or “Put it back,” or “Don’t tackle your sister” — find times to give these basic directions, several times, every single day, until they really get it.

 In other words, start toddler boot camp!

Why Boot Camp?

Of course the goal of this intentionality is not to merely have pleasant public outings. Rather, we want to train these little hearts to obey and respond appropriately to authority. We want them to learn how to “Obey your parents in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). So a public outing gone awry is simply a reminder that we have more work to do. 

No doubt, even after practicing, kids will still melt down and disobey at all the wrong times. Such is life with sinful little human beings (surely we adults have our own poorly-timed meltdowns). We should take it serious when this happens, but we should quickly turn all that discouragement (and embarrassment) into the encouragement we need to get training. It’s not too late, your kids are not far gone — they are young, and now is the time to train them in obedience, and self-control, and kindness, and all the others aspects of life that we have a duty to teach our children. 

All that to say, make sure to tell your “friend” about this tip…tell her a toddler melt down simply means it’s time for mom to buckle down, and start boot camp!

Back To Top