Photo taken in collaboration with Kerry Cheah

It is common for toddlers to throw tantrums, but it can be quite embarrassing for parents when done in public. How do I keep my kids from throwing tantrums without giving in and handing over a digital device to keep them quiet?

I believe in being prepared and setting the stage right to pre-empt these eruptions before they happen.

Wisetip three point one

Here are 6 simple tips to minimise tantrums in young children.


1) Ensure their basic needs are met

First things first. Have we done our part to keep them happy and comfortable? Have they had their nap? Have they been fed? Are they feeling under the weather?

You can pretty much expect hungry and cranky kids to kick up a big fuss. Keep an eye on the clock and have some snacks on hand if there’s a chance of the schedule running way past their mealtimes.

2) Don’t let your boundaries shift

Kids whine and throw tantrums because they know they will win in the end. If your boundaries are constantly set, there is less room for your child to be confused. The very determined ones might keep up the fight, whether it is to buy a toy or get whatever demands met, but you don't have to give in.

When we are tired or in a rush, it is easier to give in to keep them quiet. However, it doesn’t help in the long run. I have learnt to stick to my guns and am able to say "no" with consistency – sometimes with help from my teens. They can tell when I’m about to be soft and will say, “No, Mum, no. It’s for her (our sister's) own good”.

3) View the day as a whole

If the kids are expected to sit through a long event or ceremony such as weddings, I will get them to expend their energy in the morning by taking them to the park for some cycling or free play.

Or, if we are going to have a hectic day, I will plan it properly so that my youngest, Kate, will have time for a short nap in between. If we have to stay out past her bedtime, I will let her nap slightly later that day.

Stop Tantrums

Photo taken in collaboration with Larry Toh, featuring one of our ParentWise families

4) Bring a "busy bag"

I have a drawer in the living room where I dump miscellaneous stickers and freebies accumulated by the older kids and their grandparents.

When we go out with Kate, I simply grab a few items and throw it in the bag to keep her entertained during times like waiting for food to be served.

Tip: I prefer to put "unwanted" stuff in Kate’s busy bag so I don’t have to watch her closely. I also won’t be perturbed if the items get lost or damaged.

5) Acknowledge their feelings

In the past, when our kids cried, we used to say things like, “Okay, that’s enough. Stop crying.” It never works. In fact, the crying usually escalates.

Over the years, I have learnt about validating their feelings, and have been using it with Kate. It works! Try it.

When Kate is emotionally or physically wounded, she will cry and fold her arms. I go close to her, bend down to her level and say something soothing like, “Are you angry?” She would usually nod her head and say what she was feeling and why.

Once she is able to express herself, she feels understood, and quietens down very quickly.

Wisetip three point two

6) Have realistic expectations

It is futile to expect all your kids to be able to sit through a 2-hour meal just because the eldest can. Once you know what each child can comfortably tolerate at their particular age, work around that.

Look at an activity from a child's perspective. It may be boring, tiring, or too restrictive. Also, be mindful of the environment. You can't bring toddlers to posh restaurants and expect them not to touch the glassware.

As a parent, you have to either acknowledge that the days of leisurely window shopping and long relaxing brunches are over (for now), or leave the kids at home with the in-laws while you take a break and enjoy yourself.

I’m glad that none of my kids has ever thrown a fit in public, but at times, when they did throw tantrums, I used to raise my voice as well.

I have since learnt that shouting at them does not help, and am now able to control myself and speak to them in a low and firm voice.

I do what I have to do quickly and leave the place as soon as possible, without giving in to their demands. This is easier when they are little because as they get older and heavier, we can no longer tuck them under our arm for a quick escape!

This article was originally published on Michelle's blog, mummyweeblog and is republished with permission.

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist and mother of 6. She is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nuturing centre developing resilience and executive function in children. She is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parent navigate this challenging journey.