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1-2-3 Magic // Discipline with an Audience

A while back we did a post regarding managing difficult behavior in children. I talked about my struggles as a parent lately and how 1-2-3 Magic really helped put my family in a better place. If you missed it, you can read it here.  There are few things more frustrating, confusing and embarrassing than a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store or worse, the library. Who wants to have an audience when your toddler is sprawled out on the floor kicking and screaming? I get so flustered in moments like these. It’s almost as if my head spins off my body and I forget everything I’ve learned . Luckily, our friend Tracy Lewis, co-author of 1-2-3 Magic is here to help walk us through what to do!   how to manage a tantrum in public

As usual, you’ve had a hectic day—work, carpools, and errands.  All that’s left is one quick stop at the grocery store. You know this is not the best time to take your already exhausted five-year-old, but you have no choice. You’ll just pick up the few things you need and avoid the candy aisle.

Just as you’re reaching the check-out line, your child spots one of those big displays—you know, the kind that reaches out and grabs your kid, shouting “CANDY, ASK HER FOR CANDY!!”  You hear your son politely ask, “Mom, can I get one of those?”  Your answer, “No, not today.”

You can see it happening before it gets underway.  You know the signs.  His face contorts.  His body becomes rigid.  Finally, he loses it.  Stomping his feet and waving his arms, he shouts at you at the top of his lungs.  The store is busy.  It feels as though an unsympathetic crowd is gathering to see how you’re going to quiet the little monster.

What do you do now?  Beg?  Argue?  Hide?  Leave?  Throw a tantrum of your own?

Believe it or not, your silence will speak louder than your words.  Instead of pleading, persuading, or arguing, you hold up one finger and, as calmly as you can, say, “That’s 1.”  That’s all you’re allowed to say.

Your child has just received his first warning.  If his tantrum continues, he’ll get a “2”, and if he still continues, he’ll wind up at “3”.  Then what?  Then it’s time for a consequence—a short “rest period” or time out can work well.  The rest period can be taken in the corner of the store, in the car, in the restroom, or, with small children, even in the shopping cart!  No talking, no threats and no angry parental outbursts.

Try to remember that there is no need to be embarrassed.  There isn’t a parent on earth who hasn’t been in your shoes, at some point.  The only people who are going to be judging you harshly are those who haven’t had children (and you can find great comfort in the fact that, for many of those, their day is coming!) and those people whose opinions shouldn’t matter to you anyway.  Just keep your cool, and follow what you know to do.

1-2-3 Magic works everywhere—at home, in stores, at grandma’s, in classrooms.  Follow the plan consistently, while always remaining calm, and you will be amazed at how much easier your lives become.

Some parents say, “That’s too simple” or “My kid’s a wild man; that will never work with him!”  The key to 1-2-3 Magic is not so much what you do as what you don’t do:  you don’t get excited and you don’t talk beyond giving the counts.  You don’t, for example, say, “That’s 1.  Come on now, I don’t want you making a fool out of me in front of all these people…” or “That’s 2.  One more and you’ve had it!  Why do we have to go through this all the time?  Your sister never behaves this way!  WERE YOU PUT ON EARTH TO DRIVE ME CRAZY?!”

When parents control themselves properly, children quickly adapt to 1-2-3 Magic.  The kids respond positively at 1 or 2 most of the time.  Most of the time?  Why not all the time?  Because they are just kids!  They’re not perfect and expecting them to be isn’t fair to them—or to you!

When your child is acting like he needs an exorcism in a public place, follow your plan and keep in mind that this too shall pass.  There will come a day when you will look back on it and chuckle—really, you will.  For now, hang in there and try to enjoy the whole crazy ride!

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