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A parenting coach explains exactly how to deal with a public tantrum.

Parents will know there are few things more mortifying than your child throwing a tantrum in public.

The kicking, the screaming, the crying, the judgey looks from others and the feeling of anger, frustration, embarrassment and even hopelessness.

Sydney-based parenting coach Dina Cooper remembers the feeling well, especially the sense of judgement from other parents.

“It’s happened to me plenty of times. Your standing there and you’re going ‘oh my god, you’re embarrassing me, everyone’s now looking, I can’t believe you’re doing this again’ – you’ve got this dialogue running in your head,” Cooper, the founder of parent coaching service Hoogi says.

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Cooper tells Mamamia that before undertaking personal development program Fingerprint for Success she could only ever focus on how her child’s behaviour made her look to others. Now, she has an approach to dealing with her children’s tantrums that she says is much better for everyone.

In this instance, she says parents should first recognise the internal dialogue running through their head, and ask themselves, “how much do I as the parent pay attention to and put the authority outside myself?”

“When we can manage what’s going on for ourselves it absolutely transforms the way the child responds. They get over the tantrum quicker, because you’re regulating your emotions, they’re regulating their emotions, they calm down quicker – and they’re actually likely to tantrum less often,” Cooper said.

Cooper suggests keeping in mind that little kids haven’t got the skills yet to properly deal with their emotions, so they come out the only way they know how – a tantrum.

Dina with her kids. (Image via Hoogi.)
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Of course, you still want this tantrum over as quickly as possible, but Cooper explains that by calming down, your child picks up on this and will be quicker to calm down themselves.

"So there are two parts to a child's tantrum. There's the part that comes from the immaturity in their emotional regulation. And the other part is [that] the tantrum can extend or not, depending on how the parent's reacting," she said.

"The part that you can control is your reaction, the part you can't control is just a normal developmental milestone for the child."

After calming down herself, Cooper says she will compassionately talk to her child, which is important because children want to know that they're being heard.

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"You might say something like, 'I can see you're really frustrated right now. Can I give you a hug?' for example. You just get down to their level and just let them cry it out and let them know you're there for them."

"There are three things that a child wants, they want to be heard, they want to be loved no matter what and they want to know that they matter, that they're valued."

That pearl of wisdom is worth keeping in mind for all children's behaviour, Cooper says.

"Honestly, in any given moment, you can track down any behaviour to one of those three things that they're just crying out for in one form or another."

What tactics have you found work best when dealing with a tantrum? Tell us in the comments below.

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