Ask Dr. Meg: My Daughter Throws Tantrums in Public

What do you do if your child's tantrums are making you feel unconnected and frustrated? You're not alone; here's what to do.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
June 9, 2015
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5
Minute Read

Good morning Dr. Meg, 

I seriously feel like my daughter hates me.

I am down and depressed because it seems I can’t even run errands without her going crazy. She wants to get away with anything she wants and if I am in line, I can’t step out just to play with her. 

I am trying. I always carry along her favorite doll, pillow and a blanket she loves. I also allow her to use my phone to listen to music and watch videos. If I ask her to be quiet for a minute she starts crying and screaming as if i were killing her.

I don’t know what to do anymore

I feel like our connection has been lost and that is why she doesn’t listen to me anymore.

I’m 30 years old, I work full time as a teacher. She spends half day at the day care center and afternoons with me. 

I have been trying to be a modern mom who reads and doesn’t rely on spanking or threatening to get a kids respect. But with her nothing is working.

How can I get her to listen to me?

How can I discipline her without being a witch?

How can I touch her heart!?

She is my only daughter, my only child, and I love her deeply.

Hope you can help me.

My regards.

-Discouraged Mom

Dear Discouraged Mom –

I am so glad that you wrote to me. Clearly, you are a very hard-working woman and mother. I do believe, however, that you are misunderstanding your daughter. You feel that she doesn’t love you, that she’s making your life very hard and that you have lost connection with her. I understand that all of these are making you very sad and depressed so let me try and help you.

First of all, your daughter does love you but you are expecting her to show it to you in a more mature way. She can’t. Most one -year -old children aren’t affectionate all of the time and some are not affectionate at all- but this does not mean that they don’t love their mothers.

Second, her behavior is typical for a child with a very strong will. Your daughter isn’t trying to be naughty by acting up and she’s not trying to drive you crazy or show you that she doesn’t love you. She simply wants to do what she wants all of the time. This is normal for a strong-willed child. Is she smart? I’ll bet she is- many children who are feisty and independent are. It feels like you have lost a connection with her but remember, she doesn’t feel that she has lost it from you! She isn’t thinking about you because she’s only a small child. She’s not supposed to be thinking about you. In fact, I see children who trust and love their mothers very much who act out frequently because they know that their mothers are so calm, they won’t get angry! The fact that your daughter is acting the way she is tells me that she feels very comfortable around you.

Your daughter is in a very difficult phase of her life and things will get better. She almost seems to be going through her “terrible two’s” at age one! So, try and be patient, because her behavior will improve if you work with her a bit.

Here’s what I recommend. When she does something that you have told her not to do, you should put her in time-out. Find a chair in a room near you and make her sit on the chair for one to two minutes. At first, you will need to hold her on the chair because she won’t want to stay. But eventually, she will learn to go to it when you tell her to.

You don’t need to yell, but when you tell her “No” you must mean it and make it stick. I know that you are trying this already, but keep it up. She will eventually bend to your authority if you keep at it so you need to be patient.

Don’t try too hard to keep her entertained when you are out doing errands because this won’t work. Strong-willed children love to look around where they are and make trouble! They are not bad children, they just want to go off and do their own thing. That means that you should only try to do errands when she is not too tired because when she’s tired, she’s more likely to throw tantrums. You might try to go to the store on Saturday mornings when she is not tired. Or, perhaps a friend could watch her in the afternoon if you need to run errands. Could she even stay in daycare for a few extra hours so that you can get your work done?

You should not be depressed thinking that your daughter doesn’t love you. Her behavior has nothing to do with how she feels about you- she’s just in a very tough stage of life. If you continue to be firm and affectionate and don’t spoil her, I promise, you will reconnect with her when she is older. But you must be patient, because this could be several years down the road. Remember, being as nice and kind to her possible won’t make her connect with you more right now because this has nothing to do with you.

–Dr. Meg

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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