Last weekend, my wife took our two children (almost 3 and 14 months) to the museum. They go there frequently (5-10 times in the last six months), and usually have no problems.

This time, the older one was a bit more tired than expected, and didn't do a very good job staying close to mommy. He twice went off to do something where she couldn't see him for thirty seconds or so, and while she knew where he was generally, obviously this isn't a good idea. The second time, she made it clear to him he would have to leave if it occurred again; which it did about a half hour later.

Unsurprisingly, as he was misbehaving likely due to tiredness, he threw a huge fit leaving, had to be physically restrained and hit/bit several times on the way out. This is normally challenging, even more so given there was also a 14 month old in tow.

Obviously, the first best answer for how to avoid this is simple: figure out when he's getting tired, and leave then rather than later. However, given sometimes we're going to get that wrong, what good solutions are there for extraction? This isn't a normal extraction, ie, leaving at closing or a designated time; this is when he's specifically crossed a line that means we have to leave now - so no "two minutes" or timers, which usually work very well. We'd rather not use physical restraint - it makes things worse, as it did here - but we don't entirely know what else to do. In quieter areas I might head towards the exit and expect him to follow (which usually works), but in a somewhat crowded museum that seems dangerous (and likely to hurt his feelings, as well).

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    Entice him to come on his own accord. If he's tired, tell him he can rest/sleep if he comes. If he's hungry, tell him to come to get food, etc. Motivate him to do what you want by making him think it's what he wants too.
    – Doc
    May 27, 2014 at 15:06
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    While I agree with @Doc 100%, my own solution differed a lot. My daughter acted up in public once. I then picked her up by her foot and carried her out of the building. Having your world turned upside down has a tendency to change your perspective... and leaves a lasting memory. "How would you like to exit the building?" ended any future issues. (Not saying the best way, just what I did and what worked for my case.) May 27, 2014 at 23:47
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    @JeremyMiller That got a laugh out of me xD That said, I'd caution against doing it for a number of reasons - primarily risk of harm (what if you dropped them?).
    – Doc
    May 27, 2014 at 23:57
  • @Doc Totally fair enough. At the time there was minimal risk, but that said, had I been wrong, I would have regretted it a lot! Thanks for pointing out that safety always is top priority! May 27, 2014 at 23:59
  • With a 3-year-old, sometimes picking them up and taking them is the right thing to do. It sounds to me like this was one of those cases. You say "it made things worse" but I don't think that it did - allowing him to wander off by himself without any real consequence would have been the worse option in the long term.
    – A E
    Oct 28, 2014 at 17:00

3 Answers 3


It's a horrible experience having to drag a child kicking and screaming out of a place, but it's sometimes the right thing to do and unavoidable. When children get tired and overstimulated sometimes the best thing to do is get them somewhere quiet where they can calm down.

At 3 years old children pass the point of being able to reason with them pretty often, no amount of cajoling or rewarding is going to work and you've got to do things your way.

The best way to deal with the situation is not to get into it in the first place. Limit time in really stimulating environments and take breaks in quiet spots.

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    Yep - by the time it's full meltdown, basically you can drag them or stay there. (Or strap them into a stroller or something, and drag them out that way.) Sucks, but it is what it is.
    – mxyzplk
    May 27, 2014 at 20:29
  • Did you really mean "14 years old"? May 27, 2014 at 23:44
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    @JeremyMiller I assume typo and they meant 4. The age range specified in the question's tags (preschooler) is 3-5, so that'd fall in line. Alternatively, 14 months, as that's the age of the younger child...
    – Doc
    May 28, 2014 at 0:00
  • @Doc, I concur. I don't know the actual number intended, so I posted to allow GdD to review. I can't imagine 14yo was actually meant. May 28, 2014 at 0:01
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    I got my wires crossed there, I meant to write 3 years and wrote 14 months instead!
    – GdD
    May 28, 2014 at 9:28

It depends on what type of physical restraint we are talking about. Obviously your wife didn't hog tie him and throw over her shoulder. I would say that if she just picked him up and carried him out, I wouldn't say it's crossing any sort of abusive line. This is a situation where somewhat immediate action is needed. Tantrums have a wide range or severity. They can be gentle crying or outright physical violence. Every tantrum has a potential to escalate to a level where it could be harmful for the child, harmful for other patrons or the parent, or harmful to the surrounding environment (angry enough to break an exhibit).

I have tried both methods already mentioned; the quick extraction or the wait it out. The one and only time I tried the wait it out, the tantrum escalated to a point of no return and I had to carry her out.

I believe removing the child from the busy environment will quell the tantrum. I also believe that you have removed them from a comfortable zone to act out in; think about it, lots of people, big audience, more attention, and that's typically the purpose of a tantrum. When you put them in an environment where you are more comfortable, it gives you the upper hand. Removing a screaming child is not fun, especially if you are getting hit/bit/scratched but sometimes the best method isn't the easiest or most peaceful method.

  • FWIW, I'm not concerned about abuse, my wife wouldn't ever get close to that level certainly. It's more that restraint doesn't work - not only does he hurt her while she's trying, but in other similar situations restraint never seems to stop the behavior (bedtimes, for example).
    – Joe
    Jun 3, 2014 at 17:39

The alternative (not necessarily the better one, but worth considering) is waiting out the tantrum right there. Your wife wasn't necessarily planning to leave right then, and as long as she stays firm that the next step is leaving, and he's not allowed to do anything else in the museum, or really move from the spot, it can work, and he will probably eventually leave of his own volition.

No doubt it's hard, and the severity/volume of the meltdown may be just too humiliating to wait out in a public place. If you can get them into a corner or alcove that's slightly removed, or worst-case, a restroom, it may be better.

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    My personal opinion is that this is cruel to everyone else around who has to put up with a screaming child and who are (most often) quietly wondering about their parenting skills. May 27, 2014 at 23:45
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    Indeed, which is why I suggested the alcove/bathroom as well as acknolwedging that there's a limit. But there's a limit to what parents can physically do, as well. I'm incredibly impressed that Joe's wife maneuvered out if there with a screaming preschooler and a toddler. May 27, 2014 at 23:56

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