Home » Temper Tantrums on the MRT – avoiding meltdowns while travelling with ‘spirited’ children in Singapore

Temper Tantrums on the MRT – avoiding meltdowns while travelling with ‘spirited’ children in Singapore

singapore tantrums

We’ve all been there. Outwardly composed and collected. Inwardly dying with shame. I have two boys aged 4 and 8 so the oldest has, on the whole, grown out of throwing tantrums in public at least, but the youngest has just started full-time school so is more emotional and prone to meltdowns than ever! And guess who is the most likely to wind him up to the point of no return? Ahh, brothers, don’t you just love them?! 

In the UK, where he’s lived all his life up until last month, loud children are far more common it seems, than here. He’d sometimes throw himself on the floor after a long supermarket shopping trip or play up in the park if he didn’t want to go home, and it wouldn’t draw too much of a crowd. But Singapore is a whole different ball game! We noticed straight away that the children are pretty quiet and well-behaved here. Everyone is calm and keeps themselves to themselves. Which makes my two lively boys look positively feral at times! 

Temper Tantrums

So, if you too have toddlers or ‘spirited’ children (or more than one boy, which can get quite physical sometimes!), here are a few tips to help avoid embarrassment on public transport, so next time you know how to calm down a temper tantrum and how to deal with tantrums in public. 

  • Most kids hate feeling like they’re not in control all day or not getting enough attention. Try to give them choices e.g. do they want to take the bus or MRT? Do they want to wear a red T-shirt or a yellow one? And don’t forget plenty of positive praise for good behaviour. Ours love a sticker or a reward chart!
  • Basic needs need to be met for the day to run smoothly. So take plenty of snacks (preferably not too sugary as this can backfire) and water, and make sure they’ve had a good sleep/there’s an opportunity for a comfy place to nap. Think layered clothing so no one’s too warm or cold, and don’t forget teething meds if you have a baby/toddler. 
  • Boredom creates cranky kids, so take small portable toys if possible. If you take a handful in your bag, you can rotate them, which is even better for staving off boredom. 
  • Kids like routine, so try not to schedule too much activity, which will mean sacrificing parts of the day that are dealbreakers e.g. naps/snacks/rest or quiet time. I’m very guilty of this as we have no car so if we’ve travelled to the other side of Singapore we want to make the most of it! But overdoing it can mean the difference between making cherished memories and ones you’d rather forget! 

Temper tantrums on a train

  • Choose your battles. By observing your child, you can sometimes predict what’s coming, e.g. if they’re fidgety, hyperactive or increasingly whiney, so let some things go in this case to avoid matters escalating. I’ve been known to not squabble with mine over ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or calling me a ‘poo poo head’ when I know a temper tantrum might be brewing. 
  • Avoid negative words, as this can make things worse. We’ve jokingly said, “Maybe Mummy should go and find another family,” and now that gets brought up a LOT, so don’t make the mistake of heightening emotions with any sensitive subjects. 
  • Distraction is a good tactic, but not with too much screen time, as this can have the opposite effect. Try counting things out of the window or watching animals – the chickens opposite the bus stop work well if I put on silly voices for the Mummy and Daddy chicken! Weird but true. 
  • Give a five-minute warning if you’re moving on from somewhere they like, e.g. the park. This helps prepare them for the transition and avoids meltdowns. 

temper tantrums on a bus

  • If you’re anywhere near a toy shop and they start asking for toys you don’t want to buy, use the photo trick. Take a photo of each one they like so you can send it to Santa or the Birthday Fairy. This has avoided extreme tantrums in toy shops for us for years! 
  • Bear in mind they might be ill, so be forgiving – the worst tantrum we’ve had since we got here was my son punching me in the stomach, so I chose to get off the MRT at the next stop as I was so angry. That night, he was poorly with a temperature, so I felt guilty that it was probably down to him getting sick but not being able to recognise and communicate that at the time. Although being physically aggressive is still not OK..!
  • Most things can be fixed with a hug (that goes for grownup problems, too), so it’s worth a try if they’re not being too physical at that point. 

So, hopefully, some of these tips can help. Try not to feel embarrassed – we’ve all been there, and those people staring are probably sympathising or thanking their lucky stars it’s not them this time!

Temper tantrums singapore

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope this post has given you the necessary information you need. If you have any recommendations, tips or travel advice, I would love for you to share them in the comment section below!

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Temper Tantrums on the MRT – avoiding meltdowns while travelling with ‘spirited’ children in Singapore
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Author Bio

Lisa Pickering

Lisa Pickering I’m a Mum, overthinker, ex-primary school teacher, and Head of Music turned music therapist. I love writing, reading, music (from Beethoven to Taylor Swift to jazz and most things in between – that’s why music therapy was a perfect-fit career choice for me!), theatre (recent shows include In the Night Garden, Peppa Pig and Les Mis) and walks in nature.

Outnumbered by boys at home (2 small ones, a husband and a dog), my weekends usually consist of not much of the above but plenty of football, Lego building and Fifa on the PlayStation.

Having lived in various parts of the UK, I worked in Qatar and Abu Dhabi in my late 20s/early 30s and travelled to places such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand and Nepal in the holidays. Once I met my husband, having kids brought us back to the UK, but I started my blog in the runup to our relocation to Singapore, hoping to document our travels as a family and hopefully help someone else along the way who might be having the same mad panic as me or might need some travel tips.

I’m currently tutoring English online, writing freelance for blogging websites and magazines and looking to volunteer with community music or music therapy. I ran my own music therapy business back in the UK, so I really miss working in dementia care homes and mental health residential centres, but I will hopefully find a way to help with this sort of thing here in Singapore! 


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