I remember when I was growing up, especially in high school and college, I would babysit. And I loved it! But I remember thinking, “My child will never do this.” This was especially true when I saw a child throw a tantrum in public. Clearly, the parents can’t control their child. The child controls them. Totally horrible parenting in my book. I had to read some child development and parenting books in college for my classes, and they validated my thoughts… well raised children do not throw tantrums in public.
So what changed my opinion? Having kids. Yup, God really does have a sense of humor, because I was blessed with a very vocal, tantrum throwing son for my first. I would read everything I could get my hands on about raising boys (because you know having sisters doesn’t quite prepare you for the rigors of having boys…). Maybe this tantrum thing was a boy thing… maybe I needed to make sure he exerted his energy on productive tasks… more outside time… disciplining when the tantrum started… ignoring the tantrum… time outs… taking away toys… prepping him before we would leave the house… bribes… literally everything conventional and unconventional was tried.
I often say that motherhood strips you of your dignity, beginning when the baby is born. But that is nothing compared to tantrums in public. Most people are quick to judge. Have you not seen blurbs on social media parent shaming? I have.
Let’s talk about some highlights.
In Target, because he couldn’t get a Superman clock. The store was packed and the lines were long, but the magic of tantrums is that a line will completely clear for you when you have a screaming, writhing preschooler and you get in line behind someone. Checked out super fast there. As I was loading the car up, a kind woman asked if I needed help. I truly appreciated that. But what was she supposed to do as I fought him into the car… so not everyone was judging me, but it sure seemed like it. FYI, I have learned that if I leave the store to discipline and try to come back when he is more composed, that doesn’t work. For Daddy, it does, but not Mommy. So I just check out quick and get over the dirty looks. Judge away, I am used to it!
In the airport, because I have no idea why. My son was about 3, and my daughter was a year old. They both were screaming and writhing. And I had decided to fly alone that time…The struggle was so real. Basically, after that I swore off flying until the kids were older. It was a few years til I flew again.
In the grocery store because, again, I have no idea. We were checking out- just my older son and daughter. They were being loud and I was trying to hurry up. Our bag lady had Down syndrome and they often get over stimulated with loud noise. I didn’t even think about that, but basically, she had to leave the store because of my kids. My bad… The ironic thing is the cashier and manager came over and apologized profusely and gave me coupons and stuff. Ya, I felt like a horrible human being.
At church, because he didn’t want to go to class or leave class. This is not the usual separation anxiety thing. This was a true tantrum with the writhing and screaming. In a hallway jam-packed with picture perfect families! This time it was my younger son (something about my boys). He literally was trying to choke me with my necklace. I had to carry him past my friends who ironically said hi to me like I had time to talk… past families with 6-8 well behaved children… past coworkers and teachers… It was horrible.
At Disney World, because it just can’t be the happiest place on earth without an epic meltdown. I remember it all started in the bathroom because I wouldn’t let him flush or made him wash his hands or something unreasonable like that. I remember I was waiting on my husband who was going on a ride with my older son. My husband for the most part has a gift with diffusing these types of situations. Me, I think I add gasoline to the fire. But I digress. My little guy just completely started screaming and going ballistic in the bathroom. Okay, so I brought him out thinking he would calm down once we left. Nope, he was now screaming he wanted to wash his hands himself or something. So we go back in the bathroom. This time there were about 10 women at the sinks all staring at me as I enter with a screaming toddler. I am trying to keep it together and tell him to just wash his hands like he wanted. Nope, the meltdown took on a new face. He started punching the stalls and then fell on the ground. Love when that happens. As if the judging wasn’t already bad… Now I have a fighter on my hands. Awesome. Anyways, after a few stern phone calls to Daddy, he came and rescued me. And of course, he totally calmed down my monster in about a minute. Ya, felt like a great mom then. Oh well, he stopped.
These are just a few highlights of public tantrums. I have plenty more examples, but I have blocked out a lot too, because it isn’t fun to remember these great parenting moments. So what have I learned from tantrums in public?
They will happen. Get used to it. I totally try to walk out with my head held high and not losing it. I can say I never cried in public over one of these (even though I have come close…)
Be humble. I don’t know everything. I am not a model parent.
Empathy. When I see other parents yelling or spanking or being rude to the workers because they have a tantrum on their hands, I do not judge. It happens. It’s the worst. I hope I don’t do this, but I know it is not impossible.
Your kids don’t enjoy the tantrum either. Clearly something is wrong. Let’s be honest, for the most part they just didn’t get their way, but I cannot tell you how many times my kids have fallen asleep as soon as we get into the car right after they were losing it. Or how happy they are after they have a good lunch. They have limited resources to let you know something is wrong.
Lastly, I want to apologize to all those parents I judged before I was blessed with kids. My bad. This stuff is hard. I didn’t know. Ignorance truly is bliss, especially when it comes to parenting.
What are your strategies for handling tantrums in public? I need more weapons in my arsenal. Not out of that phase of my life yet…
Until Next Time,