Small, Screaming Banshees

Molly on the floor of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Yes, I’m the type of mom who occasionally handles public temper tantrums by taking pictures of them.

In an egregious act of poor planning on my part, nap time had been missed.  The Dora DVD was not in the van.  Lunch was a distant memory.  And, in my determination that dinner wouldn’t be delivered by the pizza guy, Molly and I were headed to the grocery store.  It was the recipe for a complete meltdown, two-year old style. 

Molly doesn’t frequently have tantrums but somewhere between produce and canned goods, she was kicking and screaming on the floor.  There may have been a can or two thrown for good measure.  I’ll spare you the rest of the unpleasant details but we ordered pizza for dinner.

There are entire books written about how to handle temper tantrums.  I probably should read some of them but, in the meantime, I’m going to stick with the etiquette of a tantrum: 

1.  How should you, as the rational, non-hysterical grownup behave when your child decides to writhe and scream on the floor in a public place? 

  • Actually remain rational and non-hysterical.  I understand that it’s hard to think logically when dealing with a small, screaming banshee.  Yet nothing shows that you’re completely out of control like being completely out of control.  Count to 10.  Take deep breaths.  Say a small prayer.  Do whatever you need to do to remain sane in the moment.  Adding your yelling to your child’s screaming is a bad idea.
  • Your kid is a kid.  (You can quote me on that one.)  Tantrums happen.  They quite often happen in public.  If someone around you should choose to roll their eyes or give you a judgmental stare, ignore them.  They are the one being rude, not you.
  • If you can’t distract your child and make the screaming stop, you may need to leave the store.  In a perfect world of politeness and consideration, leaving is the most considerate action. 
  • However, we don’t live in a perfect world of politeness and sometimes you just need to stick it out and buy the groceries.  In those cases, proceed with your wonderful parenting techniques (walk away, ignore the tantrum, distraction, bribery, threats – whatever you learned reading those books) while going into speed shopping mode.  Some would say to move the tantrum to a less intrusive location in the store; however, I advise to just get out of there as quickly as possible!
  • Apologize to the lady who was hit by the can.  However, don’t feel the need to apologize to every person you pass. 
  • Temper tantrums come from a toddler being overly misunderstood, overly tired, overly hungry, overly stimulated, or overly a toddler.  Learn from my mistake and practice a little tantrum prevention by avoiding an overly scenario.  How can you prevent being overly a toddler?  You can’t — prevention will only get you so far!

2.  How should you as an innocent bystander behave when someone else’s child is the writher and screamer?

  • Never touch or discipline a child who isn’t yours.   
  • Keep your comments to yourself.  The LAST thing a parent needs to hear is how you would handle the situation or your commentary on the sad state of parenting today.  The toddler is behaving that way because they’re a toddler; you don’t have that excuse.
  • Offer appropriate help.  For example, if you’re at a grocery store and the mom is having trouble carrying a writhing toddler and picking up the cans strewed across the floor – help pick up the cans. 
  • Remember that no matter how bothered you are by the noise, the parent is ten times more upset.  Nothing seems as loud or obnoxious as your own child’s tantrum.
  • A sympathetic look or kind statement is never a bad idea.
  • Please let the mom or dad of the screaming toddler go ahead of you in line. 

 Finally, even in their most banshee-like moment, cut your kid some slack.  When you get down to it can’t you relate?  Haven’t you been so frustrated that you just want to yell, scream, and kick?  In fact, I think there’s an interesting blog topic – How Adults Throw Temper Tantrums.  The tantrum is the ultimate expression of stress and frustration.  It exhausts parent, child, and anyone else who happens to be in its path.  (Yeah, sorry again about those cans.)  There’s nothing polite about a tantrum but we can choose to react in a way that shows understanding for our child and consideration for the people around us.

231 thoughts on “Small, Screaming Banshees

  1. This is perfect, Amy…I’ve often offered cookies from my lunch to cranky kids on the bus (asking parent first, of course). I recall very few incidents with my own three daughters (it’s been a long time…perhaps I’ve blocked them out?), but I’ll keep these tips in mind in case my one-year-old granddaughter tries it when I’m around…

    Thanks for sharing these!


  2. There is no way faster to differentiate the “Parents Who Have Been There Done That” versus the “Adults Who Have Not Had Children.. Yet” than to be out in public with your child when they have a complete and utter meltdown/tantrum. The sympathetic look versus the look of disdain.

    Trying to avoid the circumstances where the probability of such an occurrence is high is the best method of prevention.

    I would also like to add “Proper Expectations” as a way to avoid meltdowns. This is a big one for my 3.5 year old. I have learned that if a standard routine (anything we’ve done more than twice) is going to be different or if we’re going to be doing something completely new, it is best to talk to him and inform him about this before the change/event arrives. This also applies to saying you will do something, and then dare to not follow through. I find it teaches me as a parent to never say something I don’t mean. 🙂

    And sometimes, The Toddler just wants to have a Battle of Wills and you have to be firm, even though you know it will cause a meltdown. We had one of those recently:

    Thanks for the wonderful post! It’s nice to be reminded that this is just what toddlers do. I can’t wait until I have two In The Toddler Zone at the same time….

    Better practice my counting to ten..

    1. Excellent write. I can totally relate. Although, I have to comment to the caption under your picture. Too funny… I too stop to snap a picture on occasion. Sometimes it stops the tantrum. I have also on occasion caught it on video. LOL… I was doing a video diary for the doctor so I captured a lot of melt downs.

  3. Hey, I’ve taken pix of my kids mid-tantrum, too! Sometimes it’s just too tempting not to…

    Great post. I’ve been on the throwing, receiving and observing ends of tantrums, and your advice is spot on.

    And by the way, the manner in which I throw a tantrum involves huffing and puffing, a tall glass of wine and some well deserved self-pity. 😉

  4. Luckily when my kids were little, we didn’t have any public meltdowns. I did, however experience a few in our home to which I dealt with by ignoring them & first telling them I was ignoring them. LOL
    Love this post, you give some great tips here.

  5. Love the tip re: parents are 10x more bothered by the screams than the onlookers. Recently I flew with both kids (2 and 4) and the younger one screamed and screamed. And screamed. When everyone stood to grab their luggage, I apologized for my daughter and said, “It’s way harder on me than it is on you, if you can believe it.”

  6. Oh, wow I really liked this! Especially the last part, some people seem to think that kids are just little devils who have tantrums in order to annoy everyone else. Thank you for showing me that there are other people who also think that a tantrum is a reaction to stress and frustration! And as you said, your daughter didn’t have her nap and lunch had been ages ago! And I know you said not to give tips to other parents, but just a samll one; have plain bisquits or some fruit with you at all times so when you know that your child is hungry and probably will have a tantrum soon, give them the fruit or bisquit before and it will be prevented that way 😉 But as you said, it happens sometimes, and poor little creatures don’t always know how to express themselves! Love the entry, and congrats to being on “Freshly pressed”!

    1. That is an EXCELLENT tip! I should add it to my first paragraph about things I didn’t do. 🙂 I agree with you that temper tantrums are just a normal part of development – not for all toddlers but, I think, for most.

      Thanks for reading,

  7. My sisters and I didn’t really have meltdowns in public, but we had some at home. Mom cured me of tantrums by waiting until I’d got up off the floor. She then threw herself to the ground and kicked and screamed in perfect imitation of my fit. Needless to say, my toddler self was not amused–but I learned my lesson. 🙂

    Thanks for the tips for bystanders. It makes me more conscious of the need on my part to be more gracious to harrassed parents.

  8. Staring at a kid that’s screaming and giving the mother a roll of the eyes is not rude. The mother should take the child out of the store and deal with her/him. There is no reason to disturb everyone around you because your child is misbehaving. Not once growing up did I have a tantrum, nor did my children ever have a tantrum. It’s all about being a responsible parent and your offspring learning manners at an early age.

    Best of luck raising her!

    1. Is it polite to roll your eyes? Ever? Maybe there are certain scenarios I’m not thinking of …

      I agree that the best answer is to leave. Thus feeding my family pizza that night. 🙂

      So glad for your parents and you that the angelic gene runs in your family.

      Best of luck raising yours as well!

    2. Staring at someone and rolling one’s eyes at someone are always rude. Rudeness is rudeness no matter what inspired it.

      However, I can’t agree with ignoring the tantrum. I’ve been on too many buses with a screaming child and an adult who doesn’t do anything about it to agree with that. I like that you suggest leaving the area!

  9. So true, so true. I remember that I used to pitch big tantrums in public places when I was a toddler, and my mom would immediately go into super-shopping mode or would just leave and get me home. These are good tips to follow, and I’ll be sure to remember them. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  10. Okay…first — “Please let the mom or dad of the screaming toddler go ahead of you in line.” Baloney.

    Second, I have actually been able to (as an innocent bystander trapped on line with a screaming child) distract the kid from whatever was causing the tantrum in the past.

    A comment like, “Nice dress,” or, “Are you helping mommy shop today?

    About 50% of the time the child responds.

    40% of the time the child stops and stares at me like I’m crazy or runs to their parent for refuge.

    10% of the time it has little to no affect — except for the parent looking at me like I’m evil. But it never makes things worse.


    1. Crystal,
      If you can help distract the child that’s wonderful! I’ve done the same thing myself and I think you’re right that at least half of the time the child responds.

      Yours is my first baloney comment!

      Thanks for reading and your comments,

      1. I should tell you that if the other person only has one or two things and I have a whole cart full I let them go first.

        And, I’ve never encountered a mom with an upset youngin who has less in her basket than me. Plus, like I said, I can usually calm the kid down a bit.

  11. I’ve never given the adult the dirty look unless the kids are obviously just misbehaving and something needs to be done. I HAVE given the KIDS the “angry mom stare” if they’re old enough to know better that to act like that. Many times they stop and look at me like Uh-oh. Other times the stop and look at their parent. Whatever works! Great post!

  12. I have done the walk right out of the store routine, I have paid for my stuff and gotten out. One time at the party store I actually got looks of sympathy because I was telling the tantrum thrower we were not buying a specific item. Most of the time people act as if you are the worst parent ever no matter what you do.

  13. Congrats, Amy. Your blog is terrific and I’m glad that the WordPress universe is getting exposed to your strong writing, wit, and common sense approach to etiquette and parenting.

    “Toddler being overly a toddler.” Well put. It happens. And every person rolling their eyes about a toddler throwing a tantrum in a store or on a plane was more than likely once a toddler throwing a tantrum in a store or on a plane him or herself. Unless she is the mother of twins.

    Awesome post, Amy.


    1. Chase,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you. Owe you big!

      I was at home coloring with Molly (she was between tantrums at the moment) and my laptop started binging at me like crazy. Never saw this coming. 🙂

      Enjoying the numbers while they last!

  14. LOVE the pic. I’m so impressed that you had the presence of mind to take it.

    I think your tips are right on — particularly those around tamper prevention. I can’t tell you how many outings (especially with eager-beaver grandparents) go awry simply because we’ve pushed them beyond their limits.

    Nice writing too. 🙂

  15. This is how my boyfriend’s dad dealt with a huge temper tantrum one time, coming from his stepson.

    They were at McDonalds, and the boy wasn’t getting what he wanted, so he threw himself on the floor and cried and wobbled around like a fish out of water. So his dad pointed to him and said out loud, “Look everyone, he’s having a temper tantrum!”

    That sure got him to stop, having the attention called on him like that. 😛

  16. I disagree with “If someone around you should choose to roll their eyes or give you a judgmental stare, ignore them. They are the one being rude, not you.” Well, partially anyhow. If the parent is trying to address the tantrum, then most often the looks shot to them are of sympathy – at least from me. However, if the parent is ignoring the child and acting as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with a child tantruming it up in public, then by all means, I feel those exposed to it have every right to display their true feelings on their sleeves (or faces, as it were). I totally get that kids act up in public…in fact, I’m quite certain that they save it for those moments when their parents will be most embarassed by the outbursts. But there is a right way to respond, and then there is a wrong way. Let’s face it, there are just some people who should not have been allowed to reproduce…and those are the ones that deserve the glares. Great post!

  17. I can’t find the like button !!!! Handy hints like this should be stuck on the doors and checkouts of every grocery store . Rush hour & last minute shopping with little screamers would be so much easier.

  18. I can’t believe I’ve never found your blog before. I love this post and tweeted it. I have an almost 8 month old and I sweat every time I take her in public because I’m terrified of her losing her sh*t and causing a scened and she’s not even capable yet of dropping to the floor in a heap of fury.

    I fear the eye rolls and dirty looks because I know that no matter how good of a mother I am or no matter how well I plan, sometimes kids just lose it, and (as much as some people would like us to) we can’t just lock them in the house all the time.

    The tips are great. The only time I’ve ever stink-eyed a mom is when her kids were acting like maniacs in a doctor’s office waiting room. They weren’t tantruming, it was more like taking turns knocking over chairs and the mother sat texting or playing a game on her cell phone. She didn’t even look up to receive my death stare. How rude!

    1. Thank you! Oh yes, I think the texting mom would have received a glare from me as well. I have thoughts about cell phone etiquette. No surprise there, right?

      I say go out with your little one and let the people roll their eyes to their hearts content. Their choice to go through life frustrated and annoyed!


  19. Sorry, no agreement on your second point. YOU were the one who precipitated the tantrum by not doing those things you admittedly should have done in order to make sure your child was ready for a public appearance.

    I don’t roll my eyes unless your first point leads to your third point. In that case, no one who rolls their eyes is being rude. We are trying to cope with your screaming banshee, who should be removed immediately from the store.

    Screw the groceries. Take the kid home, have them take a nap and order pizza. Go out tomorrow when you have your life in order and your child is well rested, and buy groceries then. Save us the unnecessary screaming and your ridiculous rationalizations.

    When I was a child my mother yanked us out the door and into the car if we threatened to have a tantrum in public, and believe me, we were cured at a very young age from doing that because of the consequences. Today’s child rearing could take a few notes from the child rearing of decades ago. Now it’s all, “Tantrums happen and I like to take pictures of my children having them, especially when they’re in public.”

    What utter nonsense and a ridiculous excuse for “parenting”. You should be ashamed of yourself, not your child. She will likely grow up having no manners and when you are the recipient of her lack thereof, you will no doubt be wondering what happened. You, that’s what.

    1. Wow. I’m actually typing this one out on my phone because the need to respond can’t wait until I’m home. First, I’m not going to discuss your comment point by point. However, I do recommend you reread my blog because I do take responsibility for the tantrum and I did immediately leave the store and order pizza. Second, and this is why I’m typing on my phone, I never said I was ashamed of my daughter. She is loving, funny, kind, and smart – she amazes me everyday with her beautiful heart and soul. Finally, it sounds like my 2 year old isn’t the only one who has tantrums in public forums.


      1. At the risk of adding fuel to the fire burning in the previous comment, I must say I cannot stop giggling at the last line of your response. 🙂

    2. Hey, I can ALMOST relate to your rant. After all, we’ve all been there at the Lady Antebellum concert wanting to pull out our hair because of the screaming kid behind us, but come on…. did you seriously like being yanked out of the door and into the car?! Today there is this little thing called DCFS. You see, they really frown on abusing children sooo yea there goes the beltings of the past. Come on get a grip, taking a icture of a kid throwing a tantrum is great, although a recording so they can hear what they sound like is better, in my opinion. Toodles!

    3. A lot of people on here are saying that ignoring tantrums works. If that’s true, then why do they keep happening? It might work temporarily, but the mother/father isn’t getting to the heart of the matter which is conquering the will of a rebellious child.

      We all love our children here. We show our love by disciplining when a tantrum occurs.

      And yes, it is rude to subject the public to screaming fits. It’s like blowing smoke in someone’s face. Or having a marital squabble in the middle of a restaurant. Unpleasant and just downright nasty. Take it outside! Make an exit ASAP.

      And I will add – I have 5 children. We do not tolerate public (or private) tantrums and never have. We drew the line very early on with our children and they don’t cross it.

      1. Exactly. You don’t tolerate them and your children don’t have them. Or when they do, they are taken out of a public situation until they settle down.

        Did I like being yanked out the door by my mother? I meant “yank” as in “quickly taken outside”, not literally.

        And the few times I remember a tantrum (from my brother, who was the only sibling, apparently, who went through that stage in our family), my mother would simply tell him if he didn’t stop we would leave immediately and he would get a spanking when we got home.

        I don’t recall ever actually leaving, as the threat cured the behavior, because my mother never backed down and we knew it.

      2. Jule 1,
        Sounds like your mom handled your brother’s tantrum similar to how I did, I can only hope that no one told your mom that she should be ashamed of herself. Makes me wonder though why she tolerated the tantrum in the first place?

        All kidding aside, I’m glad that you’ve a shared an experience that acknowledges that even good parents of good kids suffer the occasional meltdown.


    4. J U D G M E N T A L

      (and i don’t mean that in a good way)

      lady, you need more humor in your life.

      Amy, i really enjoyed your post and it was a good idea to stop and take a picture to show your little one years later when she’ll be tickled pink…or mortified…depending on whether she inherited her sense of humor from you 🙂

  20. After raising six and now with a toddler in my home again (grandchild) this post brings back memories. I found myself surprised when at the supermarket little Hoo let out a howl and people turned to stare. He’s a toddler that’s what they do. With my years and years of experience I have learned that the less attention one pays to these displays of drama the less the child employs them.
    The overtired child or sick one that you simply have to shlep to to the pharmacy or store. Excuse yourself to other shoppers and beg their pardon with a smile. Most of the world understands.
    Here’s to you and your “screaming meanie”, picture taking is quite entertaining for us but might be a positive reinforcement for the behavior you want to squelch. Just maybe.

  21. This is such a great blog – having just hauled my screeching child out of the library…

    and here is the really weird thing – I have 3 teenagers and a 5 year old and a 3 year old. The older 3 all had tantrums as toddlers but these seem to get filed in the same place as pain in childbirth and cracked nipples. It all comes rushing back when it is too late to change your mind! Great blog.

  22. Oh, that must be awfully embarrassing …

    I don’t *think* I was ever that bad … but I do embarrass my parents by practising my Irish dancing in the aisles of the supermarket whenever I’m with them, at bus stops, at train stations – pretty much anywhere really, and it drives them mad.

    I wonder what their advice for dealing with that one would be.

  23. My kids NEVER have tantrums…

    until we’re out in public. 🙂

    We call my 14 month old “velociraptor.” Her screams put a banshee to shame.

    Tots aren’t tiny adults. They are “in process.” They should not be expected to be fully social-trained yet. Every outing is a practice session.

    With my oldest I bee-lined to the floral section of the store as soon as I saw the signs a-brewing. We’d take a break to (literally) smell the roses. Almost always worked.


  24. Ha! I just found your blog accidentally–glad I did! I love reading other moms’ blogs and for this being the first one I read of yours—perfect timing! I just endured this scenario for the first time in my life (I’m a 1st time mom of a 2 yr old boy). We were at Kohl’s, I had slipped into my old style of shopping prior to having a toddler in tow and then things get a little hazy. . .all I truly remember from that little shopping spree is the ball of traumatic screaming and reeling rolling around on the floor next to the cute boots I had tried on one too many times (apparently). It seriously came out of nowhere and shocked the hell out of me. I had heard of these fun episodes but this was my normally easy going son’s first—and he got his point across. I think I handled it fairly well, stayed fairly calm despite a few second glances as I sort of slid him on imaginary skis to the register. . .along with the cute boots smooshed into my side. They were coming home with me. I had earned them that day.

    It’s great hearing another mom’s story—thanks for the great read!

  25. This is an absolutely brilliant post – a public tantrum is hard to deal with for everyone around, and as a bystander I often feel I want to help, but don’t want to make it worse. It’s also something that really terrifies me about having kids, that feels a little demystified now.
    Congrats on getting pressed, you totally deserve it.

  26. kudos to you for being willing to open yourself up to even more criticism by writing about this! it’s enough for me just to have to deal with the eye-rollers at the store, let alone deal with their judgement on the internet! 🙂

    i think no matter what you do in these situations, sometimes you just lose. what if you just HAD to get something that night? sometimes, as moms, we just have to deal with circumstances of how the day goes, and roll with it. and even make light of it at times, cause if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry! it makes me so sad there’s so little grace and patience from others anymore. granted, there are people who just act like we all should deal with their insane children, but for the most part, we are parents who are still people who like to leave our houses at times. 🙂

    thanks for your post!

  27. I don’t have kids, but I will tell you this–When I had tantrums as a toddler, my mom just started walking away. The people around her thought she was a horrible person, but it worked–when I saw her walking away, I stopped my crying, got up and followed her.

  28. I’m sorry, but I have zero tolerance for toddlers having tantrums and I have zero tolerance for parents of toddlers having tantrums.

    If I were a toddler I’d have a tantrum at an art museum, too. Who did you think was going to enjoy that? The kid, you, or the other people at the museuem.

    1. We all enjoyed it! It was their Egyptian display — mummies, artifacts, some hands-on displays. A very fun day – tantrum happened in the last minute before leaving. I can relate with you though, I have very little tolerance for people without tolerance.

      Thanks for reading, Jim!

  29. Wow, kudos to your for being so gracious in your responses to less-than-gracious responses=)
    Such a great post. As a mom of 3 young children, one of whom regularly has the “veins popping out of her head” tantrums, I could totally relate. I tend to be someone who ignores the stares/glares/whatever around me and I just focus on the child and resolving the situation.
    This happened recently in TJMaxx . . .2 yr old just fell apart, she DID NOT want to ride in the cart. Of course, we had to pass what seemed like EVERY person in the store to get to somewhere we could talk. She eventually calmed down. A few minutes later, another lady said “wow, they are so well behaved!” I soo appreciated that comment, especially after dealing with the meltdown!
    Anyway, great blog post, love the forthrightness . . I’ll definitely be reading more.
    Congrats on being FP=)

  30. I second the comment from *chlost*! Bravo for handling what could be taken as a harsh comment with style. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and sense from all that you shared that you are a very conscientious mother and ‘mother in public’. Your children are blessed to have you.

    1. Thank you so much!! Your kind words have made my night. As mothers, I think it’s easy to take any criticism about our mothering too much to heart. I’ve decided to reread comments like yours and to be done with the others!

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  31. My Mom tells me that my occasional tantrums at the grocery store enabled her to get out of there quicker. They would open up a new line just to get rid of us.

  32. Love the post, and congrats on being freshly pressed. My little angel is just lately (the past month or so) discovered that he too can turn into a screaming banshee (love that analogy btw)…so I’m quickly learning to adapt, avoid and generally pray that he’ll be in a good mood during whatever activity we’re doing in public. Thanks for the post…I hate those accusing “how dare you bring that thing in public looks” while I’m juggling my child and trying to tickle him into a good mood.

    All parents who’ve been there deserve some sort of medal 🙂

  33. This was amazing. I am pretty sure people everywhere should read this. As a first time Mommy of an almost two year old, I can completely relate. I will never forget our fateful trip to Walmart several months ago. I tend to do grocery shopping without him now. 🙂

  34. Nice post! And to all those who think every adult who has never had a child couldn’t possibly relate … you’re wrong. Yes, I’m the lady who lets you go ahead of me in a line, who helps you pick up the cans, who chuckles and tells you your banshee is still adorable nonetheless. Rudeness isn’t “childless” any more than etiquette requires childbirth. Please try to remember that, parents!

  35. Thank you for posting! I have a writhing/screaming 2yr. old EVERYday.. So I know all to well, the grocery store experience. I’m glad I’m not the only one and its nice to know I can breath now, knowing there are other moms dealing with the same thing.

  36. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! The better part of valor is leaving in the case of a screaming meanie! Pizza is better, shopping the next day! Kids have their moods, they can’t help it, but no sense having everyone, including you have to sweat it out! Been there once, it’s ugly!

  37. Great post, and I definitely agree on most points… but… I think the ONLY appropriate response is to leave the store or go to the restroom until they calm down. This goes for restaurants and movies too. Some parents expect extra special allowances and treatment because they have kids, things we wouldn’t accept from other people. And before anyone jumps on my case, this is something I’ve heard from parents that have had several children. I wouldn’t have thought this way until I heard it from them, and I think it makes sense. The thing that sticks out to me the most that a parent told me, “Having a child is not a right, it is a priviledge.” Don’t expect everyone else to be ok with being subjected to your child’s behaviors. But again, great post, well written, and most points were great!

  38. I think people should accept the fact that kids are kids, and are going to behave like kids — which means both that bystanders should be tolerant, and that parents shouldn’t take young children to locations where kid-behavior is going to be really troublesome to other people … I think in my own mind, “places people have paid to be” fall into this category, such as non-family-oriented restaurants, the Chicago Art Institute, or the symphony (I was amazed to be seated behind a very unhappy four-year-old recently; luckily one of the ushers asked the parent to leave with the child). But I’ve been in line more than once at the grocery store, ahead of a kid having a bad day, and have asked the parent to take my place. Why wouldn’t I do that? It gets the kid out of everyone’s hair faster. My being a judgmental jerk isn’t going to calm the kid down; nor will it help the parent.

    1. Amen brother! I, for one, will not be taking my little one to the symphony for awhile. 🙂 I agree with you that letting someone ahead of you in line is a win-win situation. You help the kid, parent and everyone else by getting them out the door quickly.

      Thanks so much for reading David,

  39. My daughter is just reaching temper tantrum age. The other day she threw her self on the ground at the farmers market. I got many sympathetic looks, and several moms told me to hold my ground. It was nice for once to get support then those more common judgemental glances and remarks

    1. Exactly! I think that if a mom or dad is obviously trying to handle the situation that we should be supportive. Parenting is an on-the-job training type of scenario (at least for me)! Hopefully that will be the only tantrum story you’ll have to tell.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting,

  40. Nice post! I’ve never had to deal with a toddler (though I will in a couple of years!) and I’ll remember your advice. From BOTH points of view! 🙂

    My limited experience with children (and my Dad’s advice) though has convinced me that keeping your cool is the number one most important thing.

    I “center” myself (it’s hard to explain unless you’ve done it but you can probably google it).

    1. I am in complete agreement with you and your Dad. Keeping our cool as parents (and as children, professionals, friends, etc.) is the key to so many difficult or awkward situations. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. I’ve heard of “centering” and will google it — always open for new ideas!

      Thanks for reading,

  41. Taking a picture of your toddler’s tantrum is fun! It may not make the kid feel any better but at least it helps you lighten up. 😉 My mom used to always tell me and my brothers that she wished she had a recording of our squabbling.

    My own kids are teens now, but they still have meltdowns, just mostly at home and not in a grocery store. So I always have a sympathetic look for the parents of tired toddlers (with certain exceptions as others have mentioned!).

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Quite a day, eh?

    1. Thank you so much! Granted the picture taking was perhaps not my finest parenting moment but I need pictures to set aside for her future rehearsal dinner. I am so not ready for the teenage years. My oldest is still about 5 years away but I’m pretty sure I also won’t be ready then.

      Congrats to you also on Freshly Pressed. What an experience!


  42. great tips! Reading your post makes me feel like I’m in a parenting course 🙂

    I really like your quote which tells that the one who being rude is those who give us the judgemental stares

  43. Congrats on being FP, and on such an entertaining post. I’ve read through most of the comments and your replies, and I think your daughter’s fortunate to have you as a mum. The only time my then 1 yr old ever had a tantrum was in the aisle of a plane. I was five months pregnant, and was also travelling with her 5 year old sister. Long haul. Hubby was at home. That was my first and last solo trip with the kids 🙂

    1. What a wonderful thing to say! Thank you and I definitely feel fortunate that she’s my daughter. She’s so much more than this one tantrum! I can really relate with traveling solo. I flew from Alaska to Missouri with my 2 (at that time) young kids when my husband was deployed. I have since vowed to not repeat that experience.

      Thank you for reading and commenting,

  44. Enjoyed your post- I have not been a good parent as of late. After moving across the country turned my family’s life upside down my fuse is short. I’m doing better today than yesterday and expose my own bad behavior in my blog hoping to remind other parents it’s okay to feel or think something and its BEST to ask for help when you need it.

    1. I’m looking forward to reading your blog. Moves are really tough, on the parents and kids. I’ve had my fair share of them! Personally, I think it takes a good mom (like you) to try to do better than the day before and to reach out when needed.

      Thanks for your comment,

  45. My oldest had temper tantrums and one day at the zoo when she was two as she was laying on the ground screaming and the whole fists pounding the payment things going, my friend (whose children were acting perfect) and I stood beside her and carried on a conversation. Oh, the stares and comments I got. Hang tough, great post!

    1. Thank you for the “hang tough!” I appreciate it. I think that the vast majority of parents are truly doing their best — we love our kids too much not to. So, it’s hard sometimes to take stares and comments. Thick skins is often required, I’m learning.

      Thank you again for your supportive comment,

  46. Great post and great advice.

    I remember one time when my son was two, my wife and I decided we should all go out to lunch. Lunch eclipsed naptime so we thought he would be good with passing out in the car. He didn’t show any signs of wear, so we thought we could squeeze in a short stop at the library.

    The library we used to go to is gigantic. Marble floors, high ceilings. It’s like the entire building was designed like an echo-chamber.

    Wifey went to go look at books, so me and Junior had some time. Naturally he went nuclear. It sound like the screams were all around you, instead of coming from one direction.

    In retrospect I should have went right outside with him until he calmed down. But I thought I could find his mom and then make it outside.

    So while my son was screaming bloody murder, this disapproving library patron came up to me and said something to the effect of “You need to take take control of him and go outside”.

    While she was talking, my son decided to take a breather and gawk at this person.

    I have never cursed someone out like I did this person. (Background on me: I’m a nice guy but on more than one occasion, I have been told that when I’m screaming at some one, I sound like Linda Blair from the Exorcist, when she’s spitting pea soup). Not the best thing I could have done, but even in retrospect, I think this person deserved it.

    Long story short, my wife had found me after I was done yelling and we went home.

    1. I too often think of the “right” thing to do after the fact. So, I totally get it when you say, “in retrospect …” Tantrums are bad enough without occuring in an echo chamber. Glad you made it home. Did you ever go back? 🙂


  47. Great post, well written and it makes loads of sense. Raising children is such important work, and we all do our best to do it right. The best we can do is to have the grace not to judge others but know they are doing their best too.
    Congrats on being FP, but I think I’m more impressed at how you’ve handled all the comments – well played!
    Sunshine xx

    1. Sunshine,
      Exactly! I truly believe that most parents are honestly trying to do what’s best for their children.
      FP has been a wonderful experience! And I appreciate your compliment on comment responses. My poor husband gets to hear all the words I’m not typing!

      Take care,

  48. Amy,
    Great post! You have quite a way of writing and as a father of a 8 month old son (who occasionally cries in public of course…), your whole post really resonated with me. It’s SO true that you can easily, as a parent who is 10 times more bothered by a screaming child than others, easily notice the sympathic eyes and the eyes of disdain. You definitely deserve being on “Freshly Pressed”. By the way, it was so easy to guess that the one “Baloney” comment written (about allowing the parent ahead of you in line) must have been written by a single person without a child! 🙂

    1. Thank you! And congrats on your baby. May he never throw a tantrum. 🙂

      I’m glad you liked the line suggestion. I know that for some people that one is hard to swallow. But it’s just (occasionally) the right thing to do. In my humble opinion.

      Thank you much,

  49. My mother was a genius when it came to preventing grocery store tantrums. She invented the “Angry Man”, a man who lurked in grocery store isles and would punish us for being bad. If we started to whine or cause mayhem, she would point ambiguously and whisper, “Is that the Angry Man?” and we were so terrified of this man that we would sit down and hush up in a hurry. It worked like magic. Unfortunately it didn’t carry over to malls or restaurants or department stores, as even as children my sister and I were smart enough to realize the Angry Man could not be in all places all the time. The grocery store though…we were very good there 🙂

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

    1. I think I’m going to start behaving better at grocery stores after reading your mom’s technique. She could have added “Angry Man’s Sister” or “Angry Man’s Angry Friend” to cover other locations. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting,

  50. Banshees scare me, I just run away from them. I would be one of the kid-free grown ups and have to admit I have rolled my big eyes at the parental units from time to time.

    I’m trying to figure out if I’ve encountered one of these uncomfortable situations at a grocery store or not. It seems that would be different than say, a restaurant. I have and will continue to give parents the evil eye if they aren’t considerate enough to remove the screaming child from the area. But I don’t reserve those loving looks just for them, people loudly speaking into their cell phones also get some loving.

    My fave bit is when a parent does the warning count: ‘I’m counting to … and then x will happen’. My experience is the randomly predetermined number is never reached because the parent keeps restarting the count. The other strategy is asking the kid if they want x to happen to them…, seriously?

    Not sure why, but kids tend to be… intrigued(?) by me. Must be the aforementioned big eyes. I often make funny faces at them if they’re fussing and the parent seems rattled. Or I’ll wave at them or say something, but I’ve also done the angry mom look for the really stubborn little humans. Works like a charm.

    I have to say I appreciate reading that the parent is usually more mortified than the casual bystander, because I’ve often wondered about that. I swear that sometimes it seems like parents are numb or deaf to their child’s cry/whinning and/or general screaming, at least that’s what it *seems* like to the kid-free crowd.

    I think you’re right in that we all need to show some manners and consideration to our neighbor. If it seems like a parent is trying to address bad or frustrated behavior, they deserve a break and some help if at all possible. And parents need to remember when THEY were annoyed or appalled by screaming banshees and remember what that’s like when you’re just trying to pick some apples or drink your Pinot Grigio.

    Great post, though and CONGRATS on front paging it!

    1. Thank you for your comments. I agree with you completely on the counting deal. (Although I confess I’ve been guilty.) Also, I think that we’re in agreement about restaurants. Tantruming children should not be the background noise for other diners.
      I like, “And parents need to remember when THEY were annoyed or appalled by screaming banshees and remember what that’s like when you’re just trying to pick some apples or drink your Pinot Grigio.” True. It comes down to consideration on everyone’s part, I think.

      Thanks again,

  51. So glad to know Im not the only one with a camera! I love the look on others faces when my 5yr old(who is actually the size of a 9yr old) has a melt down and have even snapped a few pictures of them too!

  52. “Remember that no matter how bothered you are by the noise, the parent is ten times more upset. Nothing seems as loud or obnoxious as your own child’s tantrum.”

    Oh really? I have encountered parents who thought it is a given right for their child to scream in restaurants, airports, on airplanes etc. and that it is everyone elses job to cope with the noise the tantrum causes.

  53. This post clearly comes from one who has seen ’em all! I just blogged about tantrums recently ( – having discovered that my 2 year old boy was most likely screaming the place down this summer because I secretly felt like doing the same. (Childish? Me?)

    Incidentally, evilcyber, here in Spain it is pretty much obligatory for the whole world to join in when someone else’s kid is throwing a fit. It’s kind of seen as a communal effort to stop them running into roads/hitting people/going psycho over a plate of fries not having enough ketchup. Takes a bit of getting used to but in the end it’s a relief to know you’re not the only one shouldering the burden.

  54. When our son was about 3 or 4 (he’s now 26), my wife looked at him laying on the floor, mid-tantrum, and said very calmly “If you don’t stop that now, I’m telling your mom how you acted when we get home.”

    Whether he was confused, or stunned, or just dumbfounded – he stopped the tantrum.

    GREAT advice you have here!

  55. As a mom of 5 young ones, the youngest of which is very 2 at the moment, I can completely relate to all you are saying.

    As far as taking pictures during the tantrum, it reminds me of my mom, who would take pictures of us when a disaster/sickness had struck (chicken pox, broken arms, dad changing a tire by the side of the road — looking not too thrilled about the picture taking).

    Very nice post, I enjoyed reading it!

  56. I have a son (18 months) and a brand new baby girl (3 weeks) and am far too familiar with the grocery power shop, now more entertaining with two kids in a double stroller with groceries in the bottom (mad love to the City Select creates who made the bottom of the stroller big enough for groceries AND a 28 pound child). I usually bribe my toddler with produce. He will eat a cucumber WHOLE if I don’t monitor said bribery, however. Thank you for your enjoyable- and relate-able- post.

  57. i wish i am still a child so i can still throw tantrums and get away with it. if i throw a tantrum now im sure i will:
    a. maim someone
    b. kill someone
    c. end up in jail.
    😦 i have to keep distracting myself with pop corn and muffins although i could feel the vein on my forehead about to pop and a few gray hairs coming out in my scalp.

  58. My little guy tried a tantrum at Best Buy once because I wouldn’t let him rip off all the knobs on the high end home theater receivers. He began to writhe on the little leather couch they had in there. I simply, and suprisingly calmly, turned my back to an interesting piece of equipment. Then, with a full room of shoppers, I said in a pretty loud authoritative voice: “You see, what my son is telling me, is that he would not like to watch Spongebob for the rest of the week”. The dreaded Spongebob play stopped him dead in his tracks and he jumped up while we slowly proceeded out of the store and into our car. Ah, the power of the Bob!

  59. Here’s one…how do you handle a toddler temper tantrum when on a four-hour airplane flight?! When there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide…
    When the seatbelt light is on due to turbulence so you cannot even retreat to back of the plane or hide in the washroom with the screaming banshee?

    1. As a parent, I think I would try distraction and soothing. As an etiquette consultant who believes in real world advice, I’d say you do the best you can. Apologize to the people around you and thank anyone who helps. Unfortunately, you’re not able to do all the “polite” things (like leave). Obviously, it’s best to bring along a bag of tricks (toys, snacks, comfort items) to try and prevent the tantrum. However, I once unknowingly flew with my 2 year old (different daughter) when she had an ear infection. It was terrible. All I could do was continue to try and get her to calm down, stay calm myself, and mouth apologies to other passengers.

      Awesome question!

      1. Dear god… Flying with a child who has an ear infection. There is my idea of Worst Flight Ever…. because there is truly nothing you can do. Also why I always take baby drugs with me on the plane, even if I don’t think I’ll need them…

  60. I hope my baby brother won’t be doing that when i’m there because i’ll be really embarassed. I mean I know I did the same thing when I was a toddler but I don’t remember what my mum used to do. I wonder what she’ll do with Caden. A lot of what you said made sense though

  61. My child was disciplined when he acted out and he learned not to do that anywhere. He is well adjusted very extroverted and extremely polite saying yes sir and no mam every where he goes. He knows right from wrong and he knows what the punishment will be for crossing the clearly defined rules. But what he knows the most is that I do not hate him for these indiscretions as they happen the punishment comes as it is his choice to do so…once the punishment and crime are done we go back to normal.
    He is an amazing 5 year old full of hugs and love for everything but that guidance is necessary for this to occur.
    Just my thought on the matter but the fact that many parents coddle their kids through tantrums and try to reconcile with a child only leaves the child to be an equal with the parent and thus unreceptive to the parents guidance as they believe that they are on equal terms.
    At two years old my son did not throw tantrums because I had the moral backbone to do what was right and teach him right from wrong and I wish that there were more parents that would do the same.

    1. Note to self: Develop moral backbone?
      Note to 2zpoint: May be a bit of a leap to question a parent’s moral backbone due to one meltdown. Your child must not always be perfectly behaved or there would never be the need to discipline. Mine is also full of love, hugs, and good manners but occasionally misbehaves. I would be careful to attack the morals of another because you know their child had one tantrum.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment,

  62. Have any advice for when you see a parent hitting a kid in a store during a tantrum? Not a slap on the butt, real hitting. I saw this once and I froze. Always felt bad I never stepped in and did something. The question is, what should one do?

    1. Oh, Terry, that is such a hard one. Sometimes it helps to give the mom a sypathetic statement like, “My kids had trouble in stores too. He’s precious though.” Not to support her actions but to distract her and return her to her right mind. Anything you say to her is also sending the message, “I’m here and I’m watching you.” (Maybe you could even say that.) Last, I think you’d need to call the cops. If she’ll hit in public, I can only imagine what she does behind the closed doors of her home.
      I think most of us have been in your shoes and I can’t imagine a scenario that’s more difficult to handle.


  63. I really enjoyed the points you made in this post. I also really enjoyed reading through the comments it has received; both the positive and even the negative.
    I don’t have children of my own so I wouldn’t even begin to give the ‘well I would have…’ advice because I know well enough that what you think you would do before you have kids and what you do once you do have kids are not usually the same.
    Still, I have been with my fair share of tantrum-throwing children in public places. If I know it is because they are tired or hungry or over-stimulated, then yes, I will remove myself and them (of course) as quickly as I can. However, if they are throwing a fit because they didn’t get what they wanted (a toy, treat, etc) or because they just don’t want to be there, well then my apologies in advance to the innocent bystanders and the eye rollers because I won’t be leaving unless there is a chance that they will cause physical harm to themself or someone else. I’ve always seen those fits as teaching moments and how I handled it depended on what child I was with, where we were at and what the fit was over.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience and your insight. I will have to be more aware of helpful ways I can assist the parent of a tantrum throwing child.

  64. I love that you took a picture of the tantrum!

    I have a picture of my son at the age of four kicking and screaming, face down right at the entry gates of Disneyland. Given that we were just arriving at the the “Happiest Place on Earth,” I couldn’t resist the irony of the moment. 🙂

  65. Very cute! Humorous to read, thanks for writing! I have a 6 month old…trying to look forward to these moments with a smile :p

  66. My mom was a wonderful parent and that didn’t stop me from throwing full-blown crazy scary tantrums in super markets, in full writhing and screaming glory. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just life.

    I think your advice is perfect. Especially about keeping your cool. As a kid I think sometimes your primary goal, without even realizing it, is to make your parent blow up. You want to know you can push their buttons, and when the parent stays calm and doesn’t lose it, that’s def. winning the battle, at least for that day!

  67. Good read…I can still remember when my, now 17yr old, was 1 and used to bang her head on the floor. the doctor said “make sure there’s nothing around that will hurt her, and evenually, she’ll hit it hard enough that she will get a headache and stop.

    I remember that exact moment! She banged her head on the floor, pulled back and looked at the floor as if it betrayed her!!! Never did it again!


  68. Dear Amy-

    I was lucky. For some reason my son never had the terrible two’s. I always, always help parents in distress and I’ve rarely been turned down.

    I find that the welcome intervention of an unfamiliar happy face can jolt them out of the tantrum but not if it has reached full meltdown.

    But then again, I work photographing kids. So I have many pictures of screaming children. I even babysat a gorilla, but I didn’t do so great at that–I am not kidding. I’ll stick to kids…

    Congratulations! Being Freshly Pressed is a huge.

    My best to you from your newest subscriber…


    1. Mike,
      A gorilla? Wow!
      I think that’s great your son gave you peaceful 2’s. My kids actually have all been pretty good, at least slightly less than terrible. It’s actually one of my favorite ages (tantrums aside).

      Freshly Pressed has been such an adrenalin rush! What a ride.

      Thank you so much for subscribing and for your comment,

  69. Loved this piece! Way before you concluded with a nod toward adult tantrums, I was already thinking managers, bosses, and executives, oh my! If you reread your starting bullets, in particular, as a guide to how to manage managers (wording fully intended) who convulse with their own arrogance and anxiety in lieu of displaying genuine leadership and mentoring skills, you get quite an array of tips. I particularly enjoyed the one about leaving the store; of course, the difference is that presumably you’re talking about leaving the store WITH the kid while I, on the other hand, am just thinking, well, you get the picture…
    Thanks again for such a thoughtful and well-written rundown of how to handle what may be the most stressful situation in any parent’s life.
    All the best,
    Mike Raven

    1. This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking when I mentioned adult tantrums. Rereading the bullets from this new perspective was hilariously accurate!
      Thank you for such an interesting reply. I may have to put more thought into the ways adults manifest their inner toddlers.


  70. Amy,
    I could almost see my grocery shopping life being played out in your post. 🙂 Excellent read.

    I am going to email this link to my wife too (:))
    In the past, I have been guilty of being critical of parents who give an ice-cream or chocolate, just to get the little one to keep quiet for a short time…..

    ….and then one day, I became a parent! The rest is history.

    Now we seriously respect parents who have more than one kid, because our one and only can sometimes really drive us up the wall.

    Yes you are right. Keeping composure usually works foolproof. The kid eventually knows who’s the boss and will stop the tantrum. But yes it is a slow process and some parents die a 100 deaths just because of the embarassment..

    1. Becoming a parent is a great lesson in humility! 🙂 (Although, as previously mentioned, there are quite a few childless, yet child-wise people out there.) Sometimes, I think more than one can almost be easier because they model after each other. Although that can also be a very bad thing!

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I hope your wife enjoys!


  71. OK. Now I am scared.

    The 20 month old has started testing out the tantrum method of getting her way, but so far it has been restricted to sulking and a couple of screams.

    I am sure all those mothers with tantrum throwing kids I rolled my eyes at as a 18 year old will come to haunt me.

    Is there some way I can reverse the curses they might have thrown at me?

  72. Nice post. I like your writing style. Kids can be handled with tact but if its a toddler who can’t understand anything, then its tough.

    If anyone wants to learn tricks for controlling kids then you can visit my site:-
    It will also show you how to make lots of friends, attract opposite sex, triple your thinking speed, come out of depression mood quickly and many more.

  73. Enjoyed your post . Your talk of adult tantrums reminded me of a scene in Absolutely Fabulous where the Mother lies down on the kitchen floor and kicks and screams whilst her daughter stands impassively on.
    I have long believed that there are certain places where tantrums are more common than others. Asda for example is more tantrummy than Sainsbury’s, and Starbuck’s more than Costa. Why should this be I wonder? Whole new piece of research waiting out there for someone!

  74. I. Love. This. Article. Mainly because I’m way past the temper tantrum stage (by my children, that is) and I lived to tell about it. When I have grandchildren, I hope I remember temper tantrum etiquette. Thanks for the post!

  75. Been there! You handled it pretty well, BUT what about next time. I believe that a child should be showed who is the boss at a early age. Not after they become teens an still think that a tantrum will get them anywhere. (Everyone is looking at you already anyway.)

    My daughter is now 32 with her own children. She handles things differently from the way I did, but her children still know who’s in charge, and my son in law handles thinks more like I would.

    1. I agree that teenage tantrums are not a pretty sight! Next time I hope to avoid the incident all together — if it happens I’ll handle it the same way. Appreciate your post and so glad you’ve been blessed with grandchildren!

      Thanks for reading,

  76. Love this post and I commend you for your take on this. I have a child with Autism and the tantrums can get pretty bad but I have had people come up and tell my son to get up off that floor or tell me I needed to get control. I usually try to get out of the store but sometimes it just can’t happen soon enough. Oh, I take pics too. LOL

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