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.