The Public Tantrum

We’ve all been there.  You’re in the middle of a store, usually Target for me, and your toddler decides for one reason or another, that it’s time to throw a full fledged tantrum.  I’m not just talking about a little whining or complaining because he can’t have a Paw Patrol chotski; I’m talking about a throw yourself on the ground and make a scene kinda fit.

Yes, we have all been there, and yes theses tantrums are no joke.  I’ve learned over the years, with my 2 seemingly harmless until they are not, children that there are ways to cope with this as a parent.

Below is what I’ve found comforting and helpful in times of public meltdowns with the kids.  Here’s hoping some of them work for you the next time you find yourself in this (all too familiar) situation.

The Onset of the Tantrum

When your little one starts moving from whining to a little something more, it’s usually pretty obvious to tell there is about to be one heck of a tantrum thrown.

It helps to first try to avoid the tantrum from starting in the first place.  Sometimes I try to redirect with something like, “Oh look over there at that happy baby.”  If that doesn’t work, sometimes I will pull out my emergency sucker from the diaper bag if I feel the toddler’s mood might be salvageable.  If not, and all else fails, I just tell myself to prepare for the worst.

It usually helps me to accept the truth; to accept that yes, there is about to be a shit show performed in front of all of our neighbors, and to know that this is not on me, it’s on the kid.  Why do we always have to feel like the bad parent just because our kid is acting like a fool?  It helps to know it’s not a reflection on you as a parent… it’s a reflection of a toddler and how they have to learn what is acceptable in society.  You’re not born with this knowledge; and sadly it’s our job as parents to teach this hard lesson.

When Full Tantrum Mode Strikes

The tantrum is here.  Here are a few things I do right away to ensure no one gets hurt.

  1. Make sure the kid is buckled into the shopping cart, if he is in fact in the cart at the time of the tantrum.  It’ll help you feel better that your little Hell raiser is safely secured, and will not fall to the ground while screaming and flailing his body parts.
  2. If your child is not in the cart, just make sure he has an open area to throw himself onto the ground.  Try your best to not be in a public restroom or near any breakables.  If you are in an aisle with breakable stuff, just go ahead and scoot him into the middle.  (Of course, a carpeted area is preferred but rarely do I find myself on soft ground when the tantrum hits.)
  3. If other shoppers are staring at you and your hot mess of a child, just smile at them.  Sometimes I find it helpful to wave to also make sure they know you see them judging, and that it doesn’t phase you one bit.  You’re secure in your parenting and you know by letting your kid work it out on their own that they will be better human beings in the long run.  Giving into the peer pressure will just make you regret being weak the next time your kid thinks throwing a public tantrum is a good idea.
  4. If your kid insists on screaming just try to shush him a few times in an attempt to save others’ hearing.  If it doesn’t work, just know you tried.
  5. Wait it out.  Yes, I said it.  Just stand back and watch, preferably without emotion.  Your kid will not like this one bit.  He will realize this fit isn’t doing any good and (eventually) he will pull himself together… or he will just run out of energy.  Don’t waste yours on this; you have some shopping to still do.

When the Tantrum Slows

You did it!  You made it through the toughest phase.  Now, you most likely are left with a semi-crying and whining toddler who is a bit more manageable.  If he is still on the ground, now would be a good time to put him in the shopping cart.  He should be too tired to noodle out of your grip if he did his tantrum correctly.

Here’s what to do now.

  1. Congratulate yourself.  You survived!
  2. If you are in a Target or another store that sells Starbucks or any form of caffeinated beverages, head straight there.  You need a latte stat.  (If you happen to live in a fancy area with bars in your grocery store,  you know what to do!)
  3. Decide how much more of your shopping you really want to do.  No one will blame you if you decide to just get the essentials and to head back out later, once reinforcements arrive and you can shop in peace.
  4. Smile at your offspring and remind him you love him.  Let him know you aren’t rattled and that you’re glad he’s feeling better now.  (This really confuses the kids and sometimes it even makes them smile.)
  5. If you noticed any other moms smile at you during the tantrum phase, find them and become friends!  It’s so nice to find another momma in the “wild” who gets you and didn’t judge you one bit.

Here’s hoping we all can survive the public meltdowns together.