My 2-year-old was throwing an epic tantrum one morning while we were on our way to get donuts. I had told his older brother and sister since they had been so helpful with cleaning the house, we could go to their favorite donut shop. Because I didn’t think they should all be punished because their little brother couldn’t pull it together, we went through the drive-thru instead. I remained calm through my son’s screaming while ordering, when all of the sudden he burst out, “I’ll take two stupids and one ugly!” as he was flailing about, kicking my seat. Those were all the bad words he knew, and he wanted to use them to express himself since I wasn’t giving him what he wanted.
I tried to avoid the public tantrum, and I kind of did, but the whole restaurant heard him anyway. Shit happens. Kids are going to tantrum — sometimes in the privacy of your own home, but sometimes they throw a mean one down in the middle of Target.
News flash: It is 2016, so we can drop the whole children are to be seen and not heard shit already. How about we meet this situation with a little bit of empathy for the public tantrum by keeping the following in mind:
1. Tantrumming is normal.
It is a normal part of childhood development. I should know — all three of my kids did this at one time or another, even my very well-behaved middle child. She was quiet, slept really well, and hardly ever cried. Every once in a while though, that girl would lose her shit in public. But it didn’t suddenly make her into a uncontrollable brat. She would go back to her princess-like state after it passed — sometimes happier than before.
2. It’s not a lack of discipline.
In my early 20s (before I had kids, but knew all there was to know about parenting), I was so guilty of thinking tantrums were due to lack of discipline. I would wonder how parents could allow a public tantrum right in front of me while I was sipping margaritas with my girlfriends after work. Well, I have eaten crow on this one more than once. And by that, I mean I have had my nacho eating and alcohol drinking interrupted by my own tantrumming children a few times and did not succeed while trying to “discipline” them out of it.
3. Every child does it at one time or another.
Yes, every child. They have needs they want met, but they are still trying to figure out what is socially acceptable. They may be uncomfortable and trying to tell you something they can’t express with words, or they may really just be having a bad fucking day. Hell, I want to throw a temper tantrum every now and again, but because I am in my 40s I don’t — I get to drink alcohol to self-soothe instead.
4. Nobody is enjoying it.
Not the child, not the parents, not the clerk at the checkout, but such is life and we have to deal with it sometimes. Hey, I don’t enjoy going to the gynecologist or picking up my dog’s poop, but I do it. It makes the wonderful things in life seem more wonderful. So, actually, that screaming toddler in the restaurant will make you enjoy your peaceful dinner at home much more!
5. Back off unless you are going to try to help.
Don’t try to over-parent the parent. This just confuses the child, makes them more angry, and pisses the mother or father off too. Yes, there are those few asshole parents who let their kids scream and cry while two lovers are exchanging vows. But for the most part, parents know how to take care of their kids themselves, and we should let them. It is their job to discipline and advocate for their child.
Tantrumming kids are part of life. If you ever want to venture out in public, chances are you are going to witness one, and for parents to be met with a little compassion is going to go a lot further than icy glares from uptight pricks who don’t know how to mind their own business. So plan on seeing a public tantrum, plan on hearing it, and plan on not being an asshole about it.