Little Sally is throwing herself on the floor of Target screaming and crying because she can’t get a toy (candy, movie, etc). Does this sound familiar? Does the thought of this happening send you into a panic attack with a cold sweat? You’re not alone! Lots of parents have some sort of nervousness/fear of their child throwing a fit in a public place. I know that I do, especially since H is at that age where fits and tantrums are common.
It really is hard to avoid that feeling of being judged and shamed when your child is screaming their cute little faces off in a store. We often feel as if this comes off to be a reflection of our parenting skills as if we are completely incompetent as parents. As if we have created a monstrous, spoiled brat. Let’s be real here, the screaming and the tantrums can make even the most effortless tasks seem painful. Now you find yourself embarrassed and angry.
What can you do in this moment when you’re feeling stressed and angry? How can you demonstrate that you’re a good parent that isn’t raising an entitled brat?
Don’t let the stares bother you
More than likely, people aren’t staring at you. The ones that ARE looking at you, probably understand completely what you are going through and those looks are looks of solidarity.
IF you are getting the side eye from the oh so perfect mommas and daddy’s, just ignore them. I know, I know, it’s hard, but it allows you to focus and help your little one work through the issue.
When someone makes one of those super helpful comments (that was sarcasm if you didn’t know) like, “maybe she is hungry” … blah blah blah, the best thing to do is not react. This one is tough for me because I am naturally sarcastic, so I instantly want to say some smart comment back. Instead, thanking the person and adding in that you’re teaching your kid a lesson on how they can’t always get their way is probably the best response. This also allows you to convey the message that YOU are the parent, a good one at that, and YOU are teaching your child life lessons.
My momma has always told me that H can feel when I’m anxious, uptight, or upset. When I’m trying to get her to calm down, it happens much quicker if I, myself, am calm and collected. Even though being upset is a completely understandable reaction to H throwing a fit, she needs me to stay calm and be her rock when it feels like her little world is falling apart. Over a toy. I have to remind myself to take a few deep breaths because if I lose it, she’s only going to cry louder. Thus, causing the situation to get worse and cause those perfect parents to judge you harder.
Let them know their feelings are valid
First of all, letting your child know their feelings are valid is NOT the same as letting them think their actions are valid. How they FEEL isn’t the issue. The issue is how our children (and us) react to these feelings. It’s important that children learn that it’s ok (and normal) to feel these big emotions, but they need to be dealt with in a proactive manner. Obviously, for a little one, this is going to take time, but I really believe it begins with validation.
Your child may be throwing a fit because they want a toy, instead of breaking down and buying the toy, offer to take them to the park after the shopping trip is over. When offering choices remember that your little may very well just flat out reject their options. They may even act out more. When H does this I just pick her up and put her in the buggy. At this point, I try my hardest to ignore every attempt that she makes to get me to react. Because after all, she’s trying to wear me down so I will give her her way. I also calmly speak to her about other things that are happening in the store, or wherever we may be. During this time I offer her the choices a few more times. She typically calms downs and we can finish our errands.
Overall, we must remember that we can’t just give into our kids when they are having a tantrum just because we are embarrassed or worried what other people may say or think. Our kiddos are smart. If you give in this time, they’ll keep pushing your buttons every single time. Breakdowns are a normal part of life, we have to respond calmly, and set and enforce clear limits to let your child know that you are in control. It’s hard, but going into Target without the tantrums is amazing and it does get easier!