Q. This weekend, I was in Target with my kids when my three-year-old had a huge public temper tantrum. We had been in the store a while making Christmas returns and picking up groceries when we passed by the toy aisles. I remembered we needed a gift for a birthday party, and I thought we could just pop over real quick to find something, but that turned into a screaming fit about Why can’t I get a toy too???
It was horribly embarrassing. I’m talking on-the-floor, kicking, shouting…The Works. I did my best to collect my little bundle nerves, but it was almost impossible to hold a flailing child while pushing a cart with a baby in it. I was completely torn about whether to let him scream it out right there on the floor, try to make my way to the cashier, or just abandon the cart full of stuff I actually needed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
A. Mel, that sounds awful! It’s bad enough when our kid has a tantrum like that at home, but then you throw in the pressure of having to deal with it in public when you’re just trying to get through Target, and that’s enough to make any mom cry!
As awful as it is to have to manage a public temper tantrum, I wouldn’t vote for running out of Target empty-handed. You worked hard to get those kids to the store and pick out the groceries you said you needed. Plus, if you literally drop everything when your kid has a fit, he’s learning something really important: If I don’t feel like being here, I can just scream and kick and thrash around, and then we’ll leave, instantly. Poof!
No, no, no. You did the right thing by staying. I’m sure you tried to speak calmly to your son about how today wasn’t his turn to get a toy (after all, you did mention you just celebrated Christmas, right??). That’s an important piece of this puzzle: trying to talk your kid down from the ledge.
I know you’d like to buy a truck, but today we’re picking out a toy for Josh because it’s his birthday. When it’s your birthday, maybe we can get you a truck. Right now though, I need you to put it down and come with me so we can be finished in the store.
What you don’t want to do is be the parent who’s screaming back or whacking their kid on the butt or dragging their kid by the arm through the store. These just escalate things with your child and makes you look completely out of control.
The keys in a crummy situation like this are:
- be reasonable with your kid, who rightly sounds like he was done,
- and show everyone around you that you’re trying your f*cking best.
There’s no need to be mortified. Target is a perfectly kid-friendly setting. No one can fault a mother with a cart full of groceries who’s trying to calm a screaming child so she can just pay and get out! But it’s important for adults around to you have the sense that you know you’re child is behaving in a socially inconvenient way, and you’re trying to get him/her back in line. When people see you trying to address your kid’s behavior, you earn soooo many brownie points!
In the future, if you’ve tried the whole let’s be reasonable thing and your kid’s not buying it—if there’s no turning back and a public temper tantrum is inevitable—make the effort to collect your kid as best you can and move toward the checkout line.
Better luck next time!