There has been a number of articles published in the last few weeks on children’s tantrums and public places. Each article has it’s own point of view and recognizes that our society has some pretty different views on kids crying or throwing tantrums in public. By public I am talking about places that are not children’s play areas, stores, restaurants, etc.
I believe that we have forgotten we were once that age and our parents went through the same trauma when we had an atomic meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. We forget that children under a certain age don’t understand what they are feeling or how to communicate that feeling effectively, well even adults have this issue. We forget that while it is the responsibility of the parent(s) to raise their children sometimes they need a bit of help.
We expect that children – ages 0-12 years – understand exactly what is happening with their bodies, emotions and how to handle these changes, differences, strange new things. Even as adults many don’t understand how to properly express their anger, frustration, joy, excitement, etc in public. While it is easier to persuade an adult to keep quiet a child will not understand that they are bothering someone else. How can they? Their world experience is much more limited.
Children’s tantrums cause challenges not just for those around them, but for the parents of those children. Many in society today think that if your child is crying, screaming or generally misbehaving your should pack the child up, drop what you are doing and go home. In some situations this is a valid option. In others it is not. A lot of parents not only care for their children, but also have full time jobs. To drop everything in a grocery store may not necessarily be an option if you are going home with nothing to prepare for dinner or lunches the next day.
Parents that are working have limited time for care. Most daycares/homes require pick up of children at a particular time, usually by 5pm. Work hours are such that parents are usually working between 7am and 5pm. If you are a single parent, when can you get your groceries, do you pay an extra $40-$50 to keep your child overtime in care just so that you can peacefully get your groceries? For some this extra expense is not an option.
There are a lot of things to consider when you are faced with a tantrum situation where you are not the parent. I know that the gut reaction is to think “just take your child home” as I have thought this myself, even as a parent. As a society we need to have a little more compassion for parents. They are raising the generation that will ultimately care for us when we are old and can’t do it ourselves. Compassion for others is not a trait that we come by easily, it is taught and those that do have a natural tendency towards compassion can easily loose it when faced with un-compassionate people on a regular basis.
We have become so closed off from each other that we are scared to step in and help, but help doesn’t mean that we have to step in and take over. Help can be a simple as a smile or nod of the head. Giving someone an understanding look can go a long way, I’ve been there. My son was melting down in the car prior to going into the grocery store, he was tired and just wanted to go home. I had nothing to cook for dinner so we needed to go into the store. A passing person looked at me, smiled and said simply “I understand”. This calmed me, made me feel that it was okay as I wasn’t the only one who had this experience. I was then better able to deal with the meltdown, which stopped and didn’t start again so we were able to do our shopping without issues.
I am trying to say that tantrums are a part of children. Regardless of how well behaved and how much you try to make sure they understand manners and what it means to be in public. We can not hold children to the same standard as adults, it just isn’t fair to them.
To parents, tantrums can often be negated or limited through distraction. Don’t be ashamed to use your smart phones or other toys to distract your children from the cause of their tantrum. It may not always work, but it is a way to possibly shorten the experience. Ask for help…no one is going to call you a bad parent for asking for help…and if they do they are not very nice people.
Young children will be more prone to tantrums when they are tired and hungry. Avoid this and you will limit the number of tantrums. Just like you get more irritable when you are tired and hungry the same goes for children. However, they need more sleep and food than an adult too.
And if nothing else works you can always order pizza or cook soup or have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or fruit and ice cream.