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Yes, That’s My Kid Having the Loudest Public Meltdown Ever, and I Didn’t Try to Stop It!

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Have you ever experienced the joys of HUNDREDS of people staring at you in shock and disbelief? Oh yes, I did today.

You see, I openly accept crying and temper tantrums in my kids. I don’t tell them to shut up.  I don’t shush them. I don’t shame them. I don’t tell them to get over it or stop being such a baby. I firmly believe that when children cry and rage over emotional stuff, that it’s a way for them to release their anger and frustrations.

Margo is nearly four. She got really upset about something or other this morning and then we had to rush out of the door before it had a chance to resolve. We were running around all morning, we had to cancel her swim lesson, daddy abruptly went to work, then a good friend of ours, Maria, came over. Margo always gets a little over-excited when Maria comes over, because they have so much fun together. We went to the beach, had a dance party, ate lunch, even had a nap. But, Margo was still pretty upset by the morning craziness, I could tell.

We went down to the beach for our second swim of the day, and it was getting late and we really had to get home.  I was tired and it was dinner time and everyone was starving. But, Margo didn’t want to go. I gave her the old ‘one more minute to play‘ at least three times and then I said, “Ok, it’s really time to go now!” But, she was sitting in the sand, and wouldn’t budge.

I DON’T WANT TO GO!  I DON’T WANT TO GO! I DON’T WANT TO GO!

I had already gathered up her 18 month old sister and all of the bags and was ready to start walking up the beach.

I don’t know if you’ve ever walked on the beach with a sandy, squirmy toddler hanging off your hip on one side and had a bag full of heavy wet things in the other, but it’s not easy, especially when you’re already tired. My arms were starting to ache and I said, “Margo, we have to go NOW!”  But, she wouldn’t listen to me.  I had to get off the beach, so Maria and I started walking, just turned our backs on her (I knew she would follow us). I couldn’t help it, my arms were about to drop off.  As we started to walk away and she started to follow us, the full blown temper tantrum started.  All the frustrations of the day came pouring out, right there on the beach, which was still relatively crowded.  Everyone started looking.  EVERYONE. She was SO loud!

When I finally got past the sand and near the showers, I unloaded the sandy toddler (her name is Goldie) and bags and waited for the screaming banshee woman to make her way towards us. I sent Maria home because I knew that this wasn’t going to be quick. People were giving Margo sideways glances and giving me looks that ranged between feeling sorry for me to “Why don’t you shut that f***ing kid up!?”  Margo came sobbing over to me, babbling something incoherent about wanting now to play at the playground. I firmly said, “No, we have to go home now.” She started crying and yelling even more ferociously.

I put Goldie on my back in my trusty baby wrap. Gathered up my bags and was now prepared to give Margo my full attention.  Of course, she started to make a b-line towards the playground, and when I again said “No, we have to go.”  she fell into a heap on the walkway and continued crying and screaming. I stood near her for at least five or ten minutes while she cried without saying much, just standing there.  There were so many people watching! It was Saturday night and it’s summer in Australia, so there was no hiding.  People were even watching from their balconies.  I told her, “I know you want to stay and play, but we have to go home. Goldie is hungry and cold, and I’m very tired.” Saying this made her cry even louder. I finally had to pick her up and carry her across the street, kicking and flailing her legs… down the street… past all the shops… You can imagine how comical it would have looked, with a toddler on my back, a preschooler having a temper tantrum on one side and a heavy bag on the other.

At one point, a lady gave me a very friendly smile and said, “I’ve been there so many times, bless you!” Just as we neared the house, her tantrum subsided. Almost as fast as it came on, it stopped. That evening, Margo was an absolute delight.

In a way, I’m sort of glad that her temper tantrum happened in public. It’s a good excuse to show other people how I deal with a tantrum. I know it’s really really hard to accept a child’s temper tantrum. Most parents are told to believe that if their child is having a temper tantrum that their child is being behaving badly, or is bratty, spoiled or conniving.

But, I don’t take temper tantrums personally. When I see my kids having a temper tantrum, I know that their tears are just venting out their frustrations. Even though young children can talk, they may not be able to fully express themselves using their words! I’m sure I was being judged by lots of people out there tonight. I know it would have seemed a little odd to see a mother not trying to stop a temper tantrum or not trying to make her kid ‘shut up‘. But, I have faith in what I do and I firmly believe that lovingly supporting a child during a temper tantrum is the best thing you can do.

About katesurfs

Kate is an American living in Australia with her husband and two young children. She holds a Masters of Educational Practice and is a high school science teacher by profession, but mostly she stays at home with her children. She is a yoga and meditation teacher, trained through the Art of Living Foundation, a surfer, a vegetarian, and healthy conscious. She is an Aware Parenting Instructor, as well as a Know Your Child Teacher.

12 Responses »

  1. Your last thought fully resonated with me. It gives me piece of mind that I am raising my son just fine, despite some of the thoughts from my family members. I can definitely related. Living in NYC means that no tantrum goes unnoticed.

    What can we do beside love our children? We all have low moments. Better to be taught how to work through them than have the opinions of strangers matter more.
    Thank you!

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    • Glad you enjoyed, like I said before, it’s really hard to ‘recondition’ our way of thinking about a temper tantrum!

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  2. Ah, Art’s intensity and laser focus fully engaged, if not fully mature! Brave stance, Kate-one I applaud ’cause you respected Margo’s dignity in the face of loss-of-face for you!
    Don’t think I ever was that understanding when my boys were small-but that was what they deserved!

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  3. Yes, absolutely! It feels like we are constantly having to ignore the world’s expectations and “requirements” and instead plow forward with what we KNOW is best for our precious children. I wish we could have been there — because a warm beach sounds amazing right now, since we have several feet of snow here — but also so you would have one less judgmental family pitted against you! 🙂

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  4. So. . . ahhh. . . what is your approach when Art throws a hissy fit?

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  5. Way to go Margo…get it out girl!! Great job Kate!!

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  6. So inspiring to see the patience you have with those little girls and their big emotions. I am still learning with Boston, it is like I feel his tantrums so much then nearly have my own along side that are totally unrelated 🙂 So it is definitely about not taking it personally.

    In fact when I was in Vanuatu one of the village kids took a little tumble and was sitting there bawling his eyes out. Us westerners were standing there like hmmmmm should we go comfort him. Five minutes later he was up running around happy as larry. And his parents were super loving, beautiful and affectionate people. It was a good lesson.

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    • It’s really hard to ‘recondition’ our reaction to tantrums. I know that my first reaction, up until very recently was to deliver a smack… but ahhh… deep breathes… that doesn’t do anyone any good. Interesting to hear about the people in Vanuatu. I think it’s important to pay attention to a kid having a meltdown, but not to over exaggerate it either.

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