There are many anxiety-inducing situations parents face every day, but perhaps none is as complicated or embarrassing as the dreaded temper tantrum.
But one dad – who just happens to be actor Justin Baldoni from Jane the Virgin – has a message for all those red-faced parents out there struggling to deal with those terrible tantrums: stop feeling embarrassed and forget what other people think.
The words of encouragement came after Baldoni posted a picture on his Facebook account which showed his daughter lying face-down on the floor in a full-blown meltdown in the middle of a Whole Foods store last week. Baldoni and his father are seen standing over his daughter while patrons of the store continue about their business.
“I can only imagine how many times I did this when I was her age,” Baldoni wrote. “My dad taught me so much about what it means to be a man, but this post is about one thing only. Being comfortable in the uncomfortable.”
He continued, “There are no perfect parents, but one thing my dad taught me is to not parent based on what anyone else thinks.”
The actor said he doesn’t find it embarrassing when his daughter throws tantrum in a store or screams on planes.
But is letting a kid cry it out in a public setting on the floor really the best way for parents to handle temper tantrums?
Social media users don’t seem to think so.
However when it comes to dealing with kids and tantrums, the issue isn’t necessarily so black and white, parenting expert Alyson Schafer says.
“If you’re in public and you’re a parent, you have to look at the context of the tantrum,” Schafer said. “So if you’re somewhere where the noise and screaming is disturbing other people – like a restaurant – a parent’s responsibility is to remove that child. I would simply give them the choice, ‘It’s not OK to be that loud here so can you calm down or do we need to go?’”
If the child keeps screaming, then the parent has to figure out if the kid will walk themselves out. If not, then it’s time for the parent to carry the child out.
“It is not OK to be in certain environments – like funerals, weddings, restaurants – and let a tantrum carry out,” Schafer said. “With a grocery store, though, I don’t know. I’d have to see how I felt with how much they were being annoying versus truly disturbing the public peace.”
Schafer says that if parents are at malls or grocery stores when a tantrum ensues, for example, then parents should sit down beside the child and help calm them down with a soothing back rub.
“I don’t want to give them too much undue attention for their misery but I do want to provide a sense that I am not rejecting them or hating them, but neither am I saying that it’s my job to placate you with whatever it is you want,” she said.
The best way to avoid tantrums is to take an offensive approach, Schafer advises, and know the things that may trigger a tantrum in the child. Are you going out around a time when the child usually gets hungry? Are they tired? If you can avoid it by planning ahead, then you’ll have a better chance of having a tantrum-free kid.
Another thing parents need to be aware of is their consistency in enforcing rules. Without the consistency, tantrums are bound to happen.
“Basically the child feels it’s a miscarriage of justice,” Schafer explained. “And the reason they’re feeling that way is that the parent is trying to enforce some kind of rule that the parent thinks is a very well-stated rule – but the truth is the parent has been very inconsistent in reinforcing the rule. So the parent thinks they’re completely justified, but to the child’s way of thinking, they ask ‘Why now? Sometimes when I demand you buy me something you cave, so why are you now saying no?’”
Should a tantrum happen, Schafer says parents need to stay calm.
“If we look like we’re angry at our child or embarrassed by their behaviour or cave into them, we’re not going to help matters,” Schafer said. “We want to be giving off the body language and verbal words that you are there as their friend, not their enemy… So just be a calm presence to them and show that you’re not being affected by their disturbance, and just wait for them to have that emotional event pass.”
Schafer also says to wait until the child’s calm before any sort of discussion takes place.
And don’t think that once a child grows out of the “terrible twos” that you’ll be home free, because tantrums can follow us into adulthood, Schafer said – we just handle them differently.
“As kids get older what you’ll find is that they have more coping skills, better language and problem-solving skills, better ways to express their needs and getting those needs met,” Schafer explained. “So there is for sure a developmental age piece but it’s only going to happen if the parent also teaches their child the language, problem-solving, helps them get autonomy, learn to make good choices – so that maturation piece has to be fostered by the parent.”