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after turning 2, my daughter went through an epic fit-throwing stage. It
happened mostly at home, but there were a handful of occasions when she began
raging in public. As much as it embarrassed me, I learned quickly that ignoring
the fit and going about my business as though it wasn't happening at all was
the best way to calm her down.
Acknowledging that fit or making efforts to calm her myself usually
resulted in me getting hit in the face, both of us reaching the brink of
frustration and the tantrum raging on for as long as 45 minutes. Ignoring it
usually led to her tears dissipating within five.
Sometimes, as a parent, you're just doing what you have to do to survive the
imagine my irritation a few weeks ago when my daughter began throwing a fit in
public, hurling herself to the floor as I kept walking a few paces away, and a
woman who was just trying to help stepped in and addressed her directly—only
making the fit that much worse.
wasn't upset or bothered that she wanted to help, that part was nice. The issue
was that, upon clearly seeing I was employing the "ignore it" method to end
this fit, she instead walked right up to my daughter and reached out to touch
her, thinking comfort might be what she needed.
then she reacted in shock and dismay when my daughter screamed at her instead
of immediately calming down.
If you want to be the village, go about it the right way.
Look, I don't always know that I'm doing this whole parenting thing right, and I am
all about the "it takes a village" mentality. There are certainly times when I
question myself and am open to the advice of others. But there is a way to
offer that helping hand. So here are the do's and don'ts of stepping in, should
you feel so compelled to act as that village we all really and truly do need.
the parent and ask if there is something you can do. When your kid is throwing a fit in public, you are painfully
aware of all the other people around who are witnessing the demise. Someone
kindly stepping in and offering to help, even if that help isn't necessarily
needed, is a good thing. I promise.
approach the child. No matter what you may have
witnessed, you have no idea what the full story is. And you also don't possess
the knowledge this parent has of their child. You may consider yourself a baby
whisperer, capable of soothing any tantruming toddler, but you don't know this toddler. Trust the parent to know
what works, and don't side step them by approaching the child first.
Do offer a
kind and supportive smile. You have no
idea how much a parent may need a show of compassion in this moment. They are
keenly aware of all the eyes on them, and that one genuine show of support can
make all the difference.
and stare. You are certainly not obligated
to help, but don't be a gawking bystander to a moment that is already difficult
and embarrassing enough. If you don't have anything constructive to add,
continue about your normal routine. Put your groceries in your cart or keep
walking toward your car. Kids throw fits. It happens. And this one moment in
time isn't going to ruin your day. So go on your way. This isn't a sideshow for
you to get your daily entertainment (or self-aggrandizing "tsk-tsk") from.
words of encouragement. Even more than a kind smile, a
simple, "We've all been there, you've got this," can be so huge. Because parenting
can sometimes be a really isolating thing, and it is so easy to convince
yourself that you are mucking it all up. Someone else reminding you that all
parents struggle sometimes, and that most toddlers tantrum, can help a
struggling mom to not feel so alone—and it can give her that extra boost she
needs to get through this particular moment.
continue pushing if the parent tells you they are fine. Yes, offer the help. But know that sometimes, it won't be
accepted. Be willing to back off and walk away if Mom or Dad doesn't seem
receptive to your efforts. It isn't necessarily about you, so don't take it
personally. Some parents just need to deal with these things in their own way.
If you want to be the village, go about it the right way. As a mom
of a toddler in the midst of her terrible twos, I can tell you a show of
support and offer of help really would mean the world to me in those moments
when my child is seemingly inconsolable. But simply stepping right in or
undermining what I am trying to accomplish, whether you agree with my methods
or not? That doesn't help—it just makes an already bad situation even worse.