Those Darn Toddler Tantrums…Compassion Always Helps!

AUTHOR: | POSTED: March 5, 2013 | COMMENTS: 1 Comment
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Compassion, compassionate parenting,

Carolyn Savage

Every Wednesday morning I appear with Rick and Mary Beth on 101.5 The River to chat.  This week we are talking about toddler tantrums and when we, as bystanders should help, and when we, as parents should drag our kids’ rears out of the venue.  I’ll be on at 7:30 am.  For those of you not local, you can always catch me on I Heart Radio!  Tune in if you can! 


We’ve all been there…

You are in a check out line, cart full of an hour’s worth of shopping, when suddenly your toddler, for no good reason, wants something he or she can’t have.  First come the pleas for the unattainable–for us it’s usually a candy bar perched on those clever little shelves that line the check out lane–or worse the tantrum is triggered by some unknown reason.

Then comes the quiet begging.  “We are almost out of here, sweetie.  You’ve been so good.  Just a few more minutes and mommy will take you home so you can watch TV and eat cookies.” Reasonable statements that in theory should work, but rarely do.

As the tantrum escalates, so does your blood pressure, because you are trapped.  There’s no way you are going to leave in the middle of checking out a week’s worth of groceries, so you bow your head  vowing to push through it because you are the parent and you WILL win.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse you make the mistake of looking up and meeting the eyes of a stranger.  You hope for a look of compassion born out of a healthy “don’t worry…been there done that” attitude, but instead get a scowl indicating that the person doing the scowling thinks you–and your child–are the worst kind of people.

To which you start sweating which your now freaking out toddler can sense, hence heightening their stress and making the public tantrum even worse.


One would think that because these kinds of tantrum incidents are fairly commom, that we, as mothers or past mothers of toddlers, would be more compassionate.  It amazes me how easy it is for some people to forget what those moments were like. 

Children commonlyget upset when they feel they aren’t communicating effectively.  Sometimes they aren’t and their parents have no clue why their child is acting out.  Sometimes they are but their parent isn’t willing to comply with the child’s wants.   Regardless, it is a stressful situation for both parent and child and the sneering of an onlooker can only add fuel to the fire.

I would suggest, instead of  throwing dirty looks in the direction of the parent involved, that a compassionate gesture would be much more effective.  For me, that may mean sympathetically  smiling at the parent in a manner that conveys that I get it.  “Don’t worry.  These kids get the best of us sometimes.   Just carry on and hopefully you can have a big glass of Pinot tonight.”  There are other times when it may be appropriate to offer some help.  That may require you to push a cart full of groceries to some other mother’s car while she wrestles a two year old into her carseat.  Or once, on a plane, I dug into the bag of activities that I’d packed for my toddler and shared a few crayons.  It’s amazing how someone else’s toys, even if they are the same damn toys that child’s mother packed. can distract a very disgruntled three year old. 

Compassion is always the best way to go. 


Compassion goes both ways…


We’ve all been there…

We are on a much needed evening away from the kids.  Just you, your significant other, fine food and finer  liquor…when a screaming child a few tables over makes his  presence known.  At first you’re compassionate.  You suppress those nasty thoughts about why anyone would drag a child that  young, to a restaurant that nice, at that time of night.  Yes… you check those feelings because you are compassionate.  After the third, fourth and fifth interruption, however, you get aggravated.  You figure that you’d have removed the child by now.  Your compassion for the kid’s parents has run dry, and instead, you wish that child’s parents would show you some compassion.

And they should…


The saying “a time and a place” has relevance for young children.  I’m certainly not insinuating kids should be banned from fine restaurants.  I realize that sometimes situations dictate a young child’s presence, but when a child needs to be in an environment that isn’t kid friendly, some contingency plans need to be in place.  Sean and I have been in this situation before.  Drew was the ring bearer in my brother’s wedding which required him to attend the rehearsal dinner. I knew there’d be some toasts that would mean a lot to the wedding party, so Sean and I discussed beforehand that Sean would exit with Drew if and when he acted up.  We packed a “bag of tricks” to hold Drew’s attention during the evening but knew if he needed to go, he’d go…even if it meant Sean would miss something he really didn’t want to miss. 

Being a parent stinks sometimes.

It sucks to walk out of an event that you really don’t want to miss because your young child can’t behave appropriately, but sometimes that what we, as parents, need to do.  Hell, I don’t think I’ve sat through an entire church service since the twins were born because, out of respect for the other people in the pews, I leave when my kid becomes a distraction. 

I think that’s the respectful and compassionate thing to do.

So, yes, compassionate parenting goes both ways when it comes to misbehaving toddlers. 





One Comment on “ Those Darn Toddler Tantrums…Compassion Always Helps! ”

  • Peggy | March 6th, 2013 2:02 pm

    once at Mass, my friend was trying to control her child’s behavior while not giving in to the kid’s demand to leave. Father paused, said “would you please take your child out?” and then continued his sermon. Susan’s face was flaming, and I thought she’d never go back to church. But she said that afterward, several people commisserated with her, told her they’d been in the same position, and showed her the compassion that she needed right then. I asked myself what I would have done — give in, which means the toddler gets what he wants, or stay in hopes that the tantrum would be brief? I guess that day, Father just needed the noise to stop, but he certainly embarrased her.

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