Yesterday at Costco, I witnessed a full blown public toddler tantrum. Kicking, screaming, writhing on the floor as strangers tried to steer clear with their carts.
The poor mother seemed embarrassed but determined to make it through the check-out line without having to abandon the mission and her cart full of diapers, wipes and other necessary items that had probably taken considerable time and effort to gather.
I had enormous compassion and wanted to help but honestly could not figure out a way to do so without causing more stress or feeding the tantrum with more energy. As I tried to send positive vibes in her direction, I noticed other folks approach her, clearly less able to restrain themselves.
The first was a part-time employee hired to hand out food samples. He tried to bribe the little guy with some candy, an offer that met with polite refusal from the mother. The next to approach was another woman, probably a mother as well but child free at the moment. Her message was not as sweet.
“You need to leave,” she announced. The struggling mother just looked at her, mouth agape. “You need to leave,” she repeated, “otherwise you are teaching him that it’s ok to throw a tantrum in the store.”
To say this advice was not well received would be an understatement, but it was interesting to observe as a bystander with no emotional investment. I could see both women’s point of view. One desparately wanted to make it through check out and felt the end justified the means. The other had may have raised kids of her own and had strong opinions on the “right” way to do things.
There is much evidence that her advice is sound, but does it really matter if you are presenting it at a time when another person is so stressed and overwhelmed that they simply can’t hear you.
So, dear readers, when you see another parenting struggling in public, what can you do to be helpful? Have strangers offered to help in a way that was helpful to you?