Motherly Collective

We locked eyes briefly in the cereal aisle at Target as your toddler continued their red-faced screams  on a Saturday morning. You quickened your pace as his guttural sounds persisted, his small frame plastered against the bottom of the shopping cart.

While we’ve never met, we shared a short, universal parenting moment—the day-to-day of navigating life with a little one having big feelings. Now, I wish I’d done something to let you know I’d been there too, a commiserating smile or nod. Something to say, “You’re not alone.”

To the mom recouping from a recent public tantrum or prepping for more in the future, here are some things I’d like to let you know from one mom to another.

6 things to keep in mind when your child is throwing a public tantrum

1. Take a deep breath 

Breathing can transform a challenging situation. Take a deep breath. Drop your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Stretch your neck. Aside from giving quick physical relief, these tricks may give you an extra boost to overcome feelings of discomfort during a tantrum. It won’t make the tantrum stop, although what an excellent resolution that would be for moms everywhere. 

2. Remember that big feelings only last so long 

As a mother of a strong-willed toddler, keeping the brevity of emotions in perspective helps get me through the chaos. My daughter has a set of lungs on her, but it’s yet to be determined if shrieking indicates future success as an opera singer. Reminding myself of the fluctuating nature of emotions turns each tantrum into just another parenting moment. 

3. No one is judging the situation as harshly as you

We’re often our own worst critics and have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, particularly when it comes to parenting. And while there may be some overly critical public viewers, most people understand the struggle. So, if you feel overwhelmed about the opinions of others, take solace in knowing that it’s likely the only superhuman expectations you’re not meeting are your own. 

4. If someone says something rude or hostile, it’s a reflection of them, not you

If someone makes a judgmental or rude comment responding to your child’s tantrum, it shows who they are. You’re not responsible for others’ words or managing their feelings regarding your child’s emotional expression. If it gets to the point where someone makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, do what you need to ensure the emotional and physical safety of yourself and your child. 

5. Well-behaved kids have their bad days too

My daughter can give a heartfelt, wailing public tantrum. But there are times, you’d think she was a prop, sitting politely and silently in a shopping cart. Despite a quick glimpse of other moms with calm children in tow, they have also experienced public tantrums. No one is above it. The next time you think a parent has it all together, this is a refreshing reminder that no one does. 

6. If there is something you think could’ve gone better, you’ll have more opportunities to try 

I’m sure you’re aware of this already but the tantrum period doesn’t magically disappear overnight. Your child will give you more chances to implement different responses and intervention techniques. 

So, to the mom pushing her screaming toddler through a crowded mall or trying to console them in line at the grocery store, remember that you will make it through. The next time your little one has meltdowns in public remember this: Haven’t we all been tempted to scream in frustration while in the never-ending line at Target?

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.