Why I Love Public Temper Tantrums

Living in Branson, MO has its perks. One of those is having a season pass to Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with great food and activities for the entire family.

A few weeks ago, Christi and I were just entering the gate with our son when we passed a woman also pushing a stroller. Staring straight ahead in disgust, and with a screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs young boy out in front of her, she was on a mission to get that earsplitting child out the park as fast as she could. She looked miserable.

She also looked familiar.

As we walked passed her, Christi and I kind of looked at each other, and without saying a word we both knew what the other was thinking, “Oh, how we understand.”

I wish now I would have praised that woman in the moment.

Two days later we were at church picking up our son from his class after service when a woman standing beside me cautiously looked over and said, “I’m the woman you saw the other day with the screaming child at the park.”

I began to chuckle.

After telling me the story of what happened leading to the meltdown, she said to me, “All I could think about as I passed you leaving that day was, ‘Joshua Straub, don’t you judge me!!’”

We shared a good laugh about her thoughts in that moment and the mutual understanding of a common experience—temper tantrums.

Besides, who am I to judge?

Our son (generally) has a very sweet spirit. More often than not he’s running around the house yelling “Hap-Hap-Hap-Hap-Happyyyyy.” The more he winds up, the happier he is.

But he’s also a toddler. Who throws temper tantrums. And sometimes screams with a voice that makes me want to curl up and start sucking my thumb.

No wonder it’s so easy to give in to our kids. They can be little monsters.

Just the other night I had to put Landon in a timeout. Why is it when a toddler knowingly looks you in the eye and disobeys (in this case throwing his leftovers from dinner all over the floor, while staring right at me) they have to proceed to let out one of those wonderful, piercing screams RIGHT IN YOUR FACE?!

Because he was defiant, he got the timeout. And wow, does he ever hate them. Most of the time all we need to do is threaten a timeout and he will immediately comply. But there are those moments when he is so overwhelmed and past the emotional threshold that he goes berserk.

And for whatever reason, these moments happen more often than not, in public, especially when he’s at the grocery store—with just Christi there.

Moms, I know you can relate. And I’m not judging you. In fact, I want to praise you.

  • I praise you because we live in a culture where most people look at you in disgust in these moments, privately thinking you, and your child, should be perfect.
  • I praise you because in these moments, you’re most likely setting limits and choosing not to give in to your demanding child.
  • I praise you for choosing the harder path of discipline, instead of giving in and raising emotionally out-of-control kids who believe they’re the ones in charge.
  • I praise you because you understand that without taming their will now, you’ll have entitled, selfish, and impatient teenagers, or worse yet, adults, later on.

Why do I love public temper tantrums? Because it’s an opportunity to start coming together for the emotional sake of parents.

For that, and for the relational sake of a generation, let’s stop judging other parents when their kids throw a tantrum in the mall, on a plane, or in a department store. Instead, go offer a helping hand. Start to publicly praise their efforts and reduce the shame they’re likely already feeling with a screaming child.

Besides, they’re investing a ton of energy in shaping the wills of the next generation.

Offer your support.

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh specializes in combining the scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and living a full life. He is the coauthor of God Attachment and The Quick Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers. Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh is working on raising his own baseball team, starting with their son Landon. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.