So today the story about the mum who was asked to leave John Lewis because of her tantruming toddler has caught my eye. First of all I thought oh man, that is going to happen to me one day and when it does I am going to cry, Greta has some epic meltdowns when she’s tired. But then I thought it’s ok though, they’ve apologised, it was just one crazy person acting out of line, everyone else will be morally outraged and probably even start being nicer to me when Greta is throwing a hissy fit in public, hurrah! But apparently not so, because twitter was full of people agreeing with the John Lewis worker. And I’m not entirely surprised to be honest because I’ve seen the looks and I’ve heard the tutting and I’ve been there pleading, begging her to stop, throwing sweets at her and promising her a pony if she will just be quiet so people will stop staring.
So, to those people with all of the judgement but none of the answers, can we just clear something up? Tantrums are normal. Toddlers don’t have tantrums becuase they are naughty, they don’t have tantrums because their parents can’t control them, and they don’t have tantrums because they really want to offend everyone in John Lewis. Toddlers have tantrums because they are toddlers. Tantrums are the biological norm for the under fours. Their brains haven’t yet developed to a stage where they can even begin to control their big emotions when they feel them. It’s not the parents fault, it’s not the child’s fault, it’s their immature pre-frontal cortex. So when you see a toddler having a tantrum, you don’t need to stare, you don’t need to ask what’s wrong with her, because my answer will 90% of the time be ‘I don’t bloody know, she’s 2’, you don’t need to say as one lady did to me in Aldi ‘They scream a lot these days don’t they?’ as if screaming toddlers are a new phenomenon. Next time you see a toddler having a tantrum you can just think oh look, there’s a child being a child, how developmentally normal.
Because as much as I do try to meet her every need and avoid anything that might set her off as much as I possibly can, eventually I’m going to have to pop out for some milk, and she’s going to want to get out of the buggy when I have my hands full, and if she’s tired, or hungry, or the sun’s in her eyes or the wind’s blowing in the wrong direction….. we’re going to be in full blown tantrum city quicker than you can say super nanny. And then what do I do about it? Well not a lot to be honest, what can I do? She wants to do something that she simply can’t do, she’s really upset about it, it’s sad but it’s not going to change anything. All I can do is empathise and wait for the storm to blow over, then hopefully she will accept my offered cuddles to make it all better. Because she needs to get it out, she’s frustrated and angry and stressed and she needs to express that the only way she knows how. It’s basically the toddler equivalent of a good old swear, and who hasn’t done that in John Lewis when you realise they’ve discontinued your dinner service? I could try and bribe or threaten her to suppress her emotions, but it wouldn’t do any good for her little developing brain and her future mental health. Except of course when I’m in the close confines of a shop or something similar and I feel the pressure and the judgement, and then against my better judgment, I do.
I know it’s annoying, I know it’s an awful sound, I appreciate you don’t like hearing it, neither do I. I hate tantrums as much as the next person and some days I hear nothing but that sound all day long. It’s draining I’m not going to lie. I just think we should stop pretending that all tantrums can be avoided or stopped, they can’t and they shouldn’t. Let’s stop making parents feel like their child’s tantrum is their fault, it’s not. Let’s stop treating kids like second class citizens who shouldn’t be out in public unless they can sit quietly, smile sweetly and basically act like an adult, they aren’t. Let’s all just practice a bit of empathy and laugh at the ridiculousness of a toddler throwing themselves on the floor because they’ve just noticed their socks are green.
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