The 5 Parent Stages of a Public Toddler Tantrums

It’s 330pm on a Tuesday afternoon and you decide to take your sweet little one out to run some errands, or to the park or anywhere out of the house, because the walls are closing in. Everyone is laughing and in a good mood, generally having a great time when all of a sudden the world shifts. This could be anything really but whatever it is, your sweet little one is flying south in a downward spiral that is….the toddler tantrum. We’ve all been there, even Mrs. Perfect Momma with her super perfect child, who “never has tantrums” has had tantrums, trust me.

tantrum 3 (2)


Here are the 5 stages every parent experiences during a tantrum:

The Onset Panic

The OMG is this seriously happening in public? This is the legit immediate panic when you are in a public place. Yeah, tantrums are home are rough but everyone is safely confined within the walls of the home. No stares, no glances from Mrs. PM and her super perfect child. The Onset Panic is usually accompanied by a nervous giggle and a frantic search through the purse to find something (ANYTHING) to provide a distraction. Please oh please let me have stashed some crackers in this oversized purse!!!


The Look Around

You couldn’t find the crackers. You have a purse that could literally fit the contents of your entire pantry but for whatever reason you can only find your wallet, matches and a pen. Matches? Seriously?? Are you lighting candles on the go? Enter: The Look Around. It’s time to assess your surroundings. Here’s the thing, when stuck in a toddler tantrum you become one of two people during the Look Around stage – Parent 1- cautiously looking around with a sheepish smile with those who choose to make eye contact, quite possibly mumbling “He’s just so tired” or a simple “sorry” or you become Parent 2- darting your eyes around aggressively, waiting for someone, ANYONE to make a face or better even, a comment. Parent 2 rechannels her frustration from this tantrum to just about any Mr./Ms. Judgy McJudgerson. “You got something to say lady???” (I am Parent 2…)


Fight or Flight

This is the deciding factor of how you plan on handling this tantrum. Are you going to run like hell and put your kid in the car and drive home thinking that you will never leave the house again? Do you pretend you don’t hear your child and continue about your business? Do you get angry and try to yell over the screams? Or do you continuously try to reason with you child, giving him anything to make that wretched screaming end.  In all honesty, this can vary between tantrums but I am a solid believer in pretending I can no longer hear the screaming sounds of my child. He isn’t physically hurt, he is mad I won’t let him eat all the Kroger Tortillas in our cart. (Look, for others not in our little tantrum bubble, I get it, the scream are mindbogglingly painful but I can’t give into my kid because it’s making you uncomfortable.) Ignoring comes in several different forms, I once saw a dad break down into a little song about how he was ignoring his child while his daughter sat in the stroller screaming bloody murder. I found this delightfully effective and personally very entertaining.


The Level Out

Your child is slowly realizing his screams are not working and he/she starts to calm down. This is sometimes a crazy slow process. Once this happens, you have the upper hand. Congrats Mom! This is where I put my self riotous mom hat on and say things like “Thank you for calming down, like a big boy” or “Oh Good! Mommy can hear you now that you have your normal voice back.” Honestly, it’s all very sarcastic but my child is 2 and he doesn’t pick up on sarcasm yet and quite frankly, sarcasm makes me feel better. If you decided to stay during your fight or flight stage, this can be a little euphoric moment for you. You may decide to strut your stuff a little as you continue on your errand, making eye contact with others: Yeah, I rocked that tantrum and you know it/Oh no applause necessary, it happens to the best of us but I was pretty awesome back there. Maybe you didn’t stay, maybe this was a rough one and you high tailed it out of there and by the time your kid is calming down you are pulling into your driveway, and that’s ok! Relief may be your feeling during this moment. You made it, rock star. Go inside, put him down for a nap and relax. You earned it Momma.



This….ahhh acceptance.  The tantrum is over, your LO is peacefully napping in his crib, or is happily entertaining himself with something new. He has forgotten about his tantrum and all is well again. Bring on acceptance- He’s only 2/ They can’t express themselves properly, gosh how frustrating for them/ This was rough, I’ll handle it better next time. Because…there will be a next time, heck, if they didn’t get a good nap, next time could be right around the corner.


How do these steps compare to yours? Does this sound familiar? Next time you hear that sound…the whimper, the cry turned into a scream- at least you know you only need to make it to stage 4 for the world to make sense again.


I’ll leave you with this…

Toddler tantrums are rough. Always carry crackers.



tantrum 4 (2)


One response to “The 5 Parent Stages of a Public Toddler Tantrums

  1. Pingback: Bye bye 2016… |·

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