How an Epic Tantrum Changed my Parenting Perspective

(Last Updated On: October 20, 2017)

Watching my child have a tantrum in public has to be one of my most mortifying moments as a parent. We feel judged, helpless, embarrassed. But that day, in this EPIC tantrum, I realized how I could be a better parent.

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Several years ago now, my daughter and I had been in a small car accident. We had been rear-ended, and I needed to replace her car seat.

Rather than sit waiting, the dealership offered me a loaner vehicle until my van was finished.

Thinking I was using my time wisely, I decided to buy her new car seat while waiting for my van, that way we could make the 45 minute drive home without further stops.

My daughter was three. The van was supposed to be done by lunchtime.

Lunchtime came and went.

Realizing she would get hungry, I had brought snacks, but she was still hungry after my purse stash was gone.

Being a cautious mommy, I was putting her in each display seat, checking out the straps, headrests, safety features, seeing which were easy to buckle, but not easy enough for her to unbuckle, checking cup holders, etc.

I had finally made my decision . . . around an hour past lunch and well into nap-time, but my van was still not ready.

My best worst parenting day, I learned real compassion for an EPIC tantrum. Click To Tweet

I should have known better.

Kids do not deal well with being tired or hungry. Three and hangry ain’t pretty.

In order to purchase a car seat at Babies R Us, we had to walk through about 50% of Toys R Us to use their open register.

What do you get with a tired preschooler and shelves of beautiful Christmas and Halloween displays?

An epic “Mommy, I want this!” meltdown.

She was inconsolable when I explained that we didn’t have the money for any toys today, but would happily put things on her list for Santa.

You know what else a three-year-old doesn’t understand?

Delayed gratification.

It got ugly at the checkout.

She started screaming and crying, throwing herself around. And I realized then, I might have been able to make some different choices before we got into this situation, but for the most part, we were both coping as well as we could.

And she couldn’t cope. Epic tantrum!

I didn’t ignore her tantrum, but rather than respond in frustration, I spoke in low deep tones to her. I picked her up and held her, through the judgmental stares of the cashier, but rather than feel vilified, for the first time, I realized HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent.

HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent. Life is messy. Click To Tweet

In that situation, stuck far from home, it just was what it was.

I got her out the door, managing to stay calm, then the car seat box didn’t fit in the loaner car’s trunk. I had to reinstall her emergency seat to fit the box in the back seat.

While I was bent over, sweating, and burning my fingers on the metal buckles, she realized she had to use the restroom. The tantrum escalated as she feared having an accident in her pretty skirt.

I can only imagine the picture we made as I raced this excruciatingly hysterical child all the way back through the entire store, back past the judgmental cashier, to make it to the restroom just in time.

But we could not yet claim victory, I had to walk her past all the toy displays, again.

Hysteria engulfed her as we got closer and closer to the door without a new toy.

But I was not going to give in because she threw a fit.

I knew this wasn’t fair for her. She didn’t ask to be stuck running errands waiting for our van, way past nap-time with nowhere to sleep.

But I had no choice that day, and I learned that her reaction was understandable. In her little mind, the world had fallen from its axis. Nothing made sense outside of her little routine.

While I chose not to buy her a toy, I did choose compassion.

Sweet, sweet loves, I know this is hard. I’m so sorry this day has not gone our way, but I will do my best to get you some lunch and a nap as soon as possible. You will be okay. Mommy loves you. We’ll get through this awful day. 

And we did.

A fistful of chicken nuggets and a milk and a repaired van put our day back on track.

Honestly, I’ve never personally seen a worse tantrum than the one she threw that day. Though her behavior was unacceptable, it was all she knew how to do. I could feel embarrassed and angry or see she needed my calm.

Again, I chose compassion.

As a parent, I learned to always carry back-up back-up purse snacks, and to seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Empathizing got better results than demanding she correct her attitude.

Seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Compassion got better results. Click To Tweet

As a woman, I’ve learned that reality is sometimes messy. Own it.

But as a Christian, I see myself in that tantrum when I’ve struggled against situations that didn’t go my way.

Like all the times I thought I praying hard or long enough meant God would give me the answer I wanted, but didn’t. All the times life broke my heart, and I thought God didn’t care or wasn’t listening. I realized I’d been wrong.

I couldn’t hear Him over my tantrum.

I’ve learned to seek Him, knowing His perfect gifts trump whatever I thought I wanted.

He chooses compassion for me each and every time, inviting me into His stillness, offering His peace for my panic.

When I throw an epic tantrum of my own, God reminds me, that I don’t have to cope on my own. I just have to . . .

Psalm 46:10   ESV  “Be still, and know that I am God.

and He calls me His – His sweet love, His daughter.

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10 Replies to “How an Epic Tantrum Changed my Parenting Perspective”

  1. Great perspective on this! It’s funny how much we can compare God’s love and patience and grace for us as a model for how we should treat our children. As a stay at home dad of two little girls (4 and 2), I can totally relate to the child needing their normal routine (lunch and nap) and when they don’t get it, their whole day is thrown off. Isn’t it great how God grows us in such great times of need!
    Steve Goodwin recently posted…3 Things I’ve Learned My First Month As A Stay At Home DadMy Profile

  2. I followed along with her tantrum and your responses and more trials to go back into the store and pass all the toys again. But I was really surprised when your post took a turn to us spiritually throwing tantrums when we don’t get what we want. So true. And I love the verse in Psalms – Be still and know that I am God. Blessings on you and your sweet daughter.
    Amy Hagerup recently posted…9 Tips for Living Life on PurposeMy Profile

  3. I love this. Many parents give in and just do it but I’m so thankful to see that you honestly choose compassion. and then, my mind wondered how many times had I been acting like this while God was compassionately waiting on me, reminding me we would get through this…

    love it!
    Marie recently posted…God Fashioned – Your New IdentityMy Profile

  4. This is a great reminder that all parents are human and our kids are too. I doubt there is a person alive who never had a meltdown as a child…or adult!

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