There you are, wandering up and down the aisles of your friendly neighborhood supermarket or department store minding your own business when all of sudden your ears are shattered by a blood curdling scream. Being the good Samaritan that you are, you rush over to find the source of the wailing and discover little Johnny or little Susie rolling around on the floor with their arms flailing and their legs kicking. Their little face, once so cute and innocent has now turned a deep shade of crimson that only serves to highlight the rage and turmoil that has suddenly boiled over and broken the silence.

You notice either Mom or Dad standing alongside of their darling little one with a look of chagrin painted on their face as they first try to cajole junior into acting nice but their attempts seem to fall on deaf ears. The cajoling soon turns to imploring as the screaming intensifies and the stares of the other patrons become more prominent. Maybe a security guard has taken notice and is whispering into his walkie- talkie to call in some reinforcements should the need arise. The begging of the parents soon turns to outright threats and then when that doesn’t work they snatch their precious bundle of joy by the arm and drag them kicking and screaming to whatever fate awaits them.

If you’re already a parent, maybe you feel a twinge of sympathy for Mom and Dad. If you’re not, you make a silent vow to yourself to never have kids and to practice safe sex and birth control with a renewed emphasis much like a surgeon washing up before getting ready to cut open a patient.

I’m sure no parent likes to look upon the fruit of their loins as some kinda ticking time bomb but as we all know, sometimes shit just happens. The question is why?

What’s up with all the yelling and screaming?

Before panic sets in, why don’t we all take a deep breath and relax for a minute or two. Count to ten if you have to

Temper tantrums aren’t all that unusual and usually occur when a kid hits the toddler stage. See, unlike most of us grownups, kids don’t have many of the inhibitions that have been ingrained in us over the years. Since most of them haven’t learn to curse and drink away their problems or to walk away from them entirely, they tend to act on instinct when they feel frustrated. They want to be the master of their own universe and when they don’t get their own way, they act out on it in the only way they know how. If they feel as if they’re being ignored they’re usually seeking some kind of attention and to their little brains it doesn’t matter if the attention is good or bad.

It’s also true that at the toddler stage, most kids can absorb and feel more than they can express. Sometimes they know that they’re either tired, hungry, not feeling well or pissed off but don’t know how to put it into words and they’re just acting out in the only way that they know how.

Unless of course, they’re just a spoiled brat, if that’s the case, you probably only have yourself to blame.

Tantrum avoidance

The easiest way to avoid something is to keep it from happening in the first place. That being said, it’s often easier to give the kid a choice about what they’re about to do. Naturally you don’t give them free reign but asking them what kind of juice they’d like is a whole lot easier than cramming some apple juice down their throats. If you ask them if they want to do some kinda chore at this very moment, most of the time, the answer will be “no”. If you ask them if they want to do before or after Barney or Blue’s Clue’s, at least you’re giving them a limited choice.

(Yeah, I know, ninety percent of the time the answer will be “after” but hey, you never know.)

Keep temptation to a minimum. This is especially true while you’re at home. You know the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind”? Well if you don’t want Johnny or Susie playing with a particular toy or video game for hours on end, stash it away somewhere out of view. Chances are, they’ll find another way to occupy their time.

That bit of sage advice is easier said than done when you’re out in public. Kids act on impulse and if you’re in the toy store with all kinds of bright and shiny things that are bound to catch their eyes and feed their desires, some kind of compromise might be in order.

On a personal note, I remember going to the 1964 World’s Fair and pitching a fit because I wanted what was in this really great looking box but my Dad kept telling me no. Only later, when I was older did he reveal to me the contents.

It was a tablecloth.

Riding the storm out

Should you find yourself in the unenviable position of being a parent of a kid in the throes of a tantrum the most important thing to do is to remember that you’re the parent. Set an example and don’t sink to their level and start yelling and screaming at them. That doesn’t mean that your voice and your tone shouldn’t take on an air of authority, it means that by stooping to their level, the playing ground has been evened. Besides, what parent in their right mind would want to look like a raving lunatic in front of the general public Giving the kid a whack on the ass will only make you look bad and further ignite an already awkward situation. If you can, try and keep your cool until the histrionics fade and then try some rudimentary form of reasoning about what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior.

Giving in to their demands, while easy at the time, is only a temporary fix. Once a kid knows that they’ll get their way if they keep going long and loud enough means that they’ve won the battle. They’ll be sure to pull that tactic out of their little bag of tricks the next time they want that prized possession.

Naturally, if you think your kid is in danger of hurting him or herself or maybe others, it’s entirely appropriate to move them away from the goings on as soon as possible and to hold them until they calm down. While it might seem like the longest moments of your life, it usually only lasts ten minutes or so.

Even more important, once the storm has passed, it might seem prudent to reward the kid with a little trinket or two. While it might seem like the nice thing to do it’s generally a bad idea. That type of behavior shouldn’t be rewarded in any way shape or form.

Do I need to see a doctor?

In most cases, I’d say no. Kids usually grow out of the temper tantrum throwing stage on their own, Besides, you don’t want your kid wandering around on Prozac or on any other kind of medication for what are only isolated incidents. If the patterns persist and the tantrums increase in frequency, intensity or duration, you might want to pay them a visit. Hopefully the docs can give you some advice before they start prescribing medicine at such an early age. Naturally, sometimes that’s just impossible and a real physical or mental problem might exist and can be diagnosed effectively.

On another personal note, I come from old school parents who thought a swift kick in the ass was the remedy for everything. I’m not saying they’re wrong either, but the timing and delivery of said swift kick should only be used when appropriate and even then, only sparingly.

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