The Patience of Parents

Josie Leavitt -- November 4th, 2013

Every day I’m amazed at the ability of parents to handle cranky children in the bookstore. The weekends can be especially challenging. Yesterday, I saw a young mom skillfully handle a full-on tantrum.

A child has a tantrum for a myriad of reasons; they can be tired, hungry, overwhelmed, or feeling out of control, to name a few. This mom came in with her five-year-old daughter and almost immediately it was clear they were operating at cross purposes. The mom was browsing the sale table and the girl was looking at the princess books. There is something about an unattainable book with a glittery cover that can send even the most stalwart young reader into a tailspin. This little one had a case of the “I need it”s  and the mom was doing a pretty good job of redirecting her. All was well until the young one started to cry. At first it was the fake crying kids can do when they’re not getting their way.

The fake crying (you know it’s fake, because within the tears if asked a direct and fun question, they respond calmly) lasted longer than we were all comfortable with. But the mom held her ground, largely ignoring the laments of this princess fan. Then something changed. The mom had had enough and put her foot down and said very calmly, “If you keep asking about this book we are going to leave.” She was very clear and repeated that twice. My co-worker and I held our breath and waited to see what was going to happen. Often, these tantrums can get turned around with parents who hold their ground. Sadly, this was not the case.

The little one just totally lost it. She was sobbing and practically flailing at her mother who again remained so calm as she said, “Okay, that’s it. We’re leaving.” Shouts of, “No, Mommy!” rang out as they left the store. Honestly, it was heartbreaking. I think we can all remember when we were little and just felt tiny in a big world and really, really, really just wanted the sparkly book or toy. But the mom was right and I always applaud parents who stand firm in the midst of a whining child in public. As embarrassing as this was, the mom didn’t cave in to the demands of a five-year-old terrorist who was cute as a button.

Fifteen minutes later they came back to the store and I braced myself. The little girl had calmed down measurably and they browsed for 10 minutes. It was clear that guidelines had been discussed and the girl really understood that she was getting one book and one book only. She clutched her princess book little a protective blankie while her mother bought other books.

No one said a word about the meltdown. I was really tempted to give the kid a shiny sticker, but thought the better of it. They left the store with a bag full of books and the little one practically skipped out of the store and all was good with the world again.

One thought on “The Patience of Parents

  1. Carol Chittenden

    And as a parent, there’s little so reassuring as acknowledgment that their crisis parenting skills are meeting with approval. It’s nice to slip them a discreet message, on a slip of paper or murmured out of the child’s earshot, “Nicely handled.” We don’t want them feeling like they never want to come back in the store because the scene was so embarrassing.

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