Even the most unflappable parent crumbles in the face of a public toddler tantrum. It can feel a bit like being trapped in a nightmare — the dreaded moment when your tot’s wails start up, and heads begin to turn.
Though you keep your head down as you desperately shush your child, you can just picture the looks coming your way. Heat rises into your face as you imagine parents around telling their kids not to be as “naughty” as yours, and judging your parenting skills.
But the question is, why do we get so embarrassed? Why do we panic so much when our little one, still new to the world, is overwhelmed with emotions — and shows it?
That’s what Justin Baldoni is calling into question in a recent Facebook post. The American actor and director shared a riveting picture snapped by his wife, Emily, on a trip to Whole Foods.
In the photo, the couple’s daughter, 4-year-old Maiya, is throwing a full-on tantrum. She’s writhing on the floor, facedown.
Standing on either side of her are Baldoni and his father. Yet they aren’t trying to tug her up or glancing about in embarrassment.
With feet planted wide and gazes turned toward Maiya, the two men form a protective, unshakeably calm bubble — the eye of the storm.
I tried to stay off social media yesterday to connect with my family without distraction so I'm posting this today….
Posted by Justin Baldoni on Monday, 19 June 2017
In the post, Baldoni wrote poignantly of the lessons he learnt from his dad about dealing with emotions.
“There are no perfect parents, but one thing my dad taught me is to not parent based on what anyone else thinks. My dad always let me feel what I needed to feel, even if it was in public and embarrassing. I don’t remember him ever saying ‘You’re embarrassing me!’ or ‘Don’t cry!’
“It wasn’t until recently that I realized how paramount that was for my own emotional development. Our children are learning and processing so much information and they don’t know what to do with all of these new feelings that come up.
“I try to remember to make sure my daughter knows it’s OK that she feels deeply. It’s not embarrassing to me when she throw tantrums in the grocery store, or screams on a plane. I’m her dad…not yours. Let’s not be embarrassed for our children.”
Justin Baldoni, Emily, and little Maiya. (Image Credit: Just Jared Jr)
Getting embarrassed about our kids’ meltdowns, Baldoni points out, passes on the idea that open emotion is shameful.
There are so many good reasons to shush our tots when they start to wail: consideration for others, our natural discomfort with the situation. It’s so easy to forget that more important than others’ shopping experience, or even our own fears of judgment, is our children’s emotional health.
Looking at the shoppers in the photo’s background, it’s quite clear they aren’t looking, let alone judging. You might feel like you’re in a spotlight, but everyone else is often just as busy with their own ongoings.
Or more likely, they have noticed the toddler screaming on the floor — it’s hard not to hear it when a full-blown tantrum’s under way. But they are respectfully giving this family a little privacy from gawking, just as we would in their place.
So parents, don’t be afraid to give your overwhelmed kids space to vent — even if it happens to be in public. And just as importantly, don’t fear that the world might see your parenting struggles.
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