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5 things you should never do when you see a mom in public with screaming kids

Posted May 20

Don't say a word because she's already embarrassed by the scene her child is making. (Deseret Photo)

You’ve seen the exasperated moms pushing a grocery cart with a toddler screaming as he rides in the seat. You’ve heard the ear-splitting commotion made by a child on your airplane. And you’ve seen the huge tantrums kids can throw in the restaurant booth behind you as the mom desperately tries to calm them.

Your first reflex might be annoyance or even anger at this mother for putting you through her child’s ruckus. But your annoyed or angry reaction will not help the situation – in fact, it will only make it worse for everyone involved. Here are five things you should never do whenever you encounter a mom with a screaming child:

1. Question her parenting methods

She’s handling her situation the way she thinks is best. She could yell back, she could smother her kid’s noise with a tight hand over their mouth and she could threaten them. But she doesn’t because she loves her child. She might seem like a "bad mom" because her child is still screaming, but the way she's handling the tantrum means she's actually a very caring parent.

2. Stare and glare

She is already embarrassed by her child's shouts and tears. She’s hyper aware of the people around her, and she knows her child is bothering every person in this waiting room. You don't need to do anything to make her more aware that you are bothered, so don't glare in her direction. She already knows and she feels bad.

3. Ask her to make her kids be quiet

This comment could be laughable if it weren't so infuriating. If she could get her child to quit making a scene, she would — for her own sanity’s sake and for the sake of those around her. Comments like these only make a mom feel ashamed. Once a child gets going, sometimes it’s almost impossible to get them to calm down.

4. Think to yourself, "I could control those kids if I were in her place"

Each child comes with their own uniquely difficult traits and tantrums and just because you’ve been able to deal with a trouble child before doesn’t mean the child currently screaming is the same kind of difficult. And even if you really could handle the situation better than her, you still shouldn’t be judgmental. Instead, you should remember that she’s probably trying to do everything she can to be a good mom.

5. Comment to the person next to you, "She should have left them at home"

She probably had no choice — moms can’t hire a babysitter every time they want to go out or need to run an errand. The child is most likely too young to stay at home by themself. She might even dread going out with her children in anticipation of causing a scene, but she can’t be confined to her home all day just to avoid public tantrums. Plus, seeing strangers whisper about her will only make her feel worse.

So, what should you do when you come across a mom with a tantrum-throwing child? There are different answers for different situations, but some good possibilities include:

  • Give the mom an encouraging smile

  • Tell the mom, “I’ve been there. It’s rough isn’t it?”

  • Give the mom and child some space

  • Ask the mom politely if there’s anything you can do to help. Maybe you can with her groceries or tell her you'll hold her spot in line at the post office.

It's hard for any mom to handle an upset child, let alone a tantrum-throwing toddler in public. While every situation is difficult, these five things are never helpful. Instead, try to be encouraging and helpful to these moms.

Is there anything else you would add to the list?

McKenna Park is a staff writer at FamilyShare. She's a happy wife, puppy mama, ice cream addict and film nerd. Contact her at mpark@deseretdigital.com.

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