By Deborah Groening-Rother, Well Baby Center Founder
You may have all seen the headlines about Charlize Theron trying to contain her son Jackson’s tantrum in a parking lot littered with paparazzi. Since the pictures emerged of her “dragging” her son to the car, she has been disparagingly labeled “Monster Mom” and judged harshly online for her ability to parent. For the record I am pretty sure that if pictures were taken of anyone trying to contain a tantrum in a parking lot they would look alarming too. First off, a parking lot is not a safe place to let a child writhe and flail around, for obvious reasons. Secondly, she had her baby in the car and, I imagine, would have been feeling an immense amount of pressure to contain the situation, especially given the cameras snapping away.
Judging her on this isolated incident is certainly not a compassionate way to view parents in general. Instead we could be empathizing with her struggle in that moment and thinking about our own responses to similarly stressful situations with our kids. Supporting each other and acknowledging that we are not perfect, nor should we be, is the way towards gaining the respect that we deserve for the job we are doing. Perhaps if we stopped judging ourselves so harshly, we would judge others less?
Things to remember about tantrums:
1. All kids have tantrums in their toddler years. It doesn’t matter how many parenting classes you take, you will not be able to avoid them.
2. At times you will have to contain their bodies to prevent them from getting hurt and to help them regulate. At Well Baby Center we call it the ‘loving hold’, where you hold the child from behind in your lap and wrap your arms around theirs until they calm down. However, if you are in a car park and have a second child in tow, you may want to get your child in the car to make it safe. This will not look so elegant most of the time!
3. Kids cannot talk about their feelings in the midst of a tantrum, because their brains are unable to process the verbal information. Wait until they have fully calmed down before trying to reason with them, this will avoid escalating the situation.
4. The tantrum will end! Brave yourself and ride it out without distracting the child if the situation is safe, and you are feeling up to it. If you don’t feel you can stay calm and support your child, then distraction may be the best method in that moment. It is still important to talk about what happened with your child, in as neutral a way as possible, once everyone is calm.
For more input on how you can manage tantrums and “big feelings”, we encourage you to attend Loving Discipline, a Mindfulness-based Parenting Classes at Well Baby Center. To register or for more information, call (310) 402-2229