Tips for Tantrums: Why Parents Need a Hand Gesture | Still Playing School

Tips for Tantrums: Why Parents Need a Hand Gesture

By Devany | Labels:
Please tell me I'm not alone in dealing with stressful, embarrassing tantrums and physical fits from my toddler in public. After talking to friends I've realized how much one simple hand signal or gesture might help us all!

I used to think I was a pretty patient person. I taught kindergarten which meant that I was dealing with a roomful of five year olds on a daily basis! I had my first daughter E and learned a new level of patience. Then we had our red headed toddler D who changed the perseverance playing field completely (to the point that I lovingly call him our Gingernado). 

D is one and a half and he feels every single emotion to the extreme. You are either hilariously funny, boring beyond receiving a glance, or impossibly infuriating to him. The switch from happy to angry or sad turns in an instant when the world doesn't work the way he expects or likes. He turns bright red, screams, sweats, and no amount of distraction will change him back to the content and calm kiddo he was a minute ago!

Just this week we were at the library happily playing at the train table when his preschool age sister E announced she had to go to the bathroom located all the way on the opposite side of the building. D threw a fit the minute I took him away from the train table to go assist his sister on the potty. He couldn't understand my explanations that we would be right back and he was mad. Even after the bathroom break he continued his tantrum. He didn't want the trains now. He wanted me to understand that he didn't want removed when he was in the middle of playing. I got the message loud and clear but sometimes I don't have a choice in the matter when a preschooler has to pee!

He decided to calm himself down by wandering around the library. I tagged along supervising but trying to give him a bit of the control that he had lost. He went into the empty young adult room and I allowed him. The room was empty and there was nothing he could disturb. Just then a staff member entered giving us a sideways glance. "What are you doing in here, buddy?" she asked while making eye contact with me so it was clear we weren't welcome to sort out his emotions in this unoccupied space. Even though I found it hard to believe we were bothering anyone with our (now quiet) presence here I picked up my toddler with his still-tear-streaked face as I felt pressured to remove him from yet another room and judging glance. What do you imagine happened? Of course he threw a tantrum all over again. Quite honestly I was close to one myself at this point.

I rounded up E who still had an audio book of Ramona & Beezus to check out. As we stood in line I held D who was now kicking and screaming with a renewed energy as we disturbed the entire library once again. This time my patience was gone as my face was red and I was sweating along with D! Furiously I thought, "I wonder if that woman in the young adult room has children. Doesn't she remember what tantrums are like?!"

You've surely seen motorcyclists pass each other in the road and throw out a hand signal. Can we agree as parents that we need a similar signal? A silent fist bump of solidarity if you see me or I see you with a screaming toddler in your arms. I want to be able to quietly communicate (since you can't hear me anyway!) that we've all been there, I don't think you're a bad parent and I know your darling child is just learning all about this overwhelming and sometimes inflexible world in your loving arms (even as he flails to break free). 

I use Nurshable for support about what I should do to help my child when he throws a fit. As parents, though, we need the same support. We need strangers to offer to put away our grocery cart for us while our child fights the fact that we didn't buy something they wanted in the check out aisle. We need a gang sign to show we are all on the same supportive parenting team as I leave the playground for the seventh time this week with a distraught kid who doesn't realize we'll come back again! We'll probably even return on this very same day! If only he'll take the nap he needs and I can recover from my embarrassment about holding the source of the screams once again.

What should our hand gesture be? I promise to throw it up like the districts in The Hunger Games as your kid tantrums because I know someone will return the favor to me when my kids do the same. We'll all feel a little bit better and a little less alone in this tiring and totally rewarding job of parenting.

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  1. Silent Fist PUMP to you, girl! Love it!

  2. Yes! I always try to give an encouraging smile to a parent dealing with a tantruming child. I know it's meant a lot to me when other moms have been supportive when all I wanted to do was disappear with my screaming daughter!

  3. Agreed! We have all been there; there should be some sort of nod or something!

  4. This is awesome! A silent fist bump or even a "You've got this!" Oh how that would've made the screaming fit at the office supply store go so much better. Sigh. ;)

  5. Two pounds with your own fist to your own heart. I think it signals that we relate and we feel your pain!

  6. Peace sign? Easy to do and everyone knows what it means...peace :)

  7. i vote for the AUSLAN (australian sign language) word "worthwhile". Sometimes we need to know that others appreciate our efforts no matter how traumatic the tantrum is for all....

  8. Love this! My 4 year old and 2 year old were having one of "those" days this past week at the grocery store. Once one starts the other joins in. Instead of supporting grins, I received sideways stares and whispers. By the time I checked out, I was on the verge of tears from embarrassment. I told the cashier I had no idea what was going on. Thankfully she looked at me and said everyone has a bad day. And if this was a bad day for my kids it was too bad, she's seen much worse!
    Remember to offer kind words long after your kids have grown and not forget what it is like to have "one of those days!"

  9. I always do my best to smile at or give a bit of a 'what can you do?' shrug to parents in this situation. If they're tantruming, at least it shows the parent is willing to stick their guns and not give in to letting the child stay where he or she wants, or buy that thing they don't really need!

  10. How great, I just read your post as well and think the solidary fist bump is perfect :)

  11. Being a mom to a toddler I exactly know what you mean. My son C is 3, and just yesterday he threw a tantrum in a store because playing with a fake steering wheel is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than picking up daddy from the train station. When C started screaming and kicking, I lifted him up, held him firmly over my shoulder and went to pay for our goods (diapers *sigh*...). The saleswoman gave me a wink and said that C might come back soon to play again. I am very lucky because C usually calms down quickly from his tantrums. But during the tantrums, he kicks and screams like mad, and when he was younger, he even started bouncing his head on the ground. Once he sat on my lap, and because he wanted another piece of popcorn and didn't get it FAST ENOUGH, he flung his head back and knocked against my mouth. Ouch. And goodbye, incisor...
    So I vote for Jac's #solidarypoundit - this sounds like a great gesture and is easier to accomplish than the AUSLAN word.
    Greetings from Germany

  12. Makaton sign for family (then it's inclusive).

  13. As a mother of two daughters and a grandmother of 5-yr.-old girl and a 5 mo.-old boy, I want to applaud your idea of a parental hand signal of support for our fellow child rearers. I often wanted to help a mom in the grocery store when her child was having a melt-down but was afraid the offer would be taken as an insult and make the mom even more upset. Thanks for raising the issue. I'm all for support of the adult in difficult situations like this!