"I'm not embarrassed. I am not the one throwing a tantrum on the floor in Starbucks."

November 14, 2012

Notable Stats

Tantrum Duration Factor (TDF) - The time from start to finish for a tantrum to last. A parent hopes this both reduces over time and disappears, preferably....immediately. Measured in kicks per minute.

Sucker Eye Level (SEL) - The pre-determined height marketing people know to place toddler-enticing items, so that their parents will have to buy them to avoid World War III.

I get it. No parent likes to be embarrassed and let's be clear, no event can embarrass you as quickly and as thoroughly as a public tantrum. You weigh the option of giving in, you weigh the option of letting it go on, you weigh the option of taking it outside, and you conclude, your options stink.

On one occasion, my son won his first Tantrum Academy Award (check your local listings for the TAA Awards) in the middle of Starbucks. Of course, no two year old is at Starbucks for my drink invention, the "Sweet Georgia Brown." In Starbuckian language, it is an Iced Tall Decaf Double Vanilla Double Cinnamon Dolce Skinny Latte. I don't go often, but when I go, I go all the way. All I know is when I order it, they just say "Latte up!" instead of loudly announcing the details. It appears I have broken the system with it. But I digress. Starbucks also provides many kid-friendly options, tantalizingly placed exactly at the hand level that a child can come and grab it right out of the freezer area.

Upon rejecting his request for chocolate milk for legit reasons (like possible "lactose intolerance"), he was not happy. The tantrum begun. My wife had that parenting look in her eye that said, "Oh boy, this is going to get bad." Then something dawned on me, "Why should we be embarrassed?" Am I the one on the floor? Am I the one kicking off his shoes and flipping like a pancake? I thought the best thing I can do is save him from further flopping (maybe hurting himself or an innocent bystander), which does not include putting a chocolate milk in his hand as a reward.

You come to anticipate the confrontation by the chocolate milk section. Or it could be the fuzzy Angry Birds section, the lollipop section, the iPhone section. You learn to turn your stroller around or do your best to temper the expectations of your two-year-old that he can not intravenously drink a gallon of low-hanging chocolate milk on a whim. He cannot have everything his heart desires even as we want him to be blissfully happy.

But sometimes, as a parent, you have to just let a tantrum go all the way. Allow the worst case scenario to happen so that you realize, it is actually endurable. That he needs to see that it is not helping his case. That he cannot kick and scream for 2 hours because he will probably fall asleep first or get stepped on by an on duty police officer who is trying to find some energy for his next beat.

Sure, the world intimates that parents are always responsible for everything their child does, and our kids subconsciously know this fact. ... It is sometimes an act of guilt forcing you to heed his show and deliver the chocolate.

I would reach a turning point on this day. I will do what I can to minimize the damage. To give my son fair warning that he will not get chocolate milk every time we pass that green sign with the wavy haired woman in front of a coffee shop. But in the end, I will do what I can to shift my goal of avoiding my own embarrassment so that I can help him as his advocate. Especially as I want him and his siblings to avoid the path of spoiled "bratitude."

Of course, later, my wife and I saw something disturbing. His sister, 14 months younger than him, was practicing tantrum moves. Our son had tweeted his tantrum moves and she was now retweeting them. Run, stop, drop, roll and kick. Pre-meditated tantrum choreography. Unfortunately for her, she is the second born and not going to win this one. We are on to you.

- Doug Glanville

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