The day started ok. All three kids were bundled out of the car and secured into our two prams; a double and a single. It was like a commando exercise just getting out of the car park, into the throng of Xmas shoppers. Once outside, we maneuvered our way slowly through the crowds to Borders. A book was chosen, and we were on the search for another, when Nearly 4 started to whinge. “I want a toy,” she whined.

“No, we don’t need any new toys at the moment honey, just books today,” I replied in my best Mum voice.

“No, I want a toy, NOW,” she said, her voice getting higher. The hostilities had begun.

“Ok, you get one warning and this is it, there will be no toys and soon, if you keep talking to me like that, there’ll be no books either.” I’ve got this, I thought. Oh, how I was wrong.

“NO, I WANT A TOY NOW, GIVE ME A TOY, NOW.” Then the interpretive “Irish dancing” began. This escalated to random arm flings. Please ground swallow us up.

Realising Nearly 4 was not showing signs of her usual happy self and was instead morphing into “someone’s else’s child” (you know, one that throws themselves on the ground in shopping centres), my husband entered the battle. “We are going now,” he calmly stated. “There will be no toys, nor will there be any books. Calm down and behave.” He extracted the book from her hands and placed it on a shelf.

“GIVE ME BACK THAT BOOK, NOW,” she shouted, her little face red and contorted and her arms and legs swinging in all different directions.

“No, we are going now,” replied my husband. He looked in my direction and I knew it was time to don the flak jackets and make a speedy exit.


I could feel people staring at us, but I wasn’t making eye contact with them, neither was my husband. Heads down, we quickly made our way to the lift and pounced on the down button, pushing it repeatedly with escalating force as the screams got louder. It felt like we were standing at the lift for hours, both of us willing the doors to open (or the ground to swallow us up) and save us from the disdain of the other shoppers. I don’t blame them for staring at us, as by this stage Nearly 4 was lying on the floor flailing about and at times pulling at the prams’ wheels in an attempt to drag us back to the shop floor. All I can say about the journey in the lift is, she is lucky we didn’t leave her in there.

By the time the lift doors opened on the ground floor, she was screaming even louder than before. “NO, I’M NOT NAUGHTY, I AM BEHAVING,” she shouted, thrashing around in her pram. “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME. I WANT TO GO BACK UP THERE NOW AND GET A BOOK AND A TOY, NOOOOOOOW.” We were stoney-faced. We could hear people muttering as we passed: “Poor things”, “Check out that kid”. One woman even yelled out: “Been there, done that”.

I did the only thing I could do at that moment, I retreated from the fray. Luckily, I was pushing the pram with the baby who was happily smiling at people. I pretended I didn’t know the “poor man” who was fleeing out of the store with the scared looking 2yo and Nearly 4 “the exorcist child”. For those few moments I was happy again.

Once outside the shop, standing in the middle of the mall and surrounded by Xmas shoppers, we tried to diffuse the situation. We tried the “kneel down and get very close to her face and talk in a slightly menacing, yet calm voice” tactic and we tried the “you will never be able to come with us to the shops ever again” threat. None of those worked, so we walked as fast as possible back to the car, we were practically running, while Nearly 4 continued to scream. We’d spent 10 minutes at the shops, been publicly humiliated and paid $6 bucks for the thrill. It was pure joy.

When I told one of my friends, he said the tale made him feel better about his own child’s tantrums. His wife told us of a time she was heavily pregnant at a store and her unruly toddler decided to make a run for it, as she stood there struggling to hold him with one arm, while paying for her goods with the other, a man started having a go at her for having an “out-of-control child”. He even followed her out of the shop hurling abuse. When she finally got to her car, she sat in her seat and cried.

It made me wonder what is the best approach to dealing with a public tantrum, do strangers have a right to butt in and how do you respond to someone who attacks you while you’re in no state to respond?

What is your tantrum story? How did you deal with it? What was the reaction of those around you?

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