Welcome to my weekly Bad Mom Advice column where I attempt to answer all of your parenting questions as only I know how — with zero degree in early childhood development, but with the experience of raising four kids and not having any of them in prison – yet! Plus, I back all my advice on numerous scientific research, which may or may not include me making fun of your dumb kid behind your back and drinking a bunch of wine! Welcome to Bad Mom Advice!
Our first question in this weekly BMA comes courtesy of my friend Paulette, who is a lovely person but possibly insane. Paulette’s children are older, but she asks this because she enjoys the idea of being able to discipline other people’s children, possibly while she is buying alcohol at her local liquor store and some mother is having issues with her brat while Paulette is attempting to get her drink on.
Paulette is on the right track to good parenting because she realizes that beating your children in public is a no-no. She also misses the good ‘ol days:
Now, now, Paulette never beat her children nor does she condone child abuse but she is a total smartass and this is an excellent question so here is the thing about a child having a meltdown in public: It’s not the parent’s job to control these meltdowns. Everyone around the child and parent has to make it their job. Meltdowns happen. Especially amongst children of a certain age. Think about it, your parent has dragged you to a gigantic place that is usually crowded and most of the time, it is at a time when there are a million things you would rather be doing. There are cartoons to be watched. There are toys to be played with. There are birds! They are outside! There is possibly a bird in your yard! This bird could possibly be doing something amazing like pooping on your parent’s car and you are missing all of it! Plus, your parent has been a total dick while at the store. They have spent way too much time fondling organic grapefruits and checking their cell phone messages and every damn time you want something fantastic like a package of cookies or a brightly colored box of something with a manic looking cartoon rabbit on it your parent has said “no.” You are tired, and probably hungry, and your parent is being a total dick, and you are missing the birds and you are in this big, noisy stupid place and it is totally not fun. Who wouldn’t have a meltdown?
When people see this happening, which we all have, your job is to not be an asshole about it. Either you have kids, you know kids, or you were once a kid. I’m sick of people making parents feel bad about their kids having a meltdown in public. You do what I do. You give the parent a sympathetic smile. You smile at the kid. And if you really want to be like me, you dig into your oversized purple handbag and you whip out either a fast food toy or a sticker or cheap string of disco beads you grabbed at the dollar store for ten for ten bucks and you present it to the kid and say “I have been waiting to give this to you!”
I’m the patron saint of children having meltdowns in stores. I don’t care if this makes me a “weirdo.” I don’t care if the parent thinks I’m crazy. All I know is that it works every damn time. I wouldn’t suggest every giving a strange kid gum or candy or anything edible, but giving a child who is freaking out a temporary distraction is one of the funnest things ever. Just the other day I had this happen and I sadly had nothing in my bigass purse of magic but I did have my 8-year-old with me so when the mom behind me with her sobbing 2-year-old looked like she was about to abandon her shopping cart and haul ass out of the Home Goods I did what any decent person would do. I let her go ahead of me, and I pointed out the Hello Kitty sneakers the screaming kid was wearing to my daughter, who ooh’d and ahh’d over them and the screaming kid stopped screaming and gave her this gigantic gummy smile and while the mom finished her transaction my kid played peek-a-boo with the baby. And when the mom left she mouthed “Thank you” to me and it cost me nothing.
Parents can discipline their kids after these public meltdowns how they see fit. Our job is to act like decent humans and have some sympathy for these screaming humans who are having a hard time. I want everyone to start doing stuff like this. And tweet at me how it worked using the hashtag #Meltdown! I will post my favorites in next week’s BMA! And maybe even Paulette will be your friend, because she is all awesome like that. I’m proposing a radical week of helping every parent and child make these #meltdown incidents a little happier. Join me!