Bad Mom Advice: Screaming Toddlers And Naked Kids – Join My Radical #Meltdown Project And Always Naked Revolution!

largeWelcome 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.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 6.22.25 AM


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:

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 6.26.39 AM

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!

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Alex Lee

    lost it @ “happy nude-time hour”. crying.

    seeing a toddler in full-meltdown makes me want to learn sleight-of-hand magic tricks.

  • Elizabeth M. Mangum

    Working at a toy store, I learned the art of distracting kids. Sometimes at just takes a sly smile or a wave to get their attention. People assume I’m an elementary school teacher.

  • Tea

    Nudist daughter should totally enjoy nakedness, especially in her own room, or use the nudist rule of always sit on a towel.

    Tantrums make me miss the midwest. My husband is awesome with kids and could get one to chill out pretty quickly, but try that in New England, and they think we’re trying to steal one.

  • LET

    In reference to your advice about meltdowns- you sound awesome. Do people who are annoyed with tantruming toddlers in stores seriously not realize it’s waaaay to worse to be the parent who ALSO doesn’t want to listen to the child, but, additionally, is mortified and has a bunch of strangers glaring at her? So not fun. I do my best to bring games/snacks to the store, and I also treat my son by letting him play educational games on my phone, but sometimes I can’t help a small outburst (especially when I’m halfway through checking out- where do you want me to go??).

    Trust me, I feel like a total douche when my kid is annoying you & I can’t stop him that moment. He’s usually good, but no one’s perfect. When we’re in the middle of the store, I usually take him somewhere secluded, have a talk with him, and punish as needed, then I return to shopping.

    The most awesome thing happened to me a few months ago, though. A woman had seen me kind of struggling with my child. I was definitely on top of his behavior, but he was feeling particularly ornery & I was overwhelmed. My kid was in one of those annoying car carts & she approached me while I was selecting some veggies, waved at my son, put her hand on my shoulder, and said “You’re a good mom”. Then, she walked away. Let me tell you, I did NOT feel like a good mom that day, I felt like my kid was annoying half the store. I wanted to rage at my child. I wanted to break down and cry. But her kind words gave me the strength & confidence to keep on trucking, and I wanted to live up to them. So I sucked it up, and got through the rest of my shopping trip, patiently keeping my son occupied and quiet. It was such a simple gesture, but it really made a world of difference.

    • Eve Vawter

      You are a good mom. I love this story so much.

  • Psych Student

    My wife *hates* wearing clothes, so when it’s warm (and we live in the San Francisco bay area, so it’s often warm), she gets home from work and strips down. But, she has a “butt towel” that she puts on the couch before she sits. I even bought her a couple of pretty pink dish towels to serve as designated “butt towels” which we toss in the laundry weekly to keep things clean. And then she keeps a robe on a hook next to the front door in case someone knocks so she doesn’t expose herself to the world. It works well. :)
    I laugh at her because while many women have the “I’m took off my bra so I’m in for the night”, she has the “taken off my clothes, must be home and done”. It kills her when we visit family because she has to wear clothes and I insist she put on a shirt (over her sports bra) when we visit my family.

  • confused

    The meltdown happened to me exactly 7 days ago and I was in the middle of a town with a population of 700 (give or take 50, I didn’t read all of the numbers after the 7 but there were only 2 more) on a vacation with family which consisted of so many people we had to be seated at two different tables in the restaurant. I am a parent now so I feel differently but I also remember my life prior to parenthood, vividly. So, as my daughter proceeded to lose it, I was shoved in a corner of a bench against the wall with my older kid on the other side and his cousins next to him. When my mini started to lose it, I knew where I was going. Before I could fully accept that fact, a binky was thrown at me so I instructed my oldest to go under the table, find the binky and grab it for me. The angel did just that and I quickly grabbed said binky, my mini and stood up, stepped over and behind all of the other children along the bench, with mini tucked under my arm like a football (she’s almost 2, it’s the safest way to haul her ass out without getting a foot or hand to my soft spots) and climbed my way out of the table and past the other patrons to the door where I passed a woman who had been eyeballing me, leaned against the wall by her table and sipping her probably terrible wine (I know, I’ve hit the wineries in this town several times and none were great, but they all work!). As I grabbed the door she touched my arm and said “we’ve all been there, you’re doing fine” and I thanked her profusely and got the hell out.

    My kid is young and I know her limits. Some kids pass out and sleep wherever and don’t mind. Mine don’t. And I don’t see the point in torturing them, me or anyone else. It’s just the way it’s going to be for a while and then it won’t. I have also been the person who has whipped a small car or pine cone out of my bag (yes, these things reside in my purse) to help entertain a small one losing it on the city bus or in the line at the store (should I be so lucky to be there without mine!). I think it’s just a matter of understanding there are other people in the world and being respectful of that, no matter which end of that scene you’re on.

  • Melissa O

    The MELTDOWN part was awesome! My niece and nephew call my messenger bag Aunties Magic Purse because I always have cool stuff in there. Like you say-cheapo toys, stickers, plastic jewelry, hair elastics with sparkly pom-poms, and at least one miniature story book. I also keep stuff like batman band-aids, kleenex, bibs and individually wrapped wet-wipes, and I have, on more than one occasion, given such things to total strangers. For every one person who gives me the side-eye and edges away like I might be a kidnapper, there are probably five who are just grateful I`m not being a jerk and acting like they should just not take their child out in public EVER until they are capable of perfect behavior. Kids have meltdowns. It is a part of life! It doesn`t mean the kid is the spawn of satan or the parent is a terrible parent!