Maybe Matilda: Meltdown at Walmart

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meltdown at Walmart

I could write for days about how difficult Forrest has been lately, but I’ll try to keep this post under control. The terrible twos have descended with unimaginable ferocity and I am very quickly losing whatever meager trace of sanity I once possessed. He actually isn’t too outrageous at home—although he is definitely way more assertive and cranky and mood-swingy than ever before, he still has plenty of his once-typical sweet, cuddly, precious moments at home—but leaving the house with him is always an absolute disaster. Any shopping trip, any drive, even walks to the park now end with sobbing tantrums on the ground, or him sprinting away from me at top toddler speed, or me getting smacked repeatedly in the face while he screams at the top of his lungs, or usually all of the above. It’s a delight. Despite my best efforts to try and teach him how to behave, what to do and what not to do, and even my shameless use of flat-out bribery, nothing has worked so far, and I dread leaving the house with him now. He’s a bit of a drama queen (NO IDEA WHERE HE GOT THAT FROM), and at the first hint of something not going his way (like me not allowing him to rip clothes from their hangers, or empty an entire bin of apples at the grocery store, or sample six bags of candy while we shop, or race a few quick laps around the store), his entire world comes to a screeching halt. And while I’m so glad that he’s still (usually) pleasant at home, and I would certainly prefer that he is well-behaved at home rather than in public (if I had to choose just one), and I love that little stinker to pieces, that doesn’t make the necessary, horrifying outings any easier.

In short: I am that mom at the grocery store. The one that you, with your cart full of cherubic well-behaved children whose halos provide a nice sparkly sheen with which I may view my own child’s demonic possession, shake your head at and wonder why she can’t control her little gremlin.

Well, instead of the whiny autobiography I could write on this topic (which would include such chapter titles as What The Hell Have I Gotten Myself Into?, Selling Your Naughty Boy on the Black Market, and Exorcism For Toddlers), I’ll just share with you one recent outing that sums up our experiences and his unfortunate temperament transformation pretty nicely. I’ve already emailed this horror story to quite a few people, and left an abbreviated version as a comment on a few others’ blogs, so if I’ve already regaled you with my tale of misery and woe, I’m sorry. Go find something happier to read. Preferably from a mother of cherubs.

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I should know better by now than to even try to take Forrest out with me to run errands or go shopping, but every now and then, I just don’t have a choice. Food must be purchased, oil must be changed, and sometimes daddy just isn’t around when I need to leave the house. So a few weeks ago, against my better judgment, I wrote out my shopping list, packed Forrest up in the car, and we headed to Walmart.

I had a game plan to try and keep things civil and humane: new toddler apps had been downloaded to my phone, I had packed a juice cup and a few small toys, and I headed straight to the candy aisle when we arrived to let him pick a treat to eat while we shopped. For probably five minutes, there was peace. It was wonderful. He sat in the cart, he played on my phone, he nibbled Raisinets. For five beautiful minutes, I was the mom with the angel baby. I’ve missed that feeling.

Then: tragedy. He looked up from the phone. He noticed that we were in public. In a store. A store that contained shelves. Shelves fully stocked with items that would be so fun  to pull down. A mad scramble to exit the cart ensued. My phone, with its brand new toddler apps, was forgotten (thrown at me, actually). The Raisinets were dumped. In a moment of foolish hopefulness, I thought, ‘Maybe he’ll just walk alongside the cart! That’s okay!’ Such na├»ve stupidity. He sprinted for some shelves and started pulling things down—sprinted to another family’s cart and tried to push it around—dashed toward the exit to make an escape—so I snatched him and tried to stuff his flailing limbs back into the cart seat, all while he was screeching like a banshee, clawing at my face and hair, and pumping his legs as hard as possible so I couldn’t stick them back in the cart. I tried the time-honored “Fine, lay there on the floor, I’ll just keep shopping without you” technique without success. I tried the “Okay, I’ll let you pick another treat if you’ll just sit in the cart and eat it!” and ended up having to buy an opened, yet rejected, bag of cookies.  I tried the kind and understanding, “I know this is tough for you, let’s cuddle real quick and sing a song together” method. The phone and juice and treats were useless, as were the cars and toys I had in my purse. There is no cure for full meltdown mode.

So I did the only thing I could do—crammed him into the cart, buckled him in, and tried to finish my shopping as quickly as I could. I raced through aisles, frantically searching for everything I needed, my anxiety rising with each shriek and scream and slap and booger-covered hand smacking me from the cart. Pre-toddler, I wouldn’t have imagined that a mere child could have the energy to continue screaming and flailing and hitting at maximum capacity for an entire 40-minute shopping trip. Now I know. Forrest’s endurance knows no limit. There was not a single moment of quiet or calm as we made our way through the store. He screamed and cried and drooled and hit and kicked the whole way through.

(Photo from a different, much tamer and more successful shopping trip. Only a mild tantrum that day.)

I’d like to take a moment to say a virtual thank you to the kindly grandmother who stopped to say something encouraging as she passed us in the baking aisle. As I got more and more frazzled and upset, it was extremely uplifting to have someone stop to say something nice—I don’t even remember what she said, exactly, just something understanding that made me feel slightly less embarrassed of the situation—so thank you, kind stranger.

I’d also like to take a moment to give a virtual smack down to the multiple strangers who seemed to think that a better response to a mother who is obviously distressed and embarrassed and upset about her child’s public meltdown is an eyeroll, or the shaking of their head in her direction, or a whispered comment to a shopping companion accompanied by hateful glaring. Did they really think I was enjoying myself? That his screaming brought me joy? That I had some simple, surefire solution to a full blown temper tantrum and was just saving it for later? Shame on you. Shame on you for thinking that you are better than me; that your parenting techniques would work when mine haven’t; that you, with your 3 seconds of observation, know the answers for me and my child; for assuming that I am a bad mother because I have a difficult kid; and for judging my worth on a moment’s glance in the grocery store.

Needless to say, by the time I had found everything on my list and made my way to the checkout line, I was completely distressed. Some people seem to be able to handle their kids’ outbursts with patience and calm. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I wish I could detach myself from the situation and just get things done without getting upset myself, but I can’t—I get stressed and panicky and embarrassed and angry, and the multiple eyerolls and shaking heads from judgmental strangers sure doesn’t help. A tantrum that, at home, would have been a mere annoyance becomes a completely shattering loss of my parenting self-esteem in public. I wish I didn’t care what strangers thought of me, but I remember looking at those moms before I had a child and wondering what was wrong with them and their kids, why they couldn’t just teach their child to be good, what they must be doing wrong to have such a naughty child. And I know that is exactly what other moms are now thinking about me.

So, we’re in the checkout line. Forrest is still screaming and crying, I am at my wit’s end, we’ve been peeked at and whispered about and glared at through the entire trip, the children behind us in line are asking their mom what is wrong with the baby in my cart, and I’m ready to just sink into the floor and disappear. And the cheerful checkout girl takes one look at snot-covered, flailing, screeching Forrest and says, “It must be somebody’s naptime!”

I don’t know why that was the last straw for me. She was trying to be nice, make a stressful situation a little lighter for everyone. Good for her for not being visibly annoyed at me like everyone else was. But for some reason, that was it for me. I started crying. Right there in the checkout line at Walmart, I broke down and started crying and, in my typical, rational, nurturing motherly fashion, wailed, “He’s ALWAYS like this!” Which, of course, isn’t even close to true, but after 40 minutes of public meltdown, it sure felt true. The poor checkout girl did the only sensible thing: focused very intently on ringing up my items and avoided eye contact throughout the rest of my transaction while I sniffled and Forrest screamed and I tried to discreetly wipe my tears and blow my nose (as if anyone hadn’t yet noticed the sobbing duo in the checkout line).

Once we got back in the car, Forrest laughed the whole way home.

74 comments :

  1. Ugh. I'm so sorry. At least he didn't try to attack other shoppers...? I had a therapy kiddo who would chuck canned goods at unsuspecting people.

    Have you tried warning him that you're going to the store? Do the whole, "Yay! We're going to the store today! Which toys would you like to bring? (Give him some choices.)" Maybe invest in some grocery store themed books to show him how other children behave in a store? Do you think he'd be interested in helping you shop? You could make a picture shopping list. Print off photos of 5 or so things you need, and Forrest is in charge of finding them and putting them in the cart. Strategically space the items out according to their location in the store so you can pick up other needed things on the way. The picture shopping list gives him a job and gives him a somewhat sense of being in control. If you go with this, introduce it to him before going to the store. Maybe practice at home-- a good pretend play activity. Put the empty boxes of the items around the house or around the living room and give him his list and a basket. Take him around the "store" and have him get the things on his list. Make sure you accompany him (hand holding or carry) because you don't want him to think that he'll be able to run hog wild in the store.

    I hope those suggestions are somewhat helpful. :)

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    1. I forgot to explain my warning him to go to the store remark. Most toddlers (and children) are creatures of habit and schedules-- they don't like surprises. So I'd suggest warning him, maybe beginning the day before, that you're going to the store. And tell him multiple times, in a sing-songy, excited voice. Shoot, make up a song if you want (We're going to the store, we're going to the store, applesauce and tatertots, we're going to the store! --to the theme of the farmer in the dell). Yes, I just thought that up. Yes, I'm embarrassed for myself.

      Choose one word to represent the store, don't keep switching it up and calling it "Walmart", then "grocery store". Keep it simple and call it "store", no matter if you're going to Walmart, JoAnn Fabric, or the liquor store. Just kidding, you don't go there, and Forrest can't go with you. Although I wouldn't blame you for taking up drinking at this point. ;)

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    2. after a trip like that, a girl's entitled to go to the liquor store ;-) (thankfully, in Belgium, they sell the wine & liquor at the supermarket - one stop shopping :-)

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  2. Perhaps my experience some 40 years ago with my own daughters might be of some use to you.

    I had two such "meltdowns" with my daughters, only 23 months apart. Once in a grocery store and once in a restaurant. Here's what I did:

    In the grocery store they were fighting and crying and generally being obnoxious. I told them if they didn't stop immediately we were leaving. They didn't believe me. I left the cart in the aisle and ushered them swiftly and firmly out the door, letting the clerk know as we were headed out the door that we had to leave and there was a cart full of groceries on aisle X. They protested. I remained silent and we drove home. It never happened again.

    In the restaurant we had received our drinks and just ordered our dinner. Their behavior was totally unacceptable. I told them if they didn't stop RIGHT NOW we were leaving. They didn't believe me. I called the waitress over, cancelled our order, paid for the drinks and we left. It never happened again.

    I did not and do not negotiate with terrorists.

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    1. "I do not negotiate with terrorists"--that might be the best comment I've ever received. Love it!

      I think this sort of thing will work when he is a little older. I'm not sure that he understands enough yet to know what I mean, how to change his behavior, etc. I have tried something similar with him before, but he is generally happy once we leave, so I wonder if he sees being dragged out of the store as a victory--he would rather go home where he could play instead of be at the store where he's forced to sit in the cart, so he won. I'm definitely up for trying this once he 'gets it' a little more, but at his age/comprehension level, I don't think he's quite there yet.

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    2. Big Hug!

      I did the same as Sylvia, and that's what my MOM did with me. We simply left, left the food at the restaurant (paid for it) left the shopping cart (notified an associate)and carried a screaming toddler to the car. She tried it 2 more times, once when I was pregnant with kid number 2 and another when kid number two began walking.
      It's distressful but it will get better.

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    3. That who leaving thing, only made an impression for us when we left the place HE wanted to be...like heaven forbid...MCDONALDS or the park to play. In those moments the tantrum might worsen, but you are correct as I did what I said I would do and he got older, I could tell him before we went what the consequences of a tantrum would be and he seemed to get it after a few times. When the melt down started I would give him one reminder (threat) and then he would usually calm down, not all the way...but to a manageable level.

      We later learned that my child is on the spectrum for Aspergers. Truly so mild that most people would never know. It is just the inability to cope with social surroundings like school, stores, family gatherings that really makes people look at you with an awkward cocker spaniel head tilt and bunchy eye brows that makes you just want to punch them in the nose and ask them if it hurt!!! LOL! ;) I would never do that as I am not violent...but you get what I am saying.

      There is hope. You pray God's peace over him and yourself before any of these socially interactive trips. And know that MOST children grow out of the tantrum phase fairly quickly. I will also say, some of us moms that don't make eye contact and shake our head, are actually praying for you because we have been EXACTLY where you are and also know to come talk to you might just push you over that edge that makes you break down so we feel caught between a rock and a hard place. :)

      The biggest thing that helps me is to know that God is in control and the amount of stubborn independence this child has is some of the very character that has kept him from doing wrong things as he has gotten older and been pressured by peers or people trying to take advantage of the situation.

      So put him in the cart...hold your head high and try not to react to him. Don't negotiate with terrorist...that was awesome...and is key. Just fly as normal and smile HUGE at every condemming stare, eye contact makes them quite uncomfortable!!! :D And PRAY PRAY PRAY!

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  3. Im sorry.

    Im sorry because I have been that person who has been unsympathetic to the frazzled mom. I guess in my own selfishness I never thought about it from the moms point of view.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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  4. I'm not a mom, and I admit I've done the judgy eye roll of superiority. Thanks for posting this, it's good to see the other side. I'll definitely be exchanging my eye rolls for a genuine smile the next time I see a baby in meltdown mode and a frazzled mom about to freak out. :)

    My friend who works in a day care says she actually encourages her little ones to have tantrums. She says things like "kick those feet, don't forget to swing your arms!, really throw yourself into it!!!" Because she's encouraging it and it's kind of funny to her, not horrifying, the kids stop because they realize it's not eliciting the reaction they want.

    hang in there!!! *sending you virtual hugs!!!

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    1. My mom did this with my sister. By the end we were all laughing, but then it's not every day you see your mom (play) screaming and flailing around on the floor pounding her fists and kicking her feet. It still makes me laugh.

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  5. The end of this story totally made me laugh. In an empathetic, can-look-back-and-smile (I hope) sort of way. :)

    No advice, although I do love Chelsea's picture shopping idea. Another tiny thing is that Nat hates sitting in the actual cart seat, but loves sitting in the big open part of the cart to look at all the things I put in. Might not work at all, but maybe worth a shot. And kudos to the sweet grandma for understanding and being kind!

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    1. Don't put your child in the cart where you put stuff I did that one day with my daughter and I regret it to this day because she fell out and cracked her skull from the floor at Walmart. And I see others do it ALL the time i always want to say something but I don't because of "mind your business comments I'd prolly get." but I learned never to do it again and that skull fractures on kids happen a lot and they heal on there own but I even had to be investigated. So worst day/time ever. So please don't put kids there.

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  6. God bless those kind strangers who know how to give you a boost when you so desperately need one. I am sorry that you had to suffer through such an ordeal in public. I've been there, done that, still doing it unfortunately. And I hate to tell you this but....it's not the terrible two's that are bad, it's the three's! I thought it couldn't get much worse at two, but alas, I was wrong. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that maybe Forrest gets all of his terrible two behavior out now so you won't have any rollover when he's 3.

    And thanks for sharing your story. I was feeling discouraged today after a family get-together this weekend and your post reminded me that I am not the only with "spirited" (is that the politically correct term?) children. I'm sure you can imagine it? My beautiful sister-in-law with her perfect son (18 months old who only started walking 2 months ago and has been the easiest kid ever) and my 1.5 and 3.5 year old busy bee daughters. We'll just say that part of the evening consisted of my SIL scolding my 3 year old for squealing happily that it was dessert time (NO SCREAMING IN THE HOUSE!!!!) and my younger daughter shoving her angelic son when he tried to rip a blanket out of her hands (SIL: "She just SHOVED him!! Ugh!"), which of course I did not witness but judging by my daughter's white knuckles and death grip on her blanket, I immediately knew the problem. I secretly can't wait until my nephew turns 2 and becomes a little beast, haha!

    Cheers that your week gets better!

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  7. I just want to give you a virtual hug. ~hug~ Mine is 18 months, and we're getting to this point now too. Oh, it's hard. Keep your chin up. You're doing a good job.

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  8. It's nice to know that I am not alone in this feeling. I brought my two boys ages 8 and 2 to a fabric store and while I was shopping they were a bit loud. It was playful, and no tantrum was involved, but a woman down the aisle SHHH'd my kids. I couldn't believe it. I asked her why she SHHH'd my children, and she said I needed to have better control over them. I lost it. I told her the kids were laughing and not in anyone's way, and she had no right to tell them to be quiet. I asked her if she had kids and maybe she would understand how kids can get, and she replied that her kids never acted up. I couldn't believe it, my kids weren't even misbehaving (this time). I spent the rest of my shopping in the same aisle as her. While she was trying to do fabric calculations in her head I sang songs out loud with my boys.
    Stay strong. You are a good mommy. :) Hugs.

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  9. Oh, I am sending you hugs. I've been there...for many years...I have 5 boys - 7 year old twins, a 5, 3 and 2 year old and every one of them has had their meltdown mode that seemed to go on for ever. Once one was through with it the next started.
    1. It does get easier...my 5 and 7 year olds don't have tantrums any more but they do like to wrestle in the middle of the aisle - lovely for everyone trying to get past us :)
    2. I decided that we were just going to be the circus that I expected we would be every time we went out and that kind of made it a little better - my standards were very low and I learned to be ok with that. We weren't hurting anyone/stealing/cussing...we were just LOUD!!!! and I'm ok noise.
    3. I ignore other people and those that tell me "you have your hands full" or "what a rambunctious bunch" or worse, get a cheery "YEP" in response. I don't even stop,I don't even look, I just keep moving...
    ...which is actually the secret of #4. I plan my trips and buckle that 2 year old in for the ride. If he screams and hits me I move to the other end of the cart and pull it through the aisles. I just get business done so I can leave!!!!!
    5. Some people ARE Judy-Judgers but for the most I think people see it for what it is - a 2-year old. We've all had them and I 'm pretty sure that even the ones that look like cherubs are really monsters at home ;P
    Sorry for the book long comment from someone that you don't even know but your post struck a chord with me and I hated that you feel bad. I still feel slightly uptight and dishevelled after a grocery trip with my boys but I know I feel it less now that I pretend not to care.
    Stacey

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  10. I totally had this happen to me with my 5th child... I thought I knew everything about parenting...until this little guy came along and he taught me that I knew NOTHING!!!! As I read this post, I could actually "feel" what you were going through. The only difference was that I waited til we got to the car and then I was the one who melted down and he stopped. I sobbed the whole way home! I prayed with this child that if he had to be so hard as a toddler, could he please be a good teenager and not cause me any problems a he got old. My prayer was granted. He will be 19 next month and the older he has gotten, the more enjoyable he is... his teenage years have been a breeze compared to the pre-school and elementary years. Hang in there!

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  11. Sorry. :) I hate Walmart. It always brings out the devil in my daughter. I've left crying more than once.

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  12. Oh my...{{hugs}}. Bella was a beast when she turned 2, and we had a few of those shopping trips. Thankfully as she has gotten older the trips have gotten much better, and now I can't remember the last tantrum she had.

    I would tell her the day before where we going, the morning of and also on the way to the store. I told her what was not acceptable {screaming/hitting/climbing/etc} and that if she did any of those we would leave.

    I have left more than a few shopping carts in the past year, but after a few times it worked. I don't beg/bribe - just silently pick her up and get her to the car. I still remember her first public tantrum...she was 15 months old, screaming on the floor of Babys R Us. Still makes me cringe.

    Hang in there....it WILL get better!

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  13. Oh my goodness. I imagine Forrest laughing maniacally the whole way home. Poor Rachel...who would have thought something so cute could be so dastardly in public.

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  14. You are definitely not alone. You are in no way a bad mother! With my son, it all started falling apart at age 3. I've cried several times wondering what happened to my sweet little boy. Seriously, because the little demon he had turned into couldn't be my kid! I don't really have any advice, just know that it's something we all go through. The mom's that have "angel babies" at the store probably deal with tantrums in other situations instead. And hey, maybe he'll grow out of it by the 3's and your sweet little guy will come back to you!

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  16. I can sort of relate to that public sense of shame and destruction of parenting self-esteem as the mother of a formerly intensely colicky baby. He hates his car seat and I don't even try to go anywhere by myself with the kid. Ever.

    I think people on the outside often think of things to do that you haven't thought of, or think they have, which makes them quick to judge, but they don't know the complexity of the situation (the first comment on this post made me think that being the parent of a toddler is way more complex than I could imagine and I don't know if I'm cut out for it!). I seriously doubt this experience is any reflection whatsoever on the quality of your parenting. AT ALL.

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  17. My little guy is 18months now and I could have written this post. I have no advice I just commiserate.

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  18. I am right there with you ... my little guy is in the terrible 2s as well and I barely go anywhere with him right now. It is just too exhausting and frustrating. The good news is I know it will pass. Hang in there!

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  19. oh sweetie, im so sorry! we had the blessed walmart meltdown 3 months ago. only i was there by myself with all 3 kids. my first two kiddos were much easier, but this last one has been a bit different. one day she started throwing a fit right before the checkout lane. i scrambled and kept dropping things while trying to get out of the way. when i finally made it through the checkout lane i stopped on the side and told her that i was not leaving until she got control of herself and sat down in the cart. 10 minutes later she was quiet and we were finally out of the store. as hard as it was for me, i have not had a problem ever since then. im not saying that this will work for you, just that it worked for me. kids are tough and you never know what their reasoning is. big hugs to you!

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  20. I am so sorry this is happening to you... and I am also ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who has not been very sympathetic in the past to mothers of wailing children in the store. From now on I will try to put myself in her shoes and see if there is anything I can do to make the situation better, even if it is just a smile or small word of encouragement. Thank you for opening my eyes to this, and I hope things get better soon :)

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  21. My oldest is almost 12 and her meltdown was at Walmart too. I was lucky that my kids didn't have too many public tantrums. But that's mainly because when one started, we left right away. I didn't spank or yell, but I made sure they knew that this was not gonna fly. And they liked going out, so for them leaving was a punishment (so that probably won't work for you).

    But right after we bought our house (and my oldest was only about 18 months old), I went to Walmart on a mission to buy curtains. My daughter got fussy and wanted out of the cart. No one was on our aisle, so I let her down and told her to stay in our aisle. She immediately went to the end of the aisle and around the corner, then she peeked around and giggled. I hurried down to pick her up and bring her back and she initiated full tantrum mode. I was that parent with that screaming child. But while I would normally leave right away, something in me just snapped. I was NOT leaving without my curtains! So I tucked her under my arm like a football and browsed through the curtains. She flailed and screamed and cried. An older woman came down the aisle and stopped nearby. I looked at her, expecting judgment. She just nodded at me and said, "Good for you!" That was all it took to make things better for me. The tantrum continued, but I left that store with curtains!

    Fight the good fight and don't be so hard on yourself :)

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    1. Oh I've done that! the tucking under the arm bit and just trying to finish the shopping!! The looks you get though!! No sympathetic old ladies for me ;-)

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  22. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry you h r to deal with the Terrible Twos. Do you think I can just skip them? Because I also don't handle public meltdowns well. The more that Henry stays awake, the more opportunities for them there are. Why can't he just stay a baby forever???

    As or the judgey mc judgertons - they'll get theirs. I mean, seriously? People are rude. My mom used I tell me that she was an expert parent. And then she had kids. I think that's so true. :)

    Hugs!!! Hang in there.

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  23. Since I started working with children, I try my best not to judge the parents that I see struggling with their children -- for all I know, there could be something else going on in their lives that I know nothing about.

    I think Chelsea has a really good idea with getting Forrest excited and involved in each shopping trip. Talking about it, and making it into a game might make him a bit happier.

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  24. Oh, Rachel, poor, Rachel. The terrible twos. Oh, how I am right there with you. You're such a beautiful, talented lady. I know it didn't feel like in Wal-mart while being stared at by all those people. But everybody else is always a better parent than you are (oh, how I wish I could body check those people who actually think that) when you're in a difficult situation. I know it was an awful experience, but please don't ever think you're alone. I've totally run through all your tantrum-staving-off methods multiple times with my own little tantrum queen until I've eventually given up the shopping experience and abandoned my cart of crap and gone home enraged. Kudos to you for powering through!
    What keeps me sane: Thinking, "Don't worry. This two shall pass." Though some days not soon enough.
    Hang in there, lady! You're always the best mommy you can be. :)

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  25. Oh Rachel! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I sent a link to a friend of mine who was just telling me about how her daughter (3) thinks it's fun to just scream at the top of her lungs all through Walmart. My son appears to be that perfect child in stores (he finds buckling himself into the cart especially entertaining as long as I keep unbuckling it, "helps" me cross items off my list and loves to name off all the numbers he sees as we walk around). HOWEVER, he is the child that is impossible and pushes me to melt downs when we try to have play dates with other kids. Sharing toys or dealing with things not always going how he envisioned it is just too much for him just about all the time. You will get to a stage of reasoning soon! We've just entered that place where he can actually listen and understand when I talk to him to explain a situation. He's always been into saying, "I OK" when he gets hurt or is coming out of being upset, so I'm finding that telling him he's ok and doesn't need to cry is actually getting through to him. Hang in there!!! I'm guessing it maybe saves some money to have it be nearly impossible to go shopping??? We have to go shopping to escape the fits at home sometimes, so I think my budget might be happier if we were in the reverse ;)

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  26. Robert is like this sometimes when we're at the grocery store, so I hear you. It sucks. Just last week, I had to go to the store, and it just happened to be during Robert's grouchiest time of day. But it had to be done. Anyway, he had a couple small meltdowns where he really started freaking out. And somehow, miraculously, it worked for me to get down on his level, right in his face, and, using my best "scary teacher voice", let him know that 1) his behavior is not acceptable, 2) the other people in the store do not want to hear him screaming, and 3) I understand he's unhappy and I want to help make it better. Then we're able to rationally figure out something that will appease him for a minute.

    I know Robert's a little older than Forrest, but maybe this will work in a few months? Good luck, friend! Even if he screams all the way through the store, you're not a bad mom. You just have a normal two year old, that's all. :)

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  27. Hi! I don't know Walmart but reading the comments here, it seems to be a place that sends kids loopy! Is it the lighting or music or that the sheer scale is overwhelming or something? I found when my little girl was younger that I had to treat things in a kids way rather than an adult. The grown-up me wanted quiet to think and consider as I went shopping, for example, but it worked better if I prattled the whole time about what I was seeing, identifying vegetable, naming colours, counting, giving a running commentary, asking questions. All that cajoling is exhausting though! Had to make sure I had a list too else things were forgotten! Another trick was to turn the trolley round so that she was facing out and leading - driving the trolley/car/plane. I do hope it all gets easier for you very soon Rachel. With best wishes, Anita

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  28. It does get better, I promise! And I bet one day in the not too distant future, you'll have an enjoyable shopping trip with him, read this post and have a sweet smile to yourself as you realise that when people say 'this too shall pass' they were right.

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  29. I have 3 boys and 1 girl, so been there--done that!! It WILL get better--yes it will.. You described the trip to Walmart perfectly and I could visualize it!! Here's to better days ahead and better trips to the store.. (I did have a chuckle in this early morning hour--sorry)

    ((Hugs))

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  30. Oh Rachel. I was nearly crying at the end of your story myself...I remember those days so well! Hang in there. It truly does pass. Every once in a while, I like to point out to my 8yo, the exact spot in the main aisle of OUR walmart that she once lay prostrate, screaming at the top of her lungs, kicking and flailing. I remember abandoning my half-full cart, toting her out of the store under my arm (like a football?), both of us crying...that was the day I lost my "world's best mother" crown.

    And what is up with cashiers guessing about what is wrong with our kids? And why do they always use the word "someone"...."well SOMEONE'S tired"..."well SOMEONE must be hungry"...hey checkout girl, do your job! That would have sent me over the edge, too. :)

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  31. I completely understand how you feel. I recently had a meltdown situation at Trader Joe's when I was trying to checkout and my card kept getting denied. I was freaking out because we were obviously broke and I needed to pay for this food so I was trying to call in and get the balance on my card all while Sarah was screaming her head off making it impossible to hear. Finally an older lady came over to me to help (or so I thought). She pushed Sarah who was sitting in the cart closer to me and said, "Talk to your baby. Don't you have any motherly instincts?" What!? Needless to say, I cried the entire drive home.

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    1. Oh my goodness!!! *deep sigh* That woman was BEYOND rude. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

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  32. You have made me laugh out loud with this one... how I've been there. Crying my eyes out after or during a half hour tantrum, enhanced of course by those "LOOKS".. one time, I felt my throat restricting and as if I could no longer breathe properly. Dear Rachel, it DOES get better... hang in there girl!!

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  33. I can relate to your experience having been there myself.don't be too hard on yourself.soon they will grow out of it and you can look back and smile.my nephew has a 2 1/2 yr old who will not sit in her car seat.they cannot even go anywhere because she will start screaming and crying that they have to turn back and go home.no amount of bribing helps.anyone have any solutions?

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  34. Hi, this reminds me of the two years I wouldn't dare to leave the house with my 1,5 -3,5 year old daughter. It was so hard. BUT - it's over! She's 9 now and looooves to go shopping with me. One day it will be over. I keep telling myself this again and again, because I have a two-year-old again, and he looks just like forrest. he's the other type - he's having his tantrums at home. the worst thing is, I'm always asking myself what am I doing wrong? The other day, my husband gave me a blessing, assuring me that my heavenly father was very pleased with me. so, just check with Him, and He will let you know that you're doing a great job and that he loves you.

    hugs from the other side of the world :)
    nina

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  35. My son hated to go shopping - any shopping, any where - didn't matter he hated it! I'd get 15 minutes to 30 minutes tops & then we'd better leave or else. He's 26 now. He still hates shopping. But at least I don't have to go with him anymore! :D

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  36. I have never commented on your blog before, but this struck a cord. I have four kiddos now 23, 21, 19 and 16 but in their younger years they were all (every last one) "spirited" and I nearly (completely on a couple of occasions) lost my mind! They were terrible in public on occasion and at home even more frequently. A couple of examples, sneaking out during nap time to trick-or-treat (it was November 15th), jumping out of windows, tunneling a hole through sheet rock between rooms, NEVER going to bed peacefully, painting the floor w/ lipstick. You get the picture. The hope I can offer you: you will laugh about these times at some point, it makes great stories when they are older. Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now, I didn't but will share a bit with you if it's ok. Do some research on food allergies and how little (and big) bodies metabolize things like sugar, wheat, etc. There are story after story about how little demons become little angels with changes in their diets. I don't know if this would have worked with my children or if it would make any difference with yours, but it might be worth your time. Otherwise, just love him like you do and it will all be alright.

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  37. Oh Sunshine, I'm so sorry. Being a mom is such a hard job. My son (now 16yrs old) had melt-downs when we would leave the park, Grandma's, etc. I had a friend tell me that giving children advanced warning of upcoming changes would help. For me, it really did help us. I would tell our son: "Honey, we are going to go run errands in 30 minutes. Let's find a book and some toys to put into your bag. We will take them with us." I then gave him a warning at 15min, 10, 5, etc.

    As for the extreme melt down that you experienced in the store, I had this happen once. I looked at our son and told him that we would leave if he did not stop his screaming/kicking/etc. He continued to scream at the top of his lungs, and swung at me with his fists. I then rolled our cart to the front, stated to a clerk that I needed to leave the store, apologized, and asked them to put back my items. QUICK NOTE: I later worked at this grocery store for 3yrs. Parents do this from time to time. Sure, the employees find it a pain to put things back, but these things happen. DO NOT feel badly if you have to leave with an uncooperative child. DON'T. Anyway, I put my son in the car, and I told him that we left the store because of his behavior. When we got home, I set him in his room to play. I then called my husband at work, and balled like a baby for 15min because I felt like I was the worst mom in the world. Thankfully, it passed. I was extremely fortunate, because he never had a fit again.

    I'm not saying that this will work for everyone. Each child is different, and each situation is unique. My son is still the kind of kiddo that pushes the limit. We have butted heads MANY TIMES over the years, and I have cried a bunch over our tug-o-wars. Another thing that has helped me over the years, is reading up on strong willed children. Books like: Strong Willed Child by Dobson, Raising your Spirited Child by Kurcinka, 1*2*3 Magic by Phelan, and Parenting the Strong Willed Child by Forehand & Long might help. I'm SO SORRY for what you are going through. I have shed MANY TEARS due to my son's behavior over the years. All I can say is that IT WILL GET BETTER. Well, the teen years are a challenge, but that is a different story.

    There are no manuals for children. I really wish there were. We just take each day and moment as it comes. I KNOW you are a great mom. Parenting isn't about being perfect. It is about learning what works, and what doesn't. The rules change constantly. See what works, and run with it until it doesn't. I always envied those moms that seem to do everything right. That was until I learned that they had trials/errors too. Keep at it, lady. You are a GREAT mom :)

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  38. Oh,no! I've been the mom with the screamy kid, and it stinks. I don't know what is worse - Screaming Kid or Judgy Customer. You poor thing.

    I think that you need to do a boot camp for yourself so you can get past the Judgy's, and not let Mr. Screamy drive you to tears. The more you do it, the thicker your skin will get and you will be able to get through the store when you have to.

    Plan it like a mission - talk to him about going to the store (yay), bring a few snacks, make sure he's well rested, and pick a time when it is not super crowded and hectic. Then, do it and prepare yourself for the worst. Be ready to walk out the moment he pushes it too far. You are a strong person and you are persistent (buying and working on your house?!), so don't let the little stinker rule your world (well not too much - he is awfully cute!).

    This too shall pass. You will find a way to make it work. Let us know how it goes.

    (how is the house coming along? I'm dying to see more pictures)

    AngelaM

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  39. Oh sweetie! Every line you wrote was like a line out of my life with Landon, my just-turned-two beast of a son. I live him to pieces, but there have been times when I begged God to just make time go FASTER because these days, there are more bad than good ones. I have total sympathy for you and would've stopped you in that Walmart aisle, placed our two boys in the cart and they could've had a yelling contest. I have high hopes things will get better for the both of us! Until then, hang in there!

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  40. Hiya Rachie,

    Been there done that. I feel like there's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said... That being said, I'd like to offer some unsolicited advice. Take it or leave it-- when Sydney was real little she was SO "spirited" (as people have been calling it). Totally out of control. After we gave up refined sugar, her behavior changed DRAMATICALLY. All three of my kids are sugar sensitive (which makes me wonder if everyone would be if they gave it up?). Anyway, even Ryan (who doesn't usually believe in my nutritional hoodoo vodoo) can see the difference in the kids when they've had lots of sugar to eat. They get totally out of control. I mean, they literally can't control themselves, even if they wanted to. Anyway... I don't know if you are even in a place where you'd want to do something like this. OR if you even think it would help. But, if you decide you'd like to try giving up sugar, I can send you some natural alternatives. Let me know.

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  41. Well, no advice here, other than to buy yourself some ice cream while you're out. Just hugs and know that you're not alone. Bedtime has been complete disasters for us lately, and J's getting a babysitter tonight...I haven't told the poor girl what she's in for yet. Thinking of you!

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  42. From all the comments, it sounds like you're not the only one (although, if you're not the only one, then why does it seem like you are when you're at the store? That's how I feel, anyway). I wish I could say it gets better . . . but I don't really know, since I only have one and she's the same age and the same way. At least you only cried . . . I have put Madelyn in the shower and sprayed her with cold water when she took off her stinky diaper the 3rd time and ate it, and left her in the empty bathtub naked and shivering while I simmered down, and I confess to giving her a little pinch on the bum in the store when she acts like Forrest (If she won't stop crying over nothing, I'll give her something to cry about!), so I think you're still more patient than I am.

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  43. Having had a difficult (for want of a better word) daughter who has turned into an even more difficult adult, I can sympathise. My husband and I also subscribed to the don't negotiate with terrorists theory that one of your readers suggested. Don't give in to him because as you have realised, he quickly figured out what he has to do to get what he wants. I also agree with preparing him for shopping. My daughter did not cope well with a change in routine, however if I prepared her for it - the night before or morning, she coped just fine. Part of your problem is that your son is so young so he may not completely understand. I also like the idea of involving him in the shopping, giving him a list, making him responsible for some items (age appropriate of course). Otherwise strap him in, get in, get out and ignore him ( much easier said than done) I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it gets better, my Mum has been telling me that since my daughter was two! Sometimes they remain difficult kids but what changes is our ability to handle them better or to ask for help. Just know though, that all those mothers who were giving you those looks, like you had the evil child and you were the bad mother; they are not perfect and neither are their children - they have all probably been in exactly the same position as you whether it be the grocery store, Church or at a friends house. Their pride just won't let them admit it, so they make themselves feel better about themselves by judging you. What a shame that no one came up to you and tried to console you or give you a hand so that you could get your shopping done quicker (for your sake not theirs!)I wish I had been there to help you. It is a shame that people could watch you struggle and not feel the need to at least ask you how they could help you. Chin up!

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  44. I never normally comment on posts, but really felt compelled to this time! I had to let you now that I've been there quite recently!!! I feel your pain! If it's any consolation, they do grow out of it - quite suddenly in fact! My two (now aged 3 and 4) are only just over a year apart and one grew into it as the other grew out of it. But oddly, my boy (the older of the two ) used to get so distressed that I might walk away without my girl ( a Matilda actually!) that she only did it a few times then stopped. But those few times.... oh my goodness. She would through herself out of the trolley, lie on the filthy floor in the aisle and proceed to wail at top decibels for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON!!!!!!!!!! There was no solution. It was just a matter of grabbing her, dodging her well aimed kicks and punches and moving on. The only alternative was ditching the shopping and going home, which I just couldn't do after coming so far. Yes, I cried once or twice too. And it was the kind words from total strangers that did help - and the stupid comments that didn't! So, most of us have been there and know exactly what you're talking about. Is it any help to know you're not alone?

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  45. I don't have any advice for you. I'm sure you're doing a great job. kids are hard. I've been that same mom with a screaming child in the store and it totally sucks. but...these phases don't last forever. and you'll laugh about this soon enough, right??? and Forrest is seriously a cute little booger :)

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  46. I cried right along with you in those last few paragraphs. :( I am so sorry he is going through such a hard phase. He seems to be enjoying it, though. ;) I would be heartbroken as he was laughing (I'm sure you were, too) While Crue isn't quite to that level of tantrums (yet), I have to admit I am scared. I think I have solutions but as I was reading, I put myself in your shoes and I would have done the same things, because those were my "solutions". They seem like in theory they should work, right! I hope you both make it out of this alive and well. Good luck, I'm really not good at saying comforting things, but I feel for you. On a happier note, you look freakin' adorable in your newest post. Love your hair!

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  47. I often feel this way as well. I read this today and it put some things in perspective for me. I hope it will do the same for you. Hang in there! http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/motherhood-is-a-calling-and-where-your-children-rank

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  48. I wonder if this is how Nate feels when he takes me out in public....

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  49. Aw, the last line made me chuckle and feel bad simultaneously. I've been there... Nicole was totally like that. I think having two helps, they kind of distract each other. I still don't like to shop with my kids if I can help it! Once one of them starts to lose it I start to feel frazzled, miss half my list because I just want to get out of there, etc.
    When I see a parent with a wailing toddler, I try to give an encouraging smile or make a joke. I reserve my eyerolls for the parents with the oh, 8-11 year old girl sprawled lying back in their 2-tier shopping cart playing a video game and whining out demands, what the...?!

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  50. Don't worry. Someday the school bus will come for him, too. :)

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  51. I don't know what it is about Walmart, but it tends to bring out the worst in kids. If there's any way to avoid it, that's probably your best bet for a while. I used to go grocery shopping at 6 AM to avoid taking my daughter and it was so quiet and peaceful. I know some people go to church to get refreshed and restored, but grocery shopping alone in the early morning did the trick for me!

    Oh, by the way, one of the ads at the bottom of your page is for The Total Transformation - "parent-proven ways to fix child behavior." Ha ha.

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  52. I know how you feel. I also have a very difficult soon to be three year old boy. He has just decided that at walmart when he doesn't get his way he will lay on the floor and cry. The walking away does not work. He will not get up and will lay there and continue to scream. And then what do you do, cause you can't just leave him there?

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  53. I hope that this might make you feel a wee bit better. Some of our children are what DH terms as "Commando Kids." Out of the 6, 3-4 of them are Commando kids, meaning that their ability to choose is most important to them over any thing. A handful of years ago or so, a nice mother at church apologized to me. She said that she had always thought that DH and I were bad parents, why couldn't we control our kids better?! And then she had her last baby (#5 for her) and he showed her what a "Commando Kid" is. She was so sorry for thinking about us like that and could we forgive her. (Jaw dropping, really.) Anyway it was nice to hear.

    We still try to help guide our children on to the best path, but it has to be their choice. With DD #1, we had to watch out for things that might trigger a meltdown, which was basically anything that was a change from our typical day. She's a senior this year and is turning out pretty nicely.

    Oh, and about those older kids that may be having a meltdown while shopping, you never know what issues they may have, like high functioning autism or aspergers. I know families with these issues and they struggle just as much and the likelihood is that they always will. And as for those people that are judgmental, I feel sorry for them that they have felt so little compassion in their lives that they can't emulate it as adults. They need our prayers.

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    1. I guess I should give an example of the things that happened with DD#1. She hated shoes and belts, and so we didn't insist that she wear shoes to church because it just wasn't a hill I wanted to die on. So a well meaning lady asked if we needed some shoes for her and if she could help. So the time had come (others were concerned that we weren't caring for our children, lovely) and the next Sunday DD#1 wore her shoes, she screamed for the whole 3 hours. Until she decided that wearing shoes was a good thing, we didn't make her wear them; they had always been available to her, she liked to go shopping for them but we didn't make a big deal about it and eventually it was okay and wasn't an issue afterwards.

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  54. I know I'm a little late commenting on this but I just wanted to sympathize. What in the world is with toddlers?! I took my boys to the library story time today. NIGHTMARE! One was just being awful and was determined to run around the library. He managed to escape the room we were in TWICE. Both times this other little boy made a break for the open door and his PREGNANT (6-7months!) mother had to RUN after him. I felt awful about that. Then my other little guy was sweet as pie, but I was preoccupied with keeping his brother in the room so he ended up just kind of standing off to the side and watching all the other kids clap and dance with their parents with this forlorn look on his face. I felt super bad about that!! I realized I was THAT parent the one with the unruly kids. So embarrassing as they are generally well behaved. I left the library feeling frazzled, but surprisingly determined to bring them back again. Because, dang it, they need to learn how to behave properly! I'll be more prepared mentally next time and I'll pick our place in the room more carefully, I'll talk to them about it before hand/as we go to the library. I know one of my boys really benefits from a heads up. Like, "after Curious George is over we're going to take a nap." He'll still fuss a little, but nothing like if we just turn the TV off and announce that it is nap time. If you keep the language simple I think it can work. Also, I know routine and consistency really help mine and not caving in to their demands. Which is part of why I had problems today, because they are used to getting to run around the library when we go.

    Anywho all I really wanted to say is I can sympathize. The little stinkers! I'm sorry it was such an awful experience!! It sounds like you did a lot of good things!

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  55. Been there done that and lived through it... my kids are now 18 and 24 and now when I see the mom having kid issues at the store, I always smile and say something nice to let them know they are not alone. My youngest was "high maintenance" for instance we were at church and he decided to do NASCAR speed laps around the entire congregation.. with me chasing him.

    It gets better and it is not your fault!!!

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  56. Okay, the last line of this made me laugh out loud and scare the cat away. Every mom should have to go through this at least once so they don't become the judgy eye-rollers who think their own children's angelic public behavior is a result of their wise parenting. Bleh. It's hard for people to understand that each kid comes with their own personality and parenting techniques only do so much to cope with them.
    Cami was a huge tantrum thrower as a kid and then as she got older she became the sweetest person I know. I bet that will be Forrest!
    Sorry For the terrible day! Crying in public is the WORST!

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  57. Oh yeah and that was Elisse, not Brad.

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  58. I realize I'm late to the party here, but had to comment. I have 3 boys: 13, 10, and 3. (There really should be a rule about not having a hormonal teenager and a tantrum-throwing toddler at the same time.) ALL of my boys have been difficult at times, so I totally understand. A few weeks ago at the store, a sweet lady walked up to my screaming child and just said, "I speak peace to you sweet baby, and your mama", then walked away. I tucked that away and bring it out every now and then when I need it.

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  59. Well, this post kind of scared me. We have a three month old who just finished two and a half months of colic consisting of screaming for five hours straight. I can totally imagine this is what will happen for us, too. I keep reminding myself that this behavior isn't personal, and we're doing the best we can. Our baby has a nice home with two parents who love him and do everything they can for him, and your son does. I also remind myself- this will pass. And when I can't remind myself, I call friends, or talk about it on facebook with my friends...

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    1. I just wanted to mention that my baby was also colicky and screamed quite a bit as an infant, and after trying everything to calm him down (Chammomile tea, gripe water, simethicone drops, warm baths, changing formula four different times, etc) we finally started giving him probiotics, namely Jarro Dophilus Baby, found on Amazon.com. He was colic-free in about 2-3 days.

      We are just starting to head into the tantrum stage, and I appreciated reading everyone's stories here. Maybe I can put some of the advice to good use.

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  60. I feel for you. Been there done that to the extreme! And I hate to scare you, but the threes can be even worse than the twos (sorry!). I remember having that child too. Great at home a nightmare in public. There was one trip to a craft store that ended with lost shoes, people looking at me like I was kidnapping her, a scary almost accident in the parking lot, and a massive amount of tears on both ends. Just know that the temper tantrums as you know it will end one day and turn into a different form. My little one is now 12 - teen temper tantrums are scary! - but there is hope :)

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  61. With my 4 kids, I employed a method my husband's granmother told me about....sprinkling (or LIGHTLY spraying) the child in full tantrum mode with water. My 3 year old used to act out in the same manner as your little guy...and once she did it while her great-grandmother was visiting (of course!). Anyway, Grandma Reba told me with her 7 (!) kids she would go to the faucet and get a glass of water, then put her fingers in the water and sprinkle (NOT pour the whole glass, as tempting as it might be!) the offending child with the water. I had a small spray bottle (from some make-up type liquid) that I would keep in a diaper bag (On the "spray" not "stream" option) that I would use on the child. This never failed to "refocus" my little ones...as simple as it sounds, sometimes they just don't have the tools to stop the behavior on their own. This would startle them enough to cause them to have a "restart" of sorts. This also was the only thing that would wake up my oldest daughter during a night terror. She would sort of sputter, then look at us with a confused look, then sort of cry lightly (as opposed to looking blindly at something only SHE could see while SCREAMING HYSTERICALLY) then snuggle into us and let us comfort her back to sleep. I hope that I don't sound like the crazy older lady that abused her kids....but I wanted to share what worked for me. Good luck! Jamie in AZ

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  62. Oh, that sounds awful! I have a ten month old baby girl and I can already see it in her sweet beautiful eyes...THIS situation is in my future. Thank you for sharing your experience. I feel bad that you even had to relive it writing this post!!

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  63. Oh my poor dear, have I been there! The only thing that has worked for preventing total meltdown with my son is to wear him. Thirty pounds of dead weight toddler in my Ergo carrier is exhausting, but it does prevent the tantrums. Keep being brave, They tell me it does get better at some point.

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