The Slice: Attention: Tantrum cleanup on aisle 9

Forget about football and basketball.

Tantrum-defusing is Spokane’s No. 1 spectator sport.

Practically everybody goes to the grocery store. And sooner or later we all witness little kids having meltdowns.

So we also get to see how parents handle these public scenes. As you might have noticed, approaches and results vary.

Some parents remain calm. They count on exhaustion or the eventual triumph of reason. Others lose it right along with their child down there on the floor, kicking and screaming. That can get ugly.

Now it almost goes without saying that there are right ways and wrong ways to conduct yourself on the periphery of a category 5 tantrum.

Right: Mind your own business and do not gawk.

Wrong: Stare and make an annoyed face that says, “Can’t you do something about that?”

Right: Without butting in or judging, try to communicate with your expression that you know virtually all parents have been there and this, too, shall pass.

Wrong: Critique the parent’s performance.

Right: Say, “Hang in there” and quickly clear out.

Wrong: Mutter, “Mine never did that.”

Right: The odds are against it, but if there is something you can do to help without inappropriately insinuating yourself, go ahead. For instance, you could gather up hurled cans and silently return them to the cart or gently discourage another of the kids from conducting gravity experiments with a glass jar or bottle.

Wrong: Step in and presume to take over management of the crisis.

Here in great-place-to-raise-a-family country, there are more than a few moms and dads who hold their parenting skills in high regard. But I observed a woman earlier this week who deserved a high-five. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

One of her two children was rolling in the aisle, wailing about the cruel injustice of not being able to have a certain mop. Yes, a mop.

The mom calmly explained that they wouldn’t be buying that mop. Then she said she had more shopping to do so she would be moving along. “I love you,” said the mom as she proceeded slowly down the aisle. “Bye.”

Floor Kid stopped crying and sat up. Then, the storm having passed, Floor Kid got up and ran after them.

I doubt that there were any permanent abandonment scars. Moreover, I suspect that smacking the child would not have helped in the long run.

“Oh, you’re going to come with us?” said the mom. “I’m so glad.”

I felt like I had been watching a game and my team had just won.

I told my cashier about it. And we agreed.

Sometimes parents come up with big plays.

•Today’s Slice question: In Spokane, what’s the easiest way to distinguish between a skeptic and a conspiracy buff?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail pault@spokesman.com. Always leave a daytime phone number.

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