GeekMom’s latest “this is not my child” moment: Tantrum at Target

I don’t know who came up with the phrase “Terrible Twos,” because with my three kids, age three has always been much worse than two. I was reminded of this today, when my three year old daughter had her first humongous public meltdown. It happened like this…

This morning, I needed to get some things from my favorite store, Target. I love going to Target. There is a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell snack area up front, and I can grab a soda to sip while I shop. Usually, I get a sugar cookie for my daughter, and she sits sweetly in the cart, smiling at strangers, waving at old folks. It’s a nice outing. Not today.

About halfway through the shopping, she decided to throw a big screaming fit. It was really magnificent. On the International Tantrum Scale (based on how many strangers would stop and stare), it was probably a 9 out of 10. There was crying, whining, screaming, falling on the floor, scratching, bleeding, hair stuck to snot, kicking… No vomiting, though. That would have made it a 10.

I will spare you the rest of the little details, but let me share some of the things I learned from today’s Tantrum at Target:

  • Age three is more terrible than two, because a three year old is heavier, more wiggly, and can cause more damage during a tantrum.
  • The first time a child has a huge tantrum at the store, it will be unexpectedly crowded, even though it’s a Monday, and people should be at work.
  • The more difficult your child is being, the more people will stop their carts directly in your path, blocking your way.
  • The ear-splitting shrieks of an angry toddler would make a highly effective torture device.
  • The ear-splitting shrieks of an angry toddler would also make a highly effective birth control device.
  • Chanting “this is not my child” to yourself while you wrestle the kid and try to drive the cart around the oblivious morons parked in the middle of the aisle does not help to block out the screaming noise.

I’m sure some of you parents can relate to this experience. It’s one of those things that we all go through with our kids, right? Do you have any favorite tantrum lessons you’d like to share?

Author: GeekMom

Heather is a geeky girl with a husband and three kids who put up with her nerdy quirks. She's been blogging here since 2007, and enjoys writing, reading, playing video games, and making stuff.

  • Nathania

    My 10 year old likes to have public meltdowns! And boy does he know how to work a crowd. Sometimes I have to hold him and he likes to wrangle to make it look like I’m abusing him.

    Let’s just say my previously judgmental thoughts about other parents with difficult children have gone by the wayside!

  • I have a 3 yr old son who thankfully keeps his meltdowns at home. Of course what I do to help keep that first one at bay is that I do not take him anywhere until after he has had his nap for the day. I have found if he has not ad a nap yet or only gets a short one in that he is much more likely to have these types of issues. So at 1030 every day he lays down with one of his movies. As long as I don’t use the word nap he is usually out in 10-15 minutes and will get a good nap in. Then I give him a small snack when wakes up with same water or juice and then he is generally good to go until around dinner time. I find keeping him on a regular schedule has helped tremendously. Good luck.

    Jim – Just a Guy’s last blog post..Troy Duffy announces Boondock Saints 2 to start shooting this summer.

  • @Nathania, that is too funny! I was trying to get her into the car seat, and I was being calm and patient, but just from the noise she was making, I was sure someone would think I was abusing or abducting her.

    @Jim, Yes, naps do help. This was still relatively early in the day, but she has recently stopped napping consistently. None of my kids have been good nappers. This little girl is normally very sweet and cooperative. Just one of those days, I guess!

  • Sly

    I’ve always heard that the terrible twos refer to ages two and three – that’s why they’re called “the terrible twos”, and not just “the terrible two”.

    And they are terrible. I remember babysitting two different 2-3 year olds at different times. Both children threw the biggest, heaviest thing that they could pick up, and they were aiming right at me. I’ll never babysit someone’s 2-3 year old again.

  • My son is now 20 and I hpoe he doesn;t take fits like that anymore…

    but when he was 3? Ooo boy, we had one like yours. I did the thing where I leaned down and snarled in his ear to smarten up, people were looking, behave, we’re leaving right now mister.

    And then he cowered away from me, threw himsefl on the floor and started SCREAMING.


    I don’t let him forget it either. 😉

    Andrea’s last blog post..Check your install for unfiltered_html

  • My son had 1 (one) tantrum when he was 3 yrs old. We went to Wal-mart to get his picture taken. He did not smile the entire time, or if he did, he covered his eyes.

    So when I finally got him half smiling I decided that it was enough. He disagreed. He fell down and started screaming “NO! I DON’T WANNA GO!”. He screamed all the way to the bathroom with me dragging him all the way.

    When I finally got him in there, I smacked his bootie & said “Do not EVER act like that again!”

    He was shocked. I had never spanked him before. But he was always a “good boy” who did whatever I told him to do.

    Never had another tantrum after that.

    I think it was in part because I never took him out at nap time & told him BEFORE we got in the store “You can get 1 toy. That’s it.”

    It’s funny NOW, 9 years later. But at the time, I was so embarrassed, LOL.

    Angelika’s last blog post..First day of Spring Break

  • Pingback: After the tantrum, a wonderful blog review made my day!()

  • My son was a MAJOR tantrum thrower at 2, regardless of how long a nap he had. In fact, he continued to throw them until he was about 15 (guess that’s why mom always told me to drown them when they’re 5…cause they’ve already gone thru all their stages…they just start repeating them…only bigger, and louder! 🙂

    I remember one major one he threw at the mall. Mom happened to be with me and it would embarass the heck out of her. Me? I just left the screaming pile of tears in the middle of the mall floor, and stepped to the side to let him finish it (and to keep an eye out so he didn’t cause any passerbys any issues).

    For those who have tantrum throwers who embarass you…I will tell you the same thing I told my mom…if you have a tantrum thrower, whether on an occasional basis or full-blown, all-out, if I see a speck of dust I’m gonna scream kind…you’ll never win with childless people.

    Think back to your pre-child days. You see a child throwing a tantrum. What do you think? If the parent is standing and watching the fit, I used to think, “Boy, if that were MY kid, I’d beat the tar out of it!” And yet, if the parent is spanking said child, my thought pre-child days was, “Oh yeah, I’m sure THAT’S gonna help it stop crying!” See…you just won’t win (so don’t even let their stares bother you…smile at them and know that someday…THEY’LL have kids of their own!

  • @Andrea – Too funny! I thought that would be a good move too when I was little.

    It’s funny I remember it, because I only ever got the chance to pull that one once. 😉

    Mike’s last blog post..Getting the books straight with PaperBackSwap

  • Thankfully I’m not there yet, I’ve got a couple baby years left 🙂

    Tantrums are something every mom and child have to deal with, they are a normal part of growing up. That doesn’t mean it isn’t embarrassing when they do it in a crowded shopping mall!

    Any of you guys read mothering magazine? They had a great article about tantrums a while back…I think I still have a link…yeah here it is. It’s called “Cry for connection: A fresh approach to tantrums”.

    Miranda’s last blog post..Nightly re-cap

  • My 5 yo daughter usually has temper tantrums at home, in private. Easier to handle. But recently we were out at, you guessed it, Target when she decided she absolutely had to have a movie. When I told her no, that we had just bought her a movie, she proceeded to scream all the way through the store “I HATE MY MOM!”. Can you say Drama Queen? I swear she learned that from her teenage sister!

  • @Deanna

    I like the Red Foremen outlook of parenting which states “If you kids ever tell you they hate you, then you know you are doing your job.”

    So now when I send my three old to hos room after he has gotten trouble and hear him say “I hate my daddy” I just say out loud.”I’m doing a good job.”

    This is the same 3 yr old that an hour later will come up to me and say “I like you daddy, you are my best friend.” Which of course is incredibly adorable.

    Jim – Just a Guy’s last blog post..Off the Cuff

  • Oh, my — the memories. My oldest wasn’t prone to tantrums, but she DID do two publicly embarrassing things:

    Every time we went to Blockbuster, she would eventually stand there grunting and turning red in the face, shifting her hips and clearly taking a massive, dramatic, Oscar-worthy dump in her diapers. Didn’t matter if I’d just changed her — it was just her pooping place.

    Her other trick was to flinch and cower like a beaten child anytime I’d had enough of public shenanigans and was leaning down to pick her up to take her home for a nap.

    Mortification — thy name is “Mother.”

    Carolyn B.’s last blog post..So Clever About Torture Gadgets, Household Supplies

  • Wow, I think we all agree that the 3’s are definitely worse that the 2’s. But MY 3 year old is pushing 4, and I thought for sure by now, that she’d be past the phase, but not a chance!

    Ruthie’s last blog post..My 4 Year Old Freaked Me Out!

  • What we aren’t warned about is that the terrible twos are just a warm up for the terrible threes (and beyond!)!!

  • My daughter is almost 3 and had a tantrum at Target on Sunday when she decided she wanted a certain Word World toy that I had already put in the carriage, but she didn’t believe me.

    She turned to spagetti and hit the floor. When I bent down to pick her up, she smashed me in the head so hard that all the other customers in the store turned around to look.
    One woman said “Oh! Three’s a wonderful age!” and I walked over to her carriage and placed my daughter in it and said “then YOU take her!”

    Everyone laughed, but I was still embarassed, and my head really hurt.

  • Oh gosh I just say “Snookums dearest if you don’t stop that yelling I will walk out of this store and leave you. Alone.”

    That usually works though God help me if one day he says ‘Ok. Go’!!

    Kian’s last blog post..Well you need a good foundation…

  • Yikes. My daughter will be turning 3 in June is already showing me signs that 3 is going to be way worse then 2. I can’t wait for this phase to pass.

    I do remember my mom walking out of the store when my cousin threw a tantrum in the middle of the store. It’s a lot harder to do now though, because you never know what can happen these days.

    Stephanie’s last blog post..5 DVD’s to help get back in shape after baby