How to Handle a Public Tantrum

How to Handle a Public Tantrum

Those moments. The ones when you are in public and you have a child (or more than one) on the floor writhing at your feet screaming in a fit of discontent and sorrow. Knowing how to handle a public tantrum is one of those chapters that should be included in the parenting manual – you know the manual? The one we all didn’t get when we had kids. That one.

Last week Jayden chucked a spectacular tantrum at the checkouts in Target. For the first time the triplets had all had their own kids trolley and had been able to follow me around the store without fighting. They looked adorable all walking in their little red trolley convoy and as a special treat I allowed them all to put a ball in each trolley for us to buy.

Shopping with triplets

When we got to the checkout, they all unloaded their balls and delivered it to the counter. However, when they turned around to go back to their trolleys, Toby walked back to the wrong trolley.  It became obvious that it was impossible for Jayden to compromise and push any other trolley, despite the fact that it was identical to his original. I then asked Toby to be compassionate and let Jayden have his original trolley. Predictably this request was answered with a resolute, “No”, and his little hands gripped tightly to the trolley ready for the inevitable Onslaught.

Sure enough, when Jayden saw that his demands “request” had been denied, he did protest much.

And loudly.

Cue loud raucous crying. Cue launching himself at his brother. Cue brother hitting and kicking as he defended his “right” to use the red trolley of his choice. Cue rolling around the floor screaming.

Cue mother trying to pay and get the brood out of their as quickly as possible. On this particular occasion. I have no idea what other customers or staff were thinking of me. I only had the eyes to deal with the situation in front of me. I took the trolley off both of the two boys, because neither had been acting kindly wheeled them back to their home then scampered back to collect the children who were still languishing at the checkout crying loudly. I rushed back, took them by the hand and walked out, waiting briefly for Immy to responsibly replace her own trolley like the model child of the moment.

When we got out of Target, I kneeled down so I was eye level with Jayden and had a quick chat. I empathised that I knew he was feeling sad, and that he wanted to push only one trolley, and then I pointed out that it wasn’t fair that because he was feeling sad, he made everyone around him feel sad because they had to listen to his crying. I also spoke to Toby and said it wasn’t being kind to fight with Jayden. We then continued our shopping, and they did quite well.

To be honest, I’m becoming a pro at negotiating the humiliation of the public tantrum. My young brood of children are all strong in nature. This means they don’t back down readily and will tenaciously hold their position. Which is actually great qualities to have as they grow up. However while they are so young, it is tricky teaching them how to be gracious when they are disappointed. Especially when the lesson needs to be learned publicly.

It’s always helpful remembering that our children are learning. Knowing how to share, behave in public and thinking of others are skills that children learn. Tantrums are often a vehicle to learn good behaviour. Granted, it’s the least desirable transport on the road to good behaviour. Children should be encouraged and taught better methods of handling their frustration. But inevitably there will be public tantrums and outbursts. Here are some hints that I use when I’m in a public tantrum situation.

1. Distract
Of course, there’s a point where distraction is futile. But often, if the tantrum is in the early stages, you might be able to distract your child. Use your most bright cheerful voice while you point out something very ordinary extremely interesting. It’s amazing how interesting a mannequin in a window can be when you are using your best senior high drama voice! Of course there is the possibility that you make something look so interesting (there are drawbacks to pointing out toys, for instance) that your toddler switches modes and re-directs their tantrum to the new thing that is in their focus. If so, proceed to suggestion number 6.

2. Temporarily Remove Your Child From the Situation
Sometimes I find it helpful to take my screaming child to a quiet (or quietish/quieter) corner and talk to them calmly. Cuddle them and reassure them that you love them. Give them the opportunity to calm themselves down. Once they are calm, state firmly but lovingly what your expectations are when you return to what you are doing. Also state clearly what will happen if the bad behaviour continues. Of course, sometimes when you do this, the cries escalate, snot starts running, feet begin to stamp and your child makes all indications that it will take an hour before your offspring calms down. In which case, admit defeat and proceed to number 6.

3. Know That Most People Are Understanding
When your child is having a public tantrum you can often the burn of disapproving eyes on you and your child. Reassure yourself that in fact a lot of people are quite understanding. I know it doesn’t always feel like it. Because let’s face it, often we don’t even want to turn around and check out the expressions on the people around us. Of course, occassionally there is a situation where you are literally being judged by everyone around you. If so, proceed directly to number 6.

4. Recognise the Root Cause
Sometimes we need to pause and consider what is happening in our child’s life. Your child may simply be venting because they are worried about the dentist appointment that afternoon or they are feeling insecure because they are uncertain of how to behave in this situation. Children who enjoy routine can often just be unsettled by being outside the home. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Give their concerns words. Give them a hug and let them know that you are willing to guide them through their frustration. Of course, sometimes you may have correctly identified the root cause, you chat to them, hug them and they scream louder. If so, you may want to proceed directly to number 6.

5. Keep the Bigger Picture in Perspective
I constantly do this when I am parenting. Why do I want to deal with this issue in public? Really. It’s so much easier to deal with tantrums privately. Bigger picture thinking makes you realise that by dealing with this issue as it happens, you are in fact teaching your child how to behave in public. You are actually working towards this happening less in the future. If you retreat every time a child throws a tantrum, your child learns that they can completely manipulate you during public outings. However, some days you know you or your child is just too tired to deal with a tantrum in public. In which case, Hold your head high knowing you are doing what is best for you and your child in that moment and that despite what people are thinking, you have a large array of strategies that you implement other times and proceed to number 6.

6. Ignore All Above Suggestions, Do Whatever You Can to Retreat and Get the Hell Out!
Some days, there’s just no winning. Recognise those days, and do whatever you can to withdraw in a hasty retreat. Wave the white flag. Or not. The white flag may not even withstand the destruction of a toddler/preschoolers rage. Training can be done another day, save your own sanity woman!!!! (Or Man, there is no gender bias when it comes to being defeated by a small fry.) Get to the car as quickly as you can.  Try not to screech the tyres in your retreat, but if you need to enhance the drama – go ahead. Make your exit spectacular! Ugly crying may accompany this retreat. Embrace the emotions. You are not the first to be brought to their knees by their wild progeny.

Shopping with triplets for balls
Moments before the epic showdown.


There is no shame being beaten by a bambino providing you raise your head and live to fight train another day. You can be assured of this. The same issue will come up – the odds are with you that the issue will surface imminently. Believe in your child, believe that they can learn to negotiate, believe that they actually don’t want to tantrum but rather that they want, need and desire the security of boundaries. And know this. If I am in the crowd as the battle lines are drawn, whether I catch your eye and give you an encouraging smile or not, I’m cheering for you because the fact that you are dealing with a tantrum publicly immediately is a public declaration that you are a good parent. Further then good – you are an excellent and outstanding (and brave) parent.


Has your child every had a spectacular public tantrum? What works best for you when you are faced with a child having a public tantrum?

Joining with Essentially Jess and IBOT.




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Waiting during Infertility with Grace, Patience and Purpose

Waiting During Infertility

Infertility is such a difficult journey and there is long periods of waiting during infertility. Infertility involves so much waiting. Waiting for a positive pregnancy test, waiting for a cycle to begin, waiting for blood test results, waiting for doctors appointments, waiting for scans, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for your turn. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Waiting patiently for children or contemplating a possibility of no children sometimes feels like an impossible chore. Except it’s not a chore, it’s an existence. Living with infertility is an existence where everything is hopeless and every feeling you have is limited to your feeling of loss. Thoughts are constantly about the baby who is not in your arms.

I can remember there was an evening during my journey of infertility when I changed my perspective of waiting and started to concentrate more on living.

It happened as I watched a grieving husband kneeling by a graveside, weeping for his dead wife, lamenting his loss and contemplating raising 2 daughters on his own. Unseen by him, I could see his wife’s ghost. She was begging him to cease his grieving. She implored him to not waste a moment while  alive but to value and cherish life, recognizing that even the small mundane things in life are “important enough” and that he should value “every, every minute.”

This mourning husband grieved on a stage during a scene of the famous American play “Our Town”. the poignant image of the dead watching us live our lives and willing us to respect the enormous privilege we have to be alive affected me enormously.

As I watched, it occurred to me that perhaps I needed to ensure that the fleeting minutes that belong to me as I live on earth are not wasted.

At the time, my husband and I had been married for 4 years. We married relatively young and during our marriage, we were already on the way to paying off our modest little white farmhouse that we lived in, I had finished my degree, a Bachelor of Education and in the evenings Alex was studying externally working on his degree, a Bachelor of Accounting. We were working during the day which had developed a passion for travelling and funded overseas European adventures and had a great social life with a variety of friends.

Young and infertile
Alex and I back when we were young and childless.

But, for almost 2 years at that point, we had been trying to have a child.

It is not that the quest to have children was crippling me and leaving me unable to live a meaningful life. I was very happily employed as a lower primary teacher at Christian Outreach College. I adored the children in my classes and I enjoyed teaching. In many ways I was able to redirect my instinct to mother towards those children. I would make sure they ate their lunch, ensure they felt loved and accepted, govern the squabbles and conflicts they had with their friendships. I would spend hours preparing games and designing lessons so that the learning was as fun as possible while the content that I taught was solid and my students had strong academic foundations in those early years.

But even though I loved my job, there was still a level of discontent that one feel when you are experiencing infertility. The yearning to have your own biological children can be deep and painful.

I am a Christian. I talk to God and he talks to me. I believe God talks to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes I feel dirction by God when I read His words in the Bible. Sometimes as I pray, I can feel a presence and deep down inside my Spirit. I hear a voice that is wiser than my own. After I have prayed, ideas and answers that become guidance come to me, more often and more quickly then if I do not pray. So for me, this is proof that God talks to me. When I am at church, often I hear from God when I sing a song or listen to the Pastor preach.

Then there are the times that God speaks to me in a more unconditional way. For instance, a walk in the bush contemplating nature, and suddenly God drops a metaphor into my mind that applies to a situation in my life.

On this particular occasion God used some words written by Thornton Wilder and a group of student actors to get my attention.

Later that evening as I contemplated the message of the play, I heard God speaking to me. I felt a clear directive that I was not to waste my life worrying that I would never get pregnant or speculatively obsessing about my future.

Would I be a mother?

Childless? Was I going to be always without my own children? How would I cope, would there always be a part of me that would feel empty and unfulfilled?

That night I realized that while it was natural to feel emotional about this topic, I was spending so far too much of my thought life contemplating scenarios of what may or may not be. At the end of the day, the obsessing was not getting me anywhere. There were two scenarios. I would have children, or I wouldn’t. Either way, if I wanted my life to be meaningful, I would need to work out a way proceed and find my purpose in each moment.

And so I stopped dreaming about the “what ifs” and living more in the moment and planning for the future that I knew. I was living, seeking to fulfill my days with meaning and gratitude. Of course I still dreamed about being a mother, but when I did so, it was with the confidence that whatever my future was, it was secure and it was good.

And it has been good! After five years of trying to conceive, I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. I was living in London at the time. Ringing my parents and my sister and telling them the news was one of the happiest moments of my life.

In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined that after my first little boy was born, I would have four more children and that my youngest three would be triplets.

Large Family 5 kids and triplets

Parenting is hard work. Really hard work. I am blessed that I am able to stay at home with my children and raise them during these early years. Each day is precious and I treasure so many moments with my children. It’s not all happiness. There are the stormy waters of childish tantrums, stubbornness and jealousy to negotiate. When the tempests brought on by angry little humans surround me, I often remember the days when I yearned for these children. Suddenly my perspective is restored, and somehow I navigate our ship into safer harbours and enjoy the sunshine when peace is restored.

I remember the words spoken in the play, “Our Town”, that I watched back in 2002. Emily, the young wife who had died asked, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it … every, every minute?” The response from the Stage Manager who narrated the play was, “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

I am not a poet, and my family would testify that I am indeed no saint. I am determined to live my life in such a way that it is meaningful. While I am here on earth, I don’t want to just value every moment, I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to make the God that I pray to proud of the life I lived and I want my life to reflect the goodness that he is to me.

Because, to once again quote Thornton Wilder’s words in “Our Town”,

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”



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To the Mother Who Feels Like She is Drowning


To the Mother Who Feels Like She is Drowning

Dear Mother who feels like she is drowning,

I know you are struggling to breathe. I can hear the strangled sounds as your head pierces the water and you gasp for air. I can see your legs kicking furiously underneath the surface valiantly fighting for survival.

I know that mounting to do list is drowning you. I see you feeling suffocated in dirty washing, dirty dishes, dirty window sills and unclean toilets. I know that sometimes when you breathe it must be shallow breaths because the smell of urine seems to permeate so many places in your home, not least of all the toilet which you cleaned from top to bottom 20 minutes ago. I know how the sound of crying, screaming and whining dulls your senses and follows your relentlessly. I can see you locked in your cupboard struggling for composure, praying for sanity and I see that before you regain the equilibrium you seek, you rush back out to the cacophony because if you don’t, you fear that some tiny bodies may perish in the battle that constantly surrounds you.

I see you tentatively venture into the wider world, silently praying that you will not sink below the glassy sea while everyone is watching. You hold the little hand beside you tightly and every fibre of your being wills the life form that you have created to hold it together otherwise you could break. And while everything goes smoothly I know you feel like a hypocrite as people applaud you for being “such a good mum” when you know that any moment you are about to fall apart. And when the inevitable comes, the mother and child’s truce disintegrates and the battle with your small charge recommences, you swallow your pride as you struggle to control the writhing body as it convulses in a tantrum. You are once again absorbed in their world trying to decipher their needs and tame their wants, yet still aware of the averted gazes and silent disapproval as humankind passes you by.

To the Mother who feels that she is drowning.

You will not drown. Look up for a moment. There are life rafts you can get onto nearby. If it seems too far away to swim, take a moment and yell for help. There are people nearby ready to throw life buoys in your direction.

I know so often if feels like you are all alone because you are immersed in your personal pain. There are always those who want to swim beside you or help tug you to safety if you look. Just stop and look and you will find a compassionate friend, a counsellor, a person in a community group or local church. They are all around holding life jackets for you, ready to put it on you and keep you safe. Believe me mother, tread water for a little while, call for help and grasp the hand that extends towards you.

Get to that raft and breathe. Find that place of safety and work out a plan. Your survival depends on it. Recognise that surviving does not equal perfection. Not every dirty room will be clean and not every moment will be calm, but learn to be happy amidst the clamour of daily life. Be happy and confident even if you are surrounded by imperfection. As you sit on that raft, look ahead at the distance you have to swim. Don’t feel overwhelmed but notice that in the stretch ahead, there are life rafts dotted all over the place. When it’s time to get back in the water, you only need to swim to the next raft; the next mother’s group meeting, the next church service. Swim to the next mothers group meeting where you can breathe with other mother’s who are taking refuge, swim to the next church service where you will find motivation to continue the marathon, swim to the next family function where arms will wrap you in love, even when you don’t feel worthy.

I promise you, the land will appear on the horizon. Some day you will reach the shores of sanity. Your house will be gleaming, there will be no more public tantrums, your children will link arms and walk with you on that shore and you will sit and eat a luxurious meal uninterrupted in comfort. As you look back out at the ocean you will feel peace because you know that it was a long hard swim to get to this promised land, but it was worth every stroke. You will remember the treacherous seas and the pain of the journey and you will find a boat and and row back into the waters and throw life vests out to those who are still swimming.

We swim this thing called life together. The old and the young, the weak and the strong. No one needs to drown.


Do you feel like you might be drowning? What are your life rafts as you wade through the waters of motherhood?

Are you able to throw the life vests for people? How do you recommend mothers get to safety?


Today I’m linking with Essentially Jess’s fabulous IBOT. Check it out, find a life raft and read some blogs. It will do your heart good.

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Face Painting – Holiday Fun

Holiday Face Painting

Face painting is always a popular activity for children. To be truthful, I’ve been scared at the thought of how to face paint. Today is the last official day of the Queensland school holidays and the kids discovered a packet of face paint crayons they were given as a gift awhile back. I took a deep breath, did a Pinterest search, “Easy face painting ideas for kids” and started. Much easier than I thought! Truly! I’m not a highly artistic person, but I can copy simple shapes, so using the internet images as a guide, I whacked the crayons on, and hey presto, five happy kids!

Plus, it has inspired their play to such an extent that I’ve been able to sneak away and write a quick blog post about it! Fresh off the press!

Trent started the ball rolling, requesting to be Batman.

Face Painting Batman

Next, Toby wanted to be a blue bat dog. This is my interpretation of a bat dog. Which is basically a dog with blue spots. My crayon wasn’t quite fine enough for the fine lines. Did he mind? Not at all.

Face Painting Blue Dog

Immy want to be a crab. She was quite enraptured by the crabs at during our holiday at the beach during Easter recently. So why not paint one on your forehead? I ask you.

Face painting crab

Jayden wanted to be a spider. Once again, a finer tip would have been good here, but not one word of complaint.

Face painting spider and web

Jonty wanted to be Captain America. It made me stop and think, but turns out it wasn’t hard at all either!

Face Painting Captain America

And here is the crime fighting, barking, arachnid scuttling fivesome!

Face Painting kids holiday activity

This little activity today has just made me think how sometimes I don’t do things with my children because in my head they need to be perfect. But truly, it doesn’t take much to make a child happy. And to be truthful, it’s far more healthy for a child to accept and love activities and things that are simple and rejoice in the moment rather than breed them to become fixated perfectionist standards also.

Just keeping it real, before I could finish writing this, I went to check on the triplets who were still in the sandpit, however one was drenched in water, another was naked, (and consequently got bitten by a green ant on his bum), another had sand through his hair. I bathed all three. Batman than decided he preferred being Captain America #2, so a face was re-painted.

The highlight of the morning for the kids was Grandma and Grandad coming to visit. Grandma had a sun painted on her cheek by Trent, Jonty painted a tractor on Grandad’s cheek, and Jayden and Trent also scribbled on Grandad’s face. The children are blessed to have grandparents who are totally good sports!

Facepainting Grandad

Have you painted faces before? What have you drawn? Any face painting tips? (I need plenty!)

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Talking to Children About Childbirth

Talking to Your Children About Childbirth
Image Credit

We were sitting around the table last night eating dinner, when all of a sudden the question I have long been dreading came up.

“How does a baby come out of Mummy’s tummy?” asked Master 8.

I awkwardly cleared my throat, trying to phrase a dignified response in my head that would also be appropriate to be heard by the five year old and 3 three year olds also present at the table.

Before I could issue a carefully worded response, Daddy abruptly responded, “You came out from between Mummy’s legs,” Master 8’s face was looking puzzled and bewildered but he quickly forgot this as he heard Daddy say, “and while you did, your Mum did this”, and then he proceeded to emit a  dramatic moan and panting.

I was mortified. Absolutely mortified I tell you.

The children were delighted and laughed ecstatically which only fuelled Daddy further.  He moved onto a description the next childbirth in the family (that had not had an epidural) and emitted a horrifying comical wail and scream.

The children were in hysterics. I was not. Daddy looked very pleased with himself. Not one ounce repentant.

The triplets wanted to know what I did when they were born. “Oh you were just cut out of Mummy’s stomach. She didn’t say anything.” Everyone looked disappointed, except Master 5 who had turned slightly pale. I’m fairly certain he was picturing a woodsman with an axe cutting the babies loose, just like in Little Red Riding Hood. The rest of the table appeared to accept that it was far more logical for babies to get cut out of stomach’s rather than come out from between someone’s legs.

There was a little more irreverent talk about C-sections and pregnancy before the children trotted off and grabbed some yoghurt for dessert. (I must have still been shell shocked because I didn’t even notice the two little boys hadn’t finished eating their dinner.)

Daddy and twins
Last night on their way to bed. Everyone (except maybe Mummy) was in high spirits.


As embarrassing as Alex’s ‘talk’ was for the children, it really wasn’t all bad. Somehow, he managed to tick some of the boxes of my requirements for sex education.

1. Begin Early.
I want to talk about sex and associated activities, i.e. childbirth(!) while the children are young. I don’t want to run the risk of my children being educated from others and being taught misconceptions and inaccuracies.
Check: Three year olds have have heard about some aspects of childbirth.

2. Be Informal
When I was given, “The Talk”, my mother was so factual using terms like “egg” and “ovaries” that when the time came to menstruate, I had no idea what was going to happen. (Sorry Mum!) I want to be specific in an informal way when talking to my children, so they understand while remaining innocent.
Check: Role play dramatically increases informality.

3.  Limit Embarrassment
Our sexuality is a natural part of life. I don’t want my kids being embarrassed about it or thinking it is dirty. Having said that, I do what them to be respectful when talking about sexuality and talk about it appropriately in the right context.
Check: Our kids weren’t embarrassed.
Future action: May need to reconsider whether childbirth and other associated talks are appropriate at the dinner table. Also may need to follow up and approach subject delicately to ensure children are not describing the way they were born on the playground.

Sex Education
Master 8 last night. Not one bit embarrassed.

Thank goodness somehow Alex is doing the right thing. (How do Dads do that???) Obviously he hasn’t scarred our daughter either. As I tucked her into bed she patted her vagina and said, “I’m glad I have a china. It’s special and the boys don’t have chinas.”

He remains unrepentant. “I can’t believe you told the children that at dinner tonight!” I told Alex after the kids were in bed last night. His response was a huge smile and he walked away chuckling saying, “The kids didn’t mind.” Considering we have four sons, Alex will be responsible for the majority of these talks, so I can only imagine what conversations in the future will look like.

Have you talked to your child about childbirth or sex? How did that go? 
Is it on your “To Do” list? What are your expectations?

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