We have all seen it. While we wait in the checkout line waiting for our opportunity to have the cashier ring up our purchases, chaos erupts. We watch with a certain amount of interest and a smirk on the face as a parent fails to control their child. Maybe it was because the parent said no to the child getting a candy bar, or perhaps it has been building all day long. In either case, the tantrum is on full display for everyone to see. This is when we see what type of parents this child has. Do they cave in and buy the kid something, start screaming back at them, or just continue on with their business?

When this would happen before I had kids, I would always watch with a bit of amusement. I felt like I should have a bag of popcorn and a drink to better watch this show. I kept waiting for oompa loompas to appear and sing that the child was a brat or the parents were nincompoops. However, this situation quickly gets real when you are the parent of the kid throwing the tantrum. Fathers, here are things to keep in mind when your child has a breakdown.

Keep a Level Head

Remember the mantra “This too shall pass” when your child has their crowd-gathering outburst. Try your best to go into your happy place in your mind even as the world around you is full of screaming and crying. You are the father and you need to keep a level head during these situations.

Don’t Try to Bargain

Eyes are on you, and you don’t want to appear weak by trying to bargain with the child. In addition, you don’t want to appear to be a nutcase either by shouting back at someone that weighs less than your leg. Your job is not to be a negotiator, your job is to be a parent. Just like countries often take the stance that they do not negotiate with terrorists, as fathers we need to band together and not negotiate with screaming kids. We are the adult. They must listen to us. But, in the chance that they don’t, don’t cave into their demands.

Don’t Stoop to Their Level

No matter how much you are losing your cool on the inside, try your best to remain calm on the outside. Do not start shouting or stare holes in your child. Whatever you say, do not tell the kid that they are going to get it when they get home. You will have DCFS called on you before you leave the parking lot. Channel your inner Fonzie. The Fonz didn’t freak out, and neither shall you. Take a deep breath, apologize to everyone in the near vicinity, help the person bag up your groceries, and then slowly walk out of the store without making eye contact with anyone else.

Keep Your Sense of Humor

Like most trying times in life, if you keep your sense of humor, then things will be fine. The first time my child threw a tantrum in line at the grocery store, I turned to the young couple behind me and said, “If this doesn’t make you use birth control, then I don’t know what will.” I also say, “Usually he is not like this. This is actually a good day for him.” One time I asked if I could put this child back on the shelf and grab a different one instead. I heard a couple appalled and aghast at that one. Not all your lines will be gold, but being able to laugh at it will keep you from having a bad day.

Nothing Lasts Forever

As the world appears to be falling down around you when your child is displaying their wrath, keep in mind that nothing lasts forever. This can be looked at in two ways. First, their crankiness will soon be over in a few minutes, and second, in a few short years from now, you will be wishing you could go back in time and experience this time over with your young child. Taking the good with the bad is part of the job of being a responsible parent. Surviving this tirade is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Give the child a break and don’t hold it against him or her. Forgive and forget as soon as you exit the store.


This blog is part of Fathers Incorporated‘s Drive To Five campaign. The campaign design seeks to reduce father absence by engaging dads at the early stages of their child’s development, which makes them more likely to continue their involvement through all of the stages of their development. For more information visit www.drivetofive.org

Posted by Fathers Incorporated

Fathers Incorporated (FI) is a national, non-profit organization working to build stronger families and communities through the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood. Established in 2004, FI has a unique seat at the national table, working with leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Family Law, and the Responsible Fatherhood Movement. FI works collaboratively with organizations around the country to identify and advocate for social and legislative changes that lead to healthy father involvement with children, regardless of the father’s marital or economic status, or geographic location. From employment and incarceration issues, to child support and domestic violence, FI addresses long-standing problems to achieve long-term results for children, their families, the communities, and nation in which they live.

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