The Miracle on 34th Street

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If you’re my friend on Facebook, you might have seen my desperate plea for help asking how to discipline my child when I’m out in public. Today Eva had one of the worst tantrums she’s ever had. As we were coming home on the train, I just thought, this is it. This is the WORST day I’ve had as a mom. There’s one other day that I think compares, when Eva was a month or two old, T.J. was in school, and Eva would not sleep and cried for hours one night. That was pretty bad. But at least I was at home, without all the judging eyes of NYC people around me.

Eva had one little outbreak in the subway on the way there, which is when I should have just gotten off the train, and got back on in the opposite direction to get back home. But I was determined to go and run my errand and not let my child run my life. I got her calmed down after a couple of minutes anyway, but it should have been my warning.

She did really great through the store, but when it was time to go home, she had a tantrum because she didn’t want to get back in her stroller to go home. After a couple minutes in the store with her on the ground in a full out tantrum, I gave in and said, “Fine, you can walk until we get out of the store.” I just couldn’t handle having her scream in there with everyone looking at us! All of these NYC with their NYC lifestyles, thinking something like, “That’s why you don’t get married so young and have children in your early twenties.” I wanted to yell back saying,


So, like I said, I gave in. Let her walk next to me. But once I got outside I knew I needed to get her in the stroller. We were on 34rd and 6th. It’s crazy there. Eva needed to be in a stroller, it’s not safe yet for her to just walk next to me and hold my hand. Too many cars, too many people. I tried to explain it to her but she wouldn’t listen. So, we had the next tantrum, just as bad as the last one, if not worse. Oh man. You can probably google it and find, “Terrible-two-year-old driving her mom to the edge of insanity in midtown today.” Instagrams and everything. Just kidding. But really, I felt like everyone was just watching it happen and judging me! I should have put out a container to collect their money for the show we were putting on in the street. “Come see Diva Eva take down her mother! Who do you think will win?”

It took me a while. I had candy in my stroller, because at times I’ll bribe her to get in her stroller if she deserves it. But she didn’t deserve any treat and I didn’t want her to think she could get a piece of candy after acting like that. Guys, it was so hard to not give her that candy. Oh man. Okay, anyway, I took a breather and Eva could tell I was upset, stopped screaming and asked why I was sad. She looked so concerned. I told her that her screaming made me very sad and her hitting hurt me. She said she was sorry. But she still didn’t want to get in her seat. Then I finally thought of something. She responded well when she knew I was hurt and sad. She didn’t understand what it meant when I said I wanted her to be safe on the street. Instead of repeating the safety lecture, I told her she would get hurt by the people on the street if she walked because they are so big and she’s so little. All of a sudden, it connected. “Big people hurt me?!” I mean, it wasn’t a lie. They might actually hurt her, on accident, since they walk so fast and aren’t looking where they’re going. So, I just went with it. “Yes, Eva.” Then up she went. She got in the stroller. It was a miracle, I thought T.J. was going to have to leave work and save me.

After getting me some much needed diet coke and Eva taking a nap, she woke up this afternoon and tried to recount to me how the big people hurt her in the street. Hahaha oh gosh. She’s going to tell her daddy people hurt her in the city and he’s going to be so confused.

Anyway, sorry for writing all of that out. But I want to remember today. When I have another bad day I can remember that one time when Eva lost it on 34rd street! I’m sure it’ll give me a little laugh.


I got some really great tips today from other moms! Thanks for your help and motivation. They’re too good not share with you all, especially Danica’s tip!

  • Danica Holdaway: air horn
  • Jana Burnett: Warn her that if she doesn’t stop you will take her home.. and then do so… it will only take a couple times. When Aciee doesn’t listen I ask her if she has ears and she shows me them when she is in a very bad mood she wont show me them and I know not to try going places. reward good behavior “if you don’t cry in the grocery store I will give you M&M;s when we get home”
  • Susan Sargent: I sometimes so time outs wherever I am. To to find a quite corner or bathroom and put thwm in time out there. Sometimes they are screaming in time out and people are looking but let them look. You are shaping a human being and teaching them how to behave is sometimes embarrassing. Then they turn into teenagers, and those tantrums in public are just as fun. Take it all in stride.
  • Jana Burnett: Our Pediatrician told me not to worry about what other people think or when they are looking. he told me one time at Kroger when it was busy he sat on the floor with his son and let him throw his fit.. he asked him if he was finished and then kept shopping… once they realize they wont get what they want they will quit. and when you get home its ok to hide in the bathroom and eat a king size candy bar while you cry…
  • Sarah Wells: Depends on what the tantrum is about but if it’s because she wants something sometimes validating her feelings will help to distract her from what she wants. I’ve said things like, “That ice creams does look really good, huh? Ice cream is so yummy! Did you know ice cream is one of my favorites? What do you think ice cream is made out of? Is it hot or cold?” And from there she’s distracted from actually wanting the item…hopefully. Then play games with her in the store like “I Spy” or give her a list of things she can recognize at the grocery store that you need to pick up.  I’ve always said parenting is the art of distraction. But if she has break downs for other reasons, then finding a bench or chair and sitting with her on your lap holding her still is a good time out in public as well.
  • Mandy Phillips: Whenever we’re getting out of the car to enter a public place, I hold Lily’s hands, make sure she’s looking at me, and tell her that if she’s nice, we will have a surprise when she gets home. Usually the surprise is something like getting to watch a half hour of TV or a couple of chocolate chips. I get her really excited about her surprise. If a tantrum is coming on, I hold up a finger and remind her about her surprise. It usually heads off a tantrum. If that still doesn’t work, we drop everything and go sit in the car/stroller for five minutes until she’s done screaming. People will always stare, but forget them. I don’t apologize to anyone. I would rather be stated at a few times than my child be an uncontrollable terror. If she’s being happy in a public place, I frequently tell her how happy I am that she is happy. Parenting a toddler is so tough. You’re not alone in your embarrassment!
  • Allison Cardon: It happens to everyone, I’ve had Addie sprawled on the floor in the middle of the mall while Maddox thrashes and screams in the stroller a few feet away that I’ve abandoned to try to get Addie so people aren’t having to walk around her. You can’t win them all….
  • Ashley Furness: I am loving all these comments! I am no pro, but I read am article recently that said when they throw a tantrum hold them and let them and let them know they are loved. The article explained that they need to know that they have a safe place when they struggle. I have tried it and it has worked, but I still believe strongly in disciple for behavior that is unacceptable. It’s so hard to know the best way to respond. Good luck to all parents of toddlers!
  • Tiffany Oaks: Something I did with my kids when they were toddlers that I learned off of super nanny was every single time you go somewhere, before you enter you go over the rules. No asking for things, be nice, talk nice, no screaming. And if they follow the rules they’d get a sticker on a chart and when the chart filled, got a prize. Kaylie was a drama queen and at 7 still is. But it only took ONE major tantrum for her to learn I was in charge and she wasn’t getting her way no matter what. It happened in Walmart when she was almost 3. She screamed and screamed so I took her out of the cart and left her in the isle. (I just barely turned the corner so she couldn’t see me but I could see her) after the 3rd isle of leaving her she stopped. I actually had a lady that saw me on a few isles and what i was doing and came up to me an said “you’re the best mom! You have kept calm the whole time! I know it’s hard but you’re doing awesome!” I kept totally calm. I had to haha. Which is REALLY hard. Kaylie has taught me loads and loads of patience. It will get easier. Just lay down ground rules EVERY TIME you go anywhere. It feels like your repeating yourself but it works great!
  • Nancy Kay Prater: I was going to say stuff… but all the stuff I try to use has been been said by all your lovely friends. I love going over the rules, special surprises after particularly long outings, and sometimes you just have to let them have at it, and not let in. Hard. Today Ammon screamed and kicked as I had to care him all the way out to the car from a friend’s house because he didn’t want to leave. As if they wanted him to stay after that… I smiled sheepishly, and said, “I guess he loves you guys, take it as a compliment?” Doesn’t make it any less embarrassing, so know how ya feel, haha!! Natalie has done better after training sessions like those mentioned above where we’ve actually left the library and not gotten to check out books, etc. because of poor behavior. Always make sure they know the rules and the potential reward/consequence before snapping into the discipline, or it won’t be a learning experience.
  • Kristy Salvato: I have to agree with doing the timeouts in public. Just keep it consistent at her age. I was doing potty duty with two year olds and one of them started throwing a temper tantrum in the bathroom. I just placed her on the stool and sat down next to her for timeout. She stopped shrieking her little head off and sat quietly.
  • Heather Watts: Best parenting books I EVER read are “Understanding Tears and Tantrums”, “Helping Young Children Flourish”, and “Attachment Play” written by Aletha Solter Phd. She is a very reputibule developmental psychologist and has a lot of evidence based research to back her stuff. I am very picky about where I get my parenting advice and some of the popular parenting books out right now are down right scary in my opinion. So if you want a clinically sound and reliable approach I highly recommend these books, she also wrote a few other books that are great. Just going off what you wrote about I think you would really like these. Hope they help, they sure have helped me!
  • Kari Fischer: Hang in there! I know it’s hard now but she’ll grow out of it. Although I have to say Brianna still has her episodes of little tantrums in public (tends to be tears or major attitude!) and she’s 9! That’s even more embarrassing than when they are 2. And I’m not sure why she even bothers because she knows it’s not going to change my mind and she’s definitely not going to get what she wants after she’s acted like a little punk! Strong willed kids are tough but you’ll be grateful she’s tough when she gets older! Just remember the most important thing it to hold your ground and not give in when you’ve told her no. Once you do she will think she can get away with it every time (believe me, I did it once and it took me forever to break my strong willed girl! lol) And always remember when she’s throwing a fit you can always close your eyes and pray for patience! That helps a lot!
  • Janae Campbell: I’ve put Amber in time out in public. A corner at Walmart, an aisle in Costco, a spot on the carpet in a furniture store, even in the car, (Not on a hot day!) I just put her in her seat, buckler her, and tell her she’s in time out, and I wait behind the car.