Are tantrums the result of lack of parenting?

girl about to throw a tantrum

Before I had kids I used to think differently, obviously. You know, when you would see that kid at the grocery store throwing a tantrum and the parent would not do anything or just try to act nice to the kid? My theory was that tantrums were the result of some kind of parenting or a lack of it. I know, how rude huh?! I was young and thought I knew better than actual parents, ha!

I was like, “My kids will never do that to me in public because I will not allow it!” Notice how I wrote “to me,” as if kids would throw tantrums on purpose just to piss us off or embarrass us. I guess as humans, one of our flaws is to take some things personal…

My first daughter was born and I was right in my theory, she did not throw any tantrums in public and only mild tantrums at home. I was able to stop them before progressing, or so I thought. 

My second was born and again, no tantrums or I was able to successfully stop them before they even started. So all this time, I thought my theory was right. I felt proud of myself for not having a kid who threw tantrums in public because that meant that there was no lack of parenting on my part. 

My third daughter was born and wow did she prove me wrong! She definitely has “tantrum thrower” written all over her. Tantrums at home, tantrums in the car, tantrums in the bathroom and the shower, tantrums at the stores, tantrums at other people’s houses, tantrum-all-the-way!

tantrum upset going to lay on the ground

The first one she ever threw in public was at Costco when she was 16 months old. During the Covid pandemic, Costco did not want kids in the cart because the cart goes to the cashier side and it was thought that some kids were asymptomatic virus carriers. They told me to get my daughter and that when I was done paying I could put her back in.

I put her on the floor and of course, she tried to run away but my husband prevented that from happening. She then ran towards me all excited and when I tried to hold her, that is when she threw her first public tantrum. She threw herself to the floor crying and kicking while I was trying to pay.

There was an old couple behind me who were just judgingly staring. I then overheard the old man saying something about my daughter’s behavior. I felt embarrassed. I had no idea what to do in a situation like that. All I was doing was trying to prevent her from hurting herself, which according to the old couple’s judgments, was not enough!

And then it hit me like a cold-ice shower! I had one of those kids and it was not my fault. What-the-heck! I felt like saying something to the old man like “listen, sir, it is not me, it is her, my other two were not like that.”

I was suddenly on the other side. The side where the parents are judged by other “expert” parents and know-it-all, young, kidless people like I once was. 

I just kept thinking to myself and asking, how the heck did this happen? Why after having two tantrum-free daughters, the third one comes and disproves my theory? 

Well, I keep hearing over and over again that kids are all different and obviously that is true but I could not help but think that maybe it was me who allowed that.

But you know what? I did not do anything differently from my first to my second to my third daughter. at least nothing that could have provoked this tantrum behavior. This leads me to believe that there are kids who are more likely to throw tantrums than others. So it is not always that we as parents allow this behavior.

tantrum crying on the floor

I guess the issue with tantrums in public is that most parents (myself included) feel the scrutiny of others at that moment. The judgment that comes with it is horrible. I know because I was a perpetrator of that behavior (pre-kids). We as parents might have all sorts of feelings at the moment our kids throw tantrums such as frustration, embarrassment, judgment, anger, confusion, etc. The truth is that this behavior is no one’s fault, not ours as parents, nor our kids. And to answer the question, are tantrums the result of lack of parenting? It is definitely: No.

What I have learned is that I had no control over whether my daughters were going to be tantrum throwers or not. It is just how they cope with their feelings. In fact, tantrums are developmentally expected, especially for 1-3-year-olds. Hello, terrible twos! It actually feels that with my third daughter it has been terrible twos since she started to sit up on her own. Although I have a feeling that the lack of sleep contributed and still contributes to that behavior.

So, to see the positive of it? Well, I got to experience that with at least one of my daughters AND realized that parents are not always to blame for their kid’s actions. Had it not been for my dear tantrum thrower, I would still be thinking my theory was right and sometimes sort of judge other parents for “allowing” that kind of behavior. I would be like that old couple at Costco commenting on other kids’ behavior because I did not have a tantrum thrower and would always assume it was the parents’ fault for their lack of parenting, or who knows why. Super rude. 

Sometimes we are so quick to judge yet we have to be quicker to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes…

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3 Responses

  1. I totally get you and the scrutiny you felt and the differences between different children even though we parent them pretty similar! I have four kids, and my first three some outrageous tantrums and yet my second threw maybe 3 in her life, even though I am the same parent in both situations. I think educating people about these things might help reduce scrutiny. Thanks for writing on this topic 💕.

  2. Catherine says:

    So much truth here! Tantrums are just the result of children’s developmental stages and not being able to express or quite deal with their emotions yet. And I agree that the worst part is feeling public scrutiny. Like, they’d be so much easier to handle if we pretend everyone else doesn’t exist.

  3. Evie says:

    So very true. Not all tantrums are anyone’s fault. Some times kids just need that realize and they just haven’t learned a more socially appropriate way yet.

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