Anti-advice / Listicles

Tantrums are like grizzly bear encounters


In my experience, tantrums are not something one can “address,” much less resolve. Not as such. There are certainly things you can do to avoid making things waaaay worse. It doesn’t help to either yell at or reason with an active tantruming child, for example. And you definitely don’t want to feed that wild beast. This is not your child right now. Well, ok. I mean, it is still your child, of course, but she happens to be possessed by forces greater than she right now, and if you offer those forces the cookie they’re screaming for, you might expect to see them more often.

Best thing (I think)? Stay calm, don’t try to engage, and to whatever extent you can, withdraw to a safe distance. So powerless do I feel against tantrums, in fact, that I’ve begun instinctively responding as my Girl Scout leader instructed us to react when facing a grizzly bear in the woods. And, would you know it? I’ve found that such a response can even be somewhat helpful sometimes…

(I’m pretty sure) the following steps may be applied to both wild grizzlies and the common tantrum:

1. Avoid encounters, if possible. Keep their bellies full, and don’t pass a toy store, keep your s’mores chocolate well-wrapped and in a tree somewhere. Know the triggers of your tiny bear-child.

2. Keep your distance. I don’t know if this helps the child, but making sure they’re safe and then trying to not come within striking distance sure helps me.

3. Don’t panic, but do attempt a calm retreat. Stand tall and lift your arms to look bigger. Back away slowly. Keep an eye on the threat at all times, but do not make direct eye contact. Do not shout, but maintain a deep, calm voice.

4. Climb a tree? If you get a good head-start, and your toddler/bear is not adept at climbing, escaping up a tree can throw them off. But a better strategy if they’re closing in on you at a short distance is simply to side-step. Toddlers and bears both have a poor sense of balance and cannot change direction as quickly as we can.

One thing, though: If directly attacked, I’ve noticed that while playing dead may confound a toddler for a moment or two, you’re likely to just get pummeled by little fists while the screaming moves even closer to your face. Not advisable.

Stay safe out there, folks.


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