2 Reasons I Love Seeing Temper Tantrums in Public

Living in Branson, MO had its perks. One of those was having a season pass to Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with great food and activities for the entire family.

I remember one time Christi and I were just entering the gate with our son when we passed a woman also pushing a stroller. Staring straight ahead in disgust, and with a screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs young boy out in front of her, she was on a mission to get that earsplitting child out the park as fast as she could. She looked miserable.

She also looked familiar.

As we walked passed her, Christi and I kind of looked at each other, and without saying a word we both knew what the other was thinking, “Oh, how we understand.”

I wish now I would have praised that woman in the moment.

Two days later we were at church picking up our son from his class after service when a woman standing beside me cautiously looked over and said, “I’m the woman you saw the other day with the screaming child at the park.”

I began to chuckle.

After telling me the story of what happened leading to the meltdown, she said to me, “All I could think about as I passed you leaving that day was, ‘Joshua Straub, don’t you judge me!’

We shared a good laugh about her thoughts in that moment and the mutual understanding of a common experience—temper tantrums.

Besides, who am I to judge?

Our children (generally, speaking) have very sweet spirits. More often than not, our son runs around the house yelling “Hap-Hap-Hap-Hap-Happyyyyy.” The more he winds up, the happier he is. Our daughter too will give her signature nose crinkle and proclaim, "Cited!" Her way of suggesting that she's excited!

But they're also toddlers. Who throw temper tantrums. And sometimes scream with a voice that makes me want to curl up and start sucking my thumb.

No wonder it’s so easy to give in to our kids. They can be little monsters.

I remember one specific occasion a few months back where I had to put Landon in a timeout. Why is it when a toddler knowingly looks you in the eye and disobeys (in this case throwing his leftovers from dinner all over the floor) they have to proceed to let out one of those wonderful, ear-piercing screams RIGHT IN YOUR FACE?!

Because he was defiant, he got the timeout. And wow, does he ever hate them. Most of the time all we need to do is threaten a timeout and he will immediately comply. But there are those moments when he is so overwhelmed and past the emotional threshold that he goes berserk.

And for whatever reason, these moments happen more often than not, in public, especially when he’s at the grocery store or library—with just Christi there.

But instead of feeling like a failure as a parent in these moments, let's learn to embrace them--because you're not the only one. 

Here are two reasons I believe we should embrace temper tantrums in public. 

1. Temper tantrums are opportunities to praise parents for doing a good job. 

Moms, I know you can relate to Christi's plight in the grocery store. And I’m not judging you. In fact, I want to praise you.

  • I praise you because we live in a culture where most people look at you in disgust in these moments, privately thinking you, and your child, should be perfect.
  • I praise you because in these moments, you’re most likely setting limits and choosing not to give in to your demanding child.
  • I praise you for choosing the harder path of discipline, instead of giving in and raising emotionally out-of-control kids who believe they’re the ones in charge.
  • I praise you because you understand that without teaching them self-control now, you’ll have entitled, selfish, and impatient teenagers, or worse yet, adults, later on.

2. Temper tantrums are opportunities for parents to come together and support one another. 

For the emotional sake of parents, and for the relational sake of a generation, let’s stop judging other parents when their kids throw a tantrum in the mall, on a plane, or in a department store. Instead, go offer a helping hand.

Help the woman on the plane with three kids. Put her groceries on the belt while she pays attention to her child. Buy her a gift card for a coffee. Do whatever seems right in the moment to help parents who need a helping hand. Start to publicly praise their efforts and reduce the shame they’re likely already feeling with a screaming child.

Besides, they’re investing a ton of energy in shaping the hearts of the next generation. 

Let's offer our support.


Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as the Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents, spouses and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of the newly released Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (Waterbrook Multnomah) and along with his wife, Christi, is the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st CenturyJosh and his Canadian wife Christi reside in Nashville, TN with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy.

For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century, you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.comand follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.

How My Toddler Taught Me the "Good" In Saying "Goodbye"

I remember a moment when our son, Landon, was about 20-months-old.

As I sat on the chair in our bedroom, reading, I looked over to see him enter the room. He got no more than three feet into the room before he stopped to notice a picture propped up against the wall.    

As Landon looked at the picture, I watched him lie down on his belly and lift his head to be face level with the image. It was a wedding picture of Christi and I with our two flower girls. With no awareness of me in the room, he began to gaze at the picture in a very affectionate way, reaching out and touching the faces of each person in the photograph. It was beyond precious.

After about 30 seconds, he stood up, looked down at the picture, and with his little 20-month-old hand, waved goodbye and walked out of the room.

My heart melted.

I have learned a lot from that 20-month-old boy. He taught me the “good” in saying goodbye.

At a birthday party for his two-year-old friend the next day, I followed Landon around the playground engaging with him in all he wanted to do. As we made our way from the jungle gym to the swings, Landon stopped, picked up a rock, and examined it with the intensity of an archeologist. As he completed his study, he brought the rock over and invited me into his experience.

When he was done, he threw the rock on the ground and made a few steps toward the swing. Then, all of a sudden he stopped, turned around, and waved goodbye to the rock—as if to say,

“Thanks, rock, for giving my dad and me that experience. It’s over now, and it’s time to move on to the next one.”

After waving goodbye, he took my hand, and led me to the swings—into a new experience.

I remember my internship supervisor in my counseling program telling us, “The quality of your goodbyes will determine the quality of your hellos.”

Translation: The ability to grieve and make sense of your losses impacts how well you enter into and engage in future relationships.

Unresolved grief can hurt how we engage our spouse and kids.

Unresolved grief can also hurt how we enter new experiences.

Echoing this sentiment, we were challenged at Cloud – Townsend’s Ultimate Leadership to write a grief inventory—a log of all of the losses, no matter how big or small, we have failed to grieve through the years. As I put my list together I began to think of the people, places, unmet expectations, and unrealized dreams I lost.

And it was hard work. Perhaps that’s why we live in a “just get over it” culture. Most of us hate the pain of goodbyes.

Yet, it’s the most engaging and effective leaders, spouses, and parents who defy this mentality. They have people, or sometimes counselors, who they talk through and grieve their losses with. Once they grieve the loss, they move on more successfully, and become more engaged with those around them.

They embrace the “good” of saying “goodbye.”

We all have unresolved losses. I encourage you to do a grief inventory and share your experiences with close friends or a counselor. Those experiences could include any of the following:

  the loss of a loved one

  the loss of a job

  the loss of health

  the death of a dream

  estrangement of family

  disappointment in marriage

  the loss of a friendship

  the loss of a pet

  being treated unfairly or even abusively by a loved one

Those who have trouble grieving, pay for it in some way. Or, it’s their spouse, kids, or loved ones who pay for it. That’s because the quality of our goodbyes determine the quality of our hellos.

As Landon went back and forth in the swing that day laughing uncontrollably at my ridiculous dad faces and voices we only do for our kids, I couldn’t help but think about how little we take the time to say goodbye to people and things we hold dear.

When Landon finished swinging I got him down, stood him on the ground and asked him what he wanted to do next. Aware of the new experience he wanted to say hello to, he took my hand and began leading me back to the jungle gym—but not before he stopped, turned around, and waved goodbye to the swings.


Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as the Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents, spouses and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of the newly released Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (Waterbrook Multnomah) and along with his wife, Christi, is the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st CenturyJosh and his Canadian wife Christi reside in Nashville, TN with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy.

For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century, you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.comand follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.

Has Bullying Gotten Worse? What Parents Need to Know

One of my earliest memories of being bullied happened at a sleepover with my friend Dan. We were outside playing in a sandbox. Living in a small town, we had friends who lived within walking distance. Before long, two neighbor kids joined us. But they didn’t want to play in the sand.

Instead, I found myself in the alleyway around the corner with the two neighbor kids and Dan. When it was just Dan and I, we had a blast. When others joined, I got the short end of the stick. Or in this case, was the recipient of a modern day stoning. My so-called friends had decided to play a game where we threw stones at one another—except they didn’t allow me to throw.

I was pelted over and over again, in the head, legs, stomach, face, and arms. I didn’t know when they would stop. The more I pleaded for mercy, the harder the stones came. I cried. They called me a sissy.

The Rules Have Changed

Fortunately, that stoning was isolated to those few friends and wasn’t talked about to anybody else. The video wasn’t posted on Youtube. Pictures weren’t found on Instagram. Facebook didn’t exist. Neither did Snapchat or cell phones. That shameful day wasn’t recorded and posted for our entire school to see.

Bullying in the 21st century looks much different than years past. Fists flying at the flagpole in front of a small crowd after school are now tactless words by even anonymous people our kids don’t even know on places like ask.fm. Or they’re in the form of embarrassing pictures posted for much larger crowds of peers across social media.

I’m not minimizing the shame I felt that day. Stones hurt. I’m just grateful it wasn’t multiplied times hundreds of peers and prolonged for weeks.

The problem with bullying today is exacerbated by the fact that victims of cyberbullying are almost two times more likely to commit suicide than kids not bullied online. Interestingly, even online bullies themselves are found to be one and a half times more likely to commit suicide than other kids.

With the sophistication of social networks, the shame tends to be felt much deeper. Once nasty messages and unattractive photos are sent through cellphones, they may reemerge later, along with the anxiety and depression that comes with being bullied.

What Parents Need to Know

In a world today marked by divorce, fatherlessness, screens and busy schedules, kids are under more relational stress at home.

To relieve the stress, they look for affirmation in other places, namely, picking on others. But even more than the structure of the family, research shows it’s the quality of the relationship with the parent that matters most.

Children who feel safe and loved by mom and dad tend to have healthier self-esteem and emotion regulation, both critical for raising kids who develop empathy. Empathetic kids are not bullies.

1. Be Empathetic

First, what parents need to know when it comes to bullying is humbly admitting what we don’t know.  The biggest request of many of the bullied teens brave enough to come to me for help is, “Please don’t tell my parents.” In fact, only 10% of teens tell their parents if they become a victim of cyberbullying.[i]

I have watched many parents on both sides of the spectrum either deny the seriousness of the situation as only a “phase,” or “kids just being kids,” or even blame their own kids for getting bullied and not fighting back. Both situations add insult to injury. Ignoring the teen’s shame only increases it. What our kids need are empathy, safety and love.

2. Don’t be Naïve

Secondly, I know parents never want to assume the worst about their kids. I often hear, “My son/daughter would never do that.” However, I want to warn you that sexting, (sending sexually explicit pictures to another via text message) is far more common than you might think.

But what happens when the teen fling is over? Who has those pictures and messages? Perhaps the scorned ex? Though sending cruel messages and spreading rumors are the most common forms of cyberbullying, circulating sexually suggestive pictures has become one of the most shame-filled ways of bullying another. I cannot emphasize to teenagers enough the risks of taking pictures of themselves they would later be embarrassed to have others see.

3. Set and Talk About Limits

Third, understand that as long as our children live under our roof, they play by our rules. I have helped countless parents put safeguards on their Internet and teenagers’ cell phones because of pornography.

But bullying is just as bad. When it comes to cell phone and internet usage, limit the times of day your kids can be online. Know who they're talking to and talk to them about the risks of taking embarrassing pictures or giving out their internet or cellphone passwords. I know it sounds crazy, but many teens today are sharing their passwords with friends in the name of building trust.

4. Be Safe

As a parent, we influence our child more than any other person. I mentioned earlier the importance of the quality of the relationship with the parent. If you’re too busy, stop. Prioritize your spouse and kids over your work, other relationships, and hobbies. If we don't talk to our kids as toddlers, we can't expect them to talk to us as teenagers. 

Follow Deuteronomy 6 and be available to talk to your kids when they wake, during meal times, drive times, and when they go to bed at night. Use the mundane times of the day to be emotionally available to your kids and listen to their hearts. They may not always share with you, but it only takes that one moment. The safer they feel, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on, and have empathy for their peers.


Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as the Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents, spouses and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of the newly released Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (Waterbrook Multnomah) and along with his wife, Christi, is the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st CenturyJosh and his Canadian wife Christi reside in Nashville, TN with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy.

For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century, you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.comand follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.


[i]  Webster, R. (2010, January 29). From cyberbullying to sexting: What’s on your kids’ cell? Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/from-cyber-bullying-to-sexting-stats-and-videos-what-s-on-your-kids-cell

Cyberbullying Research Center, Summary of our cyberbullying research from 2004-2010. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullying.us/research.php.