The other day I was scrolling through social media, and I came across a clip of a child screaming and throwing a fit. Curious to see the response, I read the comments and instantly knew I’d made a mistake. It was riddled with the word “Brat,” parent shaming, and people declaring that the child was acting out because their emotional needs weren’t being met.
So much ridicule, and it hurt because though they weren’t writing to me, those tantrums are all too familiar in my house. Outbursts like that are a weekly occurrence here, sometimes daily, but none of those comments apply.
People are quick to judge the meltdowns they see online or in the grocery store aisle.
A few minutes or seconds can have them writing off the child or judging the parents, offering up their opinions and insults. But I am a mom of that child, and I can say firsthand that often there is so much more going on.
You say that kids who behave like that are brats, but I say those children are simply that—children—and kids have their ups and downs. We all do! In fact, I’ve seen grown adults have tantrums and lose control of their emotions. I’ve seen them scream, throw things, and use harsh words. Nobody labels those adults as brats, they say they need help. If adults sometimes struggle to control their emotions, we shouldn’t judge when kids do. They’re learning how to handle the ups and downs of life. It’s a part of their development and growing up.
Brat is an awful word anyway. One that aims to define someone as bad. Labels like that miss all the good in between the meltdowns. Like my daughter who, though she sometimes has a temper, can be the sweetest, kindest, and most cheerful child. She is a good kid, and though some may see her at her worst and label her as a brat, they would be missing the essence of her character.
Nobody deserves to be defined by their worst moments.
Where is our grace? Where is our compassion and understanding for the developmental process? Where is our patience and calm when we’re upset?
Then there’s the parent shaming and blaming. That one gets me fuming! For starters, no parent is perfect so the higher than thou thing is just messed up, but in addition to that, oftentimes there’s much more to the story than you can possibly understand. Like my daughter who has those huge meltdowns likely due to the ADHD we are in the process of getting diagnosed. She is developmentally delayed with emotional regulation, which makes it hard for her to settle down.
That’s not poor parenting and a lack of discipline. It’s her brain! And I’m not sitting on the sidelines wishing it away as people often are quick to assume. I’m doing parenting classes, occupational therapy, and seeking any resource I can to help her thrive.
I’m learning ways to help her manage her emotions, but it’s a process and it takes time and a whole lot of patience.
Which brings me to the last upsetting comment, “That child is not having their emotional needs met.” It might seem logical to assume that children are acting out because they are ignored or invalidated, but many times, that’s not the case at all. Despite what some may think, I spend time every day tending to my daughter’s emotions.
In fact, I sit there with her in the muck of those big painful feelings. After those meltdowns that you like to evaluate and judge, I hold her and remind her I love her no matter what. I praise her successes and remind her that I have big emotions too, and we can both work on managing them together. I’m present with every emotion good and bad, and even when I’m completely emotionally drained and depleted myself, I keep on meeting her needs.
So it may seem easy to judge that child and parent for that meltdown, but please don’t, because most times, there’s so much more to the story. Most times there is a child struggling to regulate and an exhausted parent giving their all and feeling so incredibly discouraged. You don’t understand firsthand, and I’m glad for you, but please be careful with your words, because parents like me are giving our all here, and your words hurt.