We’ve all been there before. A simple errand; some groceries, and a few household necessities. Everything is going smoothly, until suddenly, it isn’t. Members of your own squad have hijacked the mission to replenish weekly provisions. You’re struck dumbfounded because you’ve completed the task so many times before, with great ease.

Your children having an apocalyptic meltdown in the middle of the supermarket is not a reflection of you, but how you handle it is. Here are six simple options and examples of who you should and should not be in this fight for survival. Keep in mind, I am assuming you resisted the temptation to follow through on your initial reaction, which was obviously a roundhouse kick. If you haven’t lived out the fantasy of obliterating your beloved offspring with a sweet ninja move, here are the possibilities remaining:

The Hulk 
What better way to divert attention from your child’s outburst, than to have one yourself? Little kids are supposed to lose their mind from time to time, don’t teach them it’s acceptable in adulthood by shouting them down and making belligerent threats. It’s 2018 my dude, you can’t even be mean to people on the internet without the threat of backlash. There’s no way you’re spanking a child in Shoprite, and that 6-year-old taunting you from the cart knows it.

Silent Stan
Silent Stan is genderless and timeless. I’m just using the name Stan for the classic alliteration, like “Debbie Downer”. Sorry to all the Stans (and Debbies) out there, but Silent Stan sucks. Whether you want to deal with it or not, this a teachable moment. Doing absolutely nothing makes you look like a pushover and that label certainly won’t serve you well in future arguments.

The Repeater
Seriously? You’re just gonna repeat everything the kid says/does and further escalate the situation? I’m about to give up on finding an avocado that’s perfectly ripe (because we both know they don’t exist) and come over there to defuse the situation myself. Never mind, I’m just gonna take the modern-day high road on this one. I’m putting you on my Snapchat story.

The Passive Aggressive Snarky Jerk
Do you even like your kid, or am I watching some weird government experiment where they put two strangers together and force them to cohabitate in ACME? A long-winded diatribe of condescending remarks that are totally going over the head of your target audience. Whatever the hipster lingo for pointless is . . . that’s you right now.

The Guilt Tripper 
Victimhood garners a lot of sympathy on social issues that are actually relevant. We need to remember that helping those in a vulnerable state is one of the most authentic deeds humanity can exhibit, but little Timmy losing his mind in the Pop-Tarts aisle does not count as an injustice. Handle your business, because whether you wanna face reality or not, people are watching. Crying and saying manipulative things like, “I must be a terrible parent to have such mean little kids,” just makes the situation more awkward.

The Buzzcut Van Driessen
I’ve coined this phrase based on the two opposing ideologies practiced by the teachers from Beavis and Butthead. David Van Driessen is a peaceful and hopelessly optimistic hippie, while Coach Buzzcut is an old school hardass. In the fateful trenches of battle, somewhere between the yogurt and the eggs, you need to be stern, but you need to be fair. Remember despite what appears to be an act of treason is actually just a tiny piece of you trying to figure things out and negotiate with life as we already understand it to be. Explain the improper behavior. Explain the simple solution. Explain that you love them and promise the agony of not be awarded Captain Crunch for dinner will pass. It might not stop the rain, but it shows you will patiently walk with them through the downpour (or whatever other insta-quote you wanna insert here). This moment isn’t about actually stopping the tantrum, because to be honest, there is no consistent method to rely on. This is about modeling a sense of composure that will shape their future behavior, and keep you off the wrong side viral notoriety. Clear your head and do what you were meant to do. You are their light.

My dad once told me, “There’s no manual for being a parent. I did the best I could and you turned out pretty good, so you’re welcome.” It should also be noted that my mom once said, “If it weren’t for me, you would have never lived until the age of five.” Go figure. They were both right. 

Brian Halsey

Brian Halsey is a Literature teacher, novelist, freelance writer, husband, father, and legendary body surfer from the shores of New Jersey.