Practically everyone who has had kids knows that meltdowns happen. Whether it’s a two-year-old who doesn’t know how to express themselves or an older kid who is having a particularly rough life moment, children sometimes lose control of their emotions. Unfortunately, meltdowns that happen in public can bring the Judgey McJudgertons out of the woodwork—which is why a Twitter thread of parents receiving kindness and support instead of side-eye and judgment has parents breathing a sigh of relief.
Writer Joy McCullough shared a brief but beautiful story on Twitter that got thousands of shares and prompted parents to share their own stories of strangers’ kindness in their darkest parenting moments.
“Toddler is melting down in the library,” McCullough wrote. “The mom is mortified. A stern old lady approaches & I hold my breath. ‘It’s okay,’ she tells the mom. ‘I’ve been there. You’re doing great.’ And then to the toddler, ‘You’re doing great, too. You’re doing your best.’
Now THAT is what every parent—and toddler, for that matter—needs to hear in the midst of a meltdown moment.
Other parents chimed in with stories of their own, and they’re the balm all parents of young kids need.
She pushed my cart with my son in it while I grabbed our groceries (and monitored) and just talked quietly to my son for a few minutes. He was quiet and listened to her. Once he was calm she patted my arm, said “it takes a village, right?” and went on her way. She was my angel.
— JellicleKitten on TTV, YT, & Facebook Gaming [TK] (@JellicleKitten) January 20, 2020
One mom shared how her son was having a public meltdown a few years ago and she was on the verge of tears herself trying to calm him down, when and older woman came over and asked if she could walk with them for a bit.
“She pushed my cart with my son in it while I grabbed our groceries (and monitored) and just talked quietly to my son for a few minutes. He was quiet and listened to her. Once he was calm she patted my arm, said ‘it takes a village, right?’ and went on her way. She was my angel.”
Seriously, unless you’ve been there at your wit’s end as a parent, you can’t imagine how helpful someone’s kindness and understanding can be.
My dad would usually talk to them, too. Very matter of fact but friendly, as if they were adults. About some random fact or something in the cart or w/e. Most kids are so surprised they stop crying and engage.
— Biden my time ⚖️ (@piratefoxy) January 21, 2020
Sometimes all it takes is for an adult to talk to the kids themselves in a kind way, distracting them enough to calm down when mom or dad’s voice can’t get through.
I was so humiliated, but that lady made it so much better. I was feeling like the crappiest mom, even though I knew they were just tired because they’d been dancing and it was way past bedtime.
— Amanda (@bookadoration) January 19, 2020
And other times just a few words of encouragement while you’re trying to wrangle an unruly, overtired kiddo can make a world of difference. A simple shout out like “Be strong, mama!” can be just the boost you need to not completely melt down your self.
The thread includes a few “yOuR ToDdelR iS mAnipUlatTinG yOU!” comments from the get-off-my-lawn crowd, but they are far outweighed by stories of support and understanding.
7yo melted down in hardware store. I did my best to keep calm and calm him. Get to checkout & woman came up to me. She wanted me to know that she thought I had done an amazing job and even in a meltdown my son was cute. Made my month.
— Melissa Harris (@MelRagent) January 20, 2020
“7yo melted down in hardware store,” wrote Melissa Harris. “I did my best to keep calm and calm him. Get to checkout & woman came up to me. She wanted me to know that she thought I had done an amazing job and even in a meltdown my son was cute. Made my month.”
Those moments mean so much to a parent. My 4yo daughter had literal Roid rage on a flight (steroids for asthma) and the lady next to us only said to me “I forgot how hard it is to travel with young children” And I will never forget that act of kindness.
— Alexa Winton (@alexagwinton) January 20, 2020
“Those moments mean so much to a parent,” added Alexa Winton. “My 4yo daughter had literal Roid rage on a flight (steroids for asthma) and the lady next to us only said to me “I forgot how hard it is to travel with young children” And I will never forget that act of kindness.”
Parent of 3 here. Oldest severely autistic & can be quite loud (nonverbal yelling) for no apparent reason. The # of “stern old ladies” who have stopped by our table at restaurants to say something kind is really quite astounding. Even ones who gave death glare when we walked in.
— Aimee Coueslan (@coueslana) January 20, 2020
You just never know what a child or parent is dealing with. Even in the absence of special needs, occasional meltdowns are a developmentally normal behavior. With gentle guidance and consistent parenting, kids do eventually move beyond that phase and gradually gain more control over their emotional regulation, but it takes time. And once the tantrum train has left the station, it’s usually just a matter of waiting it out until they can actually be reasoned with.
Yes. I love the phrase “developmentally appropriate inappropriate behavior.”
— Alyson Greene (@AlysonCGreene) January 20, 2020
Indeed. It’s not like parents teach their kids to throw fits in public. I can’t count how many times I heard people say, “If you don’t give in to tantrums, they’ll stop,” when my kids were little. Yeah, no. I never gave my kids something they demanded during a tantrum, but that didn’t stop them from occasionally melting down because they were overtired, overstimulated, or simply taxed beyond what their tiny human psyche could handle in the moment.
The whole thread is worth a read. It will restore your faith in humans and remind you of the importance of everyday heroes.
The only thing that would make this thread better is the reveal these older ladies belong to a secret society trying to save the world.
I know, I know. One can hope.
— Ignazio Palmisano (@ignaziop1977) January 20, 2020
Parents need support, and going out of your way to be kind is far more helpful than going out of your way to judge. Let’s hear it for kind old ladies trying to save the world, one little pep talk at a time.