A Bystander Had the Perfect Response to This Preschooler's ADHD Tantrum
One mom expected rage from fellow shoppers when her child began to act out in a Wal-Mart. What happened instead surprised her—and inspired a Facebook post on stress and compassion that has since gone viral.
Grocery shopping with young kids in tow is rarely an easy task. But when your child has ADHD, a disorder characterized by high energy, a lack of concentration, and impulsive behavior, a trip to the supermarket can be exasperating.
Mother of two Taylor Myers knows this reality well, because her four-year-old daughter, Sophie, has ADHD. Myers is used to the angry stares and unsympathetic comments other shoppers make when Sophie has a tantrum in a store. But something remarkable happened during one recent outing that Myers shared on her Facebook page—and it resonated so much, the post has since gone viral.
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It happened in a local Wal-Mart. Myers took Sophie there to food shop, and when she didn't give in to her daughter's demand for a cookie, Sophie, began to act out.
"I've walked out of stores hundreds of times because of her," Myers explained in her post. "Almost every time, actually, I end up leaving with nothing I came for and a tantrum having four year attached to my hand and a baby on my hip, but this time I had to stick it out to get the groceries."
As Sophie's tantrum continued, another customer yelled at Myers, telling her to silence her child by giving her the cookie rather than let her continue crying. After standing up to that customer, Myers headed to the checkout line.
"I kept my composure until I finished what I was doing and walked to self check out so I could avoid facing anyone else as 'that person,' wrote Myers. "The person with the misbehaving child. The person who seems lazy because they're ignoring the behavior. The person who knows doing anything but ignoring it is only going to make it worse. By the time I made it to self check out, tears are pouring down my face. . That's when something incredibly heartwarming happened."
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Another shopper approached Myers and began speaking calmly to Sophie. "She asks her questions to distract her, but backs me up when Sophie begins to go on about wanting the chips," wrote Myers. The woman asked Sophie how old she was and the age of her brother too, said Myers.
The shopper's sincere interest and desire to help seemed to ease Sophie's tantrum—and it also eased Myers' embarrassment and sense of isolation. "Honestly, this woman could've been the antichrist and I would've had more appreciation for her kindness and compassion than I have for anyone else I've ever encountered," Myers wrote.
What this stranger did to diffuse a tense situation is exactly the kind of help ADHD kids and their overwhelmed parents need, says Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills–area child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. "The woman talked the child through, in an out loud manner, her experience," Walfish tells Health, adding that this validated the child's feelings and acknowledged how upset she was. "That provides a mirror for the child to feel seen."
All kids have tantrums. But children with ADHD have extra trouble regulating their emotions and energy, which helps explain Sophie's outburst in Wal-Mart. "Many of the kids [with ADHD] have an impulsivity trait and will grab, lash out, kick, spit, or say mean things when angry," says Walfish. "They’re not bad kids, they just have a hard time controlling it." And there's little even the most patient parent can do to control it.
Myers' post may have gone viral because so many moms and dads identify with the loneliness of being viewed as a "bad" parent with an uncontrollable child. The post also allowed Facebook readers to cheer on the good deed of a Wal-Mart shopper, which Myers greatly appreciated.
"Thank you to the woman in Walmart today, for showing that kindness to my children and I," wrote Myers. "Thank you for walking us out. Thank you for backing me up. Mamas have to stick together."