Are your kids offered candy/sweets when crying in public places, or is it just me?

Q: My son is 2 1/2 yrs old & he has crying fits/tantrums. My way of handling with this is to ignore it if it's because he's not getting his way and to console him if he's upset/tired. He doesn't have his words yet and he has Down's Syndrome. If in public, people immediately offer me candy, suckers, cookies, any sweet in their purse to quiet him. Have I missed out on a technique? Candy/sweets = tantrum band aide?

A: Way to go, Mom!  While holding and comforting your son is an excellent way to calm him, you’re very wise to avoid offering your son a sweet treat whenever he’s feeling emotionally overwhelmed and having a tantrum.  That technique will definitely lead to problems in the future. As far as the people around you offering candy and suckers, it might be the only way they know to express their desire to help you and your son. They can’t exactly lift him out of his stroller and give him a big hug, after all, but they still want to help. 

I experienced the same kinds of “helpful” behaviors when my two youngest sons were toddlers. Lots of people wanted to give them cookies or suckers, especially when we or at the bank or in the checkout line at the grocery store. What they didn’t realize is that sugar is probably the last thing that my children needed when they were cranky or restless! To show my gratitude, I would often accept the treat, thank the concerned giver, and “save” it for later. 

It’s wonderful that other adults notice and care when we’re having a little difficulty with our children, and that they reach out to offer help and support.  It’s comforting to realize that if something worse than a tantrum were to happen, there would be plenty of folks willing to help us!

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