calm dad
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
October 8, 2020 ·  5 min read

Photo of a calm dad and a screaming toddler holds an important parenting lesson

Every parent knows the feeling of standing in a public space while their child has a complete meltdown. Nothing makes you feel quite so embarrassed and helpless when your child is putting on a show for everyone else to watch. A photo has gone viral of a child doing just that. The star of this photo, however, is the calm dad standing over top of his daughter while she wails on the ground.

Calm Dad Goes Viral While Daughter Has Temper Tantrum

Celebrity dad Justin Baldoni, known best for his role as Raffael on Jane the Virgin, shared a photo on social media. In the photo, he and his own father are standing looking down at Baldoni’s young daughter Maiya. The little girl is having an absolute ringer of a temper tantrum during a family shopping trip at Whole Foods. (1)

Despite the number of people around, both father and grandfather don’t look stressed at all. In fact, they look almost a bit bemused by the whole thing. Neither is bent over trying to pick her up off the floor or trying to tell her to stop, they are simply letting her work through her feelings. (1)

Baldoni says he has his own father to thank for his “calm dad” reaction to the situation. (1)

This Calm Dad’s Caption Says it All

Accompanying the photo, which was captured by his wife Emily, Baldoni wrote a lengthy caption describing the situation. He explains that this photo shows one of the most important lessons his dad ever taught him about fatherhood: Being comfortable in the uncomfortable. (1)

Thinking about the number of times he was sure he had acted just as his daughter was in the photo growing up, he talked about how calm his dad always was in times just like it. (1)

“There are no perfect parents, but one thing my dad taught me is to not parent based on what anyone else thinks. My dad always let me feel what I needed to feel, even if it was in public and embarrassing,” Baldoni explained. “I don’t remember him ever saying “You’re embarrassing me!” or “Dont cry!” It wasn’t until recently that I realized how paramount that was for my own emotional development.” (1)

He goes on to talk about how much young children are learning and growing. They are still figuring out how to process emotions and their point of reference for what is and isn’t a big deal is not yet developed. Baldoni says that, as her father, he wants to teach her that it is okay to have emotions and feel them deeply. (1)

“It’s not embarrassing to me when she throw tantrums in the grocery store, or screams on a plane,” he says. “Let’s not be embarrassed for our children. It doesn’t reflect on you. In fact.. we should probably be a little more kind and patient with ourselves too. If we got out everything we were feeling and allowed ourselves to throw tantrums and cry when we felt the need to then maybe we’d could also let ourselves feel more joy and happiness.” (1)

Should You Tell Your Children Not To Cry?

Baldoni’s post brings up an important point about what we are teaching our kids when we tell them to “just stop crying”. By not allowing children to cry or express their less enjoyable emotions, we are teaching them that these emotions are less acceptable than others. (2)

Moreover, when we quickly try to hush them when they are experiencing these emotions in public, we are teaching them that negative emotions are shameful. We are telling them sadness and pain should be oppressed and that we should never let anyone else see them. (2)

All parents reading this are probably thinking “Wait… so I’m supposed to just let my kids cry and cry and cry and that’s it?”

Not exactly. According to Michael Gurian, a marriage and family counselor, this divisive problem and can be difficult for parents to navigate. He uses four examples to help us visualize the difference between telling your child not to cry versus providing them with emotional support and helping them process their emotions (2):

Scenario 1:

A father (or mother) says to a child, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” He or she is wielding a belt across the child’s behind.

Scenario 2:

A mother (or father) says to a crying child, “Crying just makes you weak, I’m ashamed of you,” and walks away from the child.

Scenario 3:

A father (or mother) says to a crying child, “That’s enough crying, it’s not helping anything,” and gives the child other emotional expression strategies.

Scenario 4:

A mother (or father) says to a crying child, “If you see a problem, do something about it,” and helps the child stop crying so that they can problem-solve, and take good action.

Examining the Scenarios

The first two scenarios can cause social-emotional harm to a child and will enforce the ideas mentioned above: That emotions are bad and you should oppress them at all costs. (2)

The second two show the parents first allowing the child to cry, then gently giving them direction as to how to not let their emotion completely paralyze them. Instead, the parents play an active role by teaching the child to be proactive when faced with a problem. (2)

The Bottom Line, Be a Calm Parent

Crying and having the opportunity to vent or express our emotions is cathartic for anyone at any age. It is important that as parents we teach our children that it is normal, healthy, and socially acceptable to have emotions. As Baldoni said, it is okay to also allow ourselves to feel those emotions and explore them. 

From there, parents must teach their children how to then regain their control and composure and take action despite having been emotionally triggered. Its important to be that calm parent.

The more we teach future generations that emotions do not make you weak, as well as how to properly process and manage those feelings, the better off coming generations will be.