Monkey Mamas Give In to Tantrums Too

Filed under: In The News, Funny Stuff

rhesus monkeyYou're at the grocery with the kids, just hoping to get through this trip without a meltdown. Nearing the end of your shopping list, you feel it building: The tantrum to end all tantrums. You've just got to grab the milk and you're out of there, but then that wee one in your cart spots the toy aisle and starts to shriek.

Now you've got a public tantrum on your hands.

Most moms handle at-home tantrums with cool efficiency, but when Junior chooses the middle of Whole Foods to fling himself on the floor and wail, we feel a little sheepish. The way I see it, there are two choices: 1) Stand back and pretend you don't have any idea whose child that is, or 2) Jump in and deal.

Public tantrums are a humbling part of parenthood. Here's the silver lining, though: While our peers in the checkout line might gawk or even secretly judge, they aren't likely to chase us out of the store or give us a painful bite.

But when researchers studied rhesus monkey mama behavior, that's exactly what they found. When toddler rhesus monkeys -- who can cry admittedly loudly -- threw public tantrums, onlooking monkeys grew agitated and often became violent toward the mother. Apparently, rhesus monkeys haven't learned the art of the disapproving look, which can be nearly as painful.

But monkey or human, this peer (mis)behavior works. Human studies show that parents are far more likely to give in to a public tantrum than a private one. Likewise, monkey mamas were 81% more likely to return to nursing (usually the cause of the tantrum) if unrelated onlookers were nearby. No word on whether or not the nearby monkeys offer smug, unsolicited parenting advice. Though if they did, I suspect the risk of violence (to them) would go up. Way up.

Finally, while monkey moms were at risk during public tantrums, their babies were in even more danger. A rhesus mom is 400 time more likely to hurt her baby during a tantrum. Anyone who's ever lived throw a toddler throw-down knows these knee-high powerhouses can be stubborn, tireless, and loud. That's why it's a good idea to know how to keep your cool when trantrums, public or private, come on.

So the next time your kiddo throws a fit in the middle of the mall, just be grateful you aren't a rhesus monkey. And remember that tantrums are a rite of passage for every parent. If bystanders act like they haven't been there before, they either haven't and so therefore can't understand ... or they're lying.

How do you handle public tantrums -- yours and others?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.