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See mom's viral 'news reports' on son's temper tantrums

Former TV reporter Kayla Sullivan details her toddler's meltdowns and millions of parents relate.
Kayla Sullivan is using her TV reporter's voice and humor to grapple with the all too relatable challenges parents face.
Kayla Sullivan is using her TV reporter's voice and humor to grapple with the all too relatable challenges parents face.@kaylareporting / TikTok

A TV reporter stands in what looks like a hallway in a home, clad in a blue dress with perfectly coiffed hair. It appears as if she’s breaking a story but her microphone is definitely a toy. In a perfect TV reporter’s voice, she delivers an update. 

“Hi Kayla Sullivan reporting live from outside my son’s bedroom where he’s currently being detained until nap time is over,” she said in the TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 20 million times. “Now this story does involve a minor so I can’t release specifics but what I can confirm is my son is a 2-year-old terrorist who held me hostage at the Olive Garden.”

According to her reporting, Sullivan took “the proper precautions” to avoid the standoff.  

“I brought my son’s favorite snacks and even risked judgement from other moms by bringing an iPad,” she said. “But not even 'Cocomelon' could have stopped this meltdown.”

When he started screaming for ketchup, a waitress came to the rescue.

“Her good deed was later punished after he threw a ketchup-covered fork at her,” Sullivan said in the video. “Not all heroes wear capes but this one, should have worn an apron.”

To many parents, this restaurant scene feels all too familiar. Sullivan told TODAY Parents that she started making the videos using her reporter’s voice first as part of a TikTok challenge. Then it evolved into a way for her to grapple with the ups and downs of parenting.

“My son has thrown tantrums in public and it’s really embarrassing,” Sullivan, 29, a former TV reporter and PR professional in Norman, Oklahoma, told TODAY Parents. “I was channeling a bunch of different incidents that have happened to me in public and trying to relate to other parents.”

Like so many others, she's also struggling with comments and judgement she hears from other parents. At the end of her TikTok she admits that she’s trying her best. Many of the people who commented on the videos certainly understood this feeling.

“Are you going to be perfect on the (parenting) advice every time? No, because we’re still human,” she said. “It’s such a hard place to be in because you’re judged no matter what you do and that’s the message that I want to send — I could be the perfect parent and there’s still someone who judges me for being even the perfect parent.”

In a follow up TikTok, Sullivan interviews some of the “eyewitnesses,” also played by Sullivan.

“I reluctantly brought them in because they are quite judgmental,” reporter Sullivan said. “We’ll start with Tammy, who told me I need to slap my 2-year-old silly.”

Cut to Tammy.

“I did say that and I would say it again. You were over there babbling about his feelings, asking are you feeling frustrated. Of course, he’s feeling frustrated. But you know what he should be feeling? He should be feeling scared of you,” Tammy said.

Karen, to no one’s surprise, also had some comments. This eyewitness provided lots of notes about Sullivan’s approach to gentle parenting.  

“I gave you that dirty look because what you were doing was permissive parenting, not gentle parenting,” she said. “We don’t reward bad behavior with ketchup. And we also don’t get embarrassed. We don’t care what other people think about us. Our kids come first.”

Sullivan also said she wants people to understand that she doesn’t call her son a terrorist. But she adds that sometimes in the middle of a meltdown parents can feel like they’re being held hostage.

“Everybody’s been joking, ‘You never negotiate with a terrorist.’ But when you’re embarrassed, you’re going to give them 'Cocomelon,'” she said. “You want them to stop and so that was the relatable feeling. But in no way, shape or form is my son a terrorist."

In his own TikTok interview, her son bellows about ketchup before offering an apology. He took naturally to the person-on-the street — or in this case person-in-the-living room — interview.

“I love my kid. I only use endearing terms for him,” she said. “He’s actually a very well behaved kid. But he’s a toddler and all toddlers throw tantrums.”

Sullivan hopes her videos offer relatable, lighthearted takes on parenting. But she wants to encourage parents to be kind to themselves (and other parents) when life doesn’t look like a page from a parenting book.

“I only have one child so I’m still new and I’m still learning the ropes of a toddler,” she said. “Probably at times I don’t give him enough boundaries or I’m not as consistent with him as I should be. And I know that and I’m working on that.”

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