I recall many years ago, when my six children ranged in ages from upper elementary school to stroller age, (as in the photo below) I was single-mommin’ it (husband was working late), taking them through the buffet line in our church dining room. A long line behind us. Four lanes going on at this popular in-house diner.

Admit it. You’re a little disturbed by our matching outfits. I mean, nowadays there are actually Ugly Christmas Sweater parties.

Admit it. You’re a little disturbed by our matching outfits. I mean, nowadays there are actually Ugly Christmas Sweater parties.

Few things make me anxious like long lines and tray-pushin’, multi-children watchin’, buffet-style, get your own food type situations. I always cringed when we’d ask the grandparents where they’d like to go and they’d respond, “Piccadilly.”  That’s a local home-style restaurant where lines to the fast-paced buffet are long and people seem less than pleased to be behind a family with many little ones – even if they are well-behaved. So many decisions: which jello flavor, meat choice, side dishes, which bread. AHH!

The good news is that my children had all been “trained ahead” and knew how to behave, how to speak up to the person asking what they’d like, how to make their own choices, had good hygiene and manners, knew how to calmly assist their younger siblings, and were coordinated with carrying their own trays. This meant that on most occasions -although to me it was still a highly intense encounter, it usually went smoothly.

Our church dining experience varied a little from Piccadilly. There were no servers asking, “What can I get you? Which sides do you want?”  Both sides of the buffet were open and we plated our own food selections.  The older kids pushed their trays, assisting the sibling next to them, while I compiled a tray that was essentially for me, the child on my hip, and the one in the stroller.

However, on this particular Wednesday night, at approximately 5:13 the child being carried on my hip through the buffet line, starting whining about something…something important I’m sure, like what she wanted or perhaps didn’t want put on her plate.  (Okay. I have no idea on the exact time. I just wanted to show that this moment is etched in my mind.) Although I told her to stop, she didn’t.

The guilty child may or may not be the one in the middle.

The guilty child may or may not be the one in the middle.

Backing up this story a tad, it is important to note that earlier this day, I had dealt with her lack of self-control. I debated about even taking her to church that night and was trying to understand if she was overly tired and needed to stay home or if she was just demanding her way (which was a constant struggle with her). Hmm.. Overly tired? Perhaps. Disobedient? Yes. Disrespectful? Yes.

Anticipate the potential problem. Train ahead.

So, before we even left for church I had anticipated the potential problem and trained ahead. In a time frame in which she was calm and obedient, we went over some important components to be prepared for the night’s agenda. I explained

  • what we would be doing
    • going to eat at church, going through the buffet line
  • how we were going through the line and eat in the dining room
    • quiet behavior
    • calm, compliant while in the stroller or on my hip
  • why we were to behave this way
    • to be respectful of mommy who is making many decisions and serving you
    • to be respectful of those around who are waiting in line and those around us, enjoying eating out
  • consequences if she chose to disobey and be disrespectful in this situation
    • such as crying, screaming, grunting, complaining, trying to squirm off of my hip
    • that I would swiftly remove her and take her to the bathroom to “deal” with her and that we would indeed return with the right behavior

We role-played how she would handle even the action of removing her from the line and carrying her. I wanted to make sure she knew there was to be no screaming, kicking of the legs, flailing of the arms, or yelling, “Someone call 911. My mama’s had enough!”  (Okay, seriously, that last part was to make you laugh.) I wanted to be very clear on expectations of her behavior in the line and in the dining room as well as be specific with the consequences of her disobedience. Even if I hadn’t trained ahead to this particular thing, I still would have done this…

Stop the World.

Wellll, that meltdown did happen while in the buffet line. I stopped the world. I chose to put aside, literally, something that was important to deal with something more important… her heart. I put the tray on top of the buffet. Yes, it already had food on the plate.  Yes, it was inconvenient. I motioned to the oldest -who was at the front of the line, to keep going.

I took this stiff-necked, defiant, out-of-control child to the restroom, dealt with her, and when her heart was yielded – and therefore her behavior was compliant and sweet, we simply went back to where we were, picked up our tray, and continued through the buffet line.

You’re probably wondering what “dealt with her” really meant. I just got on her level in the stall and got super close to her face and sternly, but softly said, “You will not scream or complain. You will accept whatever is put on your plate. You were disrespectful of me, of those around wanting to enjoy time eating out. You will not behave that way.”  In this case, when her stiff neck and shoulders were softened it demonstrated a yielded heart. She apologized to the best of her age, “Mommy, I know I was wrong for screaming and being disrespectful.Will you forgive me?” We hugged. We washed her face. We were ready to go back to the line.

If those final signs were not there, I’d be setting myself up for a repeat performance. She needed to be dealt with thoroughly. It brought about a happy child.

I know. I know. She’s my “mini me.”

I know. I know. She’s my “mini me.”

Rhonda areyoupreparedtoSTOPTHEWORLDtodealwithyourchild’sheart ellis

9 Comments
  1. Lisa Appelo

    One of the best pieces of advice you can give a mom (or dad). So well articulated Rhonda! Stop the World b/c we care about that child for the long term more than this moment now. Yes.

    • Lisa, you are awesome at doing just this. Stopping your own agenda in life to invest into the heart of your children… not just regarding discipline, but regarding being intentional to push your own tasks aside to just BE with them. I count you as a mentor in my life.

  2. Rhonda, I just stumbled upon your blog. My sister, Renee, posts your stuff all the time. I thoroughly enjoy reading it. I don’t know if you remember me or not, as I was in your Sunday School class at one point. I love hearing how God is molding you as a parent first. Great advice, and by the way, I’m sure no one minded that you attended to your children first through that line! Way to Go! 🙂 Keep on writing for Him!

    • Hi Christine (formerly called Christy in high school), I remember you well! Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you’re reading AND really appreciate your encouragement. You’re right…we all really do appreciate parents taking care of their out of control children- even if a tray is left unattended. 🙂

  3. Mel

    When I worked in your home, I learned immensely the value of stopping the world to address the issue. Truly, it’s essential & prevents a situation from
    blowing up even further (i.e. exhibiting more sin/ selfishness). For others reading this, I speak from experience when I didn’t directly deal with a circumstance within the walls of my own classroom & allowed students to control the situation & control me. Even so, God lavished grace on me & showed me where I’m weak. & now I have SO many “ab fab” tales of how a precious time was had after stopping the world. I’m prepped & pumped to implement “stop the world” to my newest Lincolnians.

    • Mel, I speak for all six of my current blog subscribers when I say that we look forward to reading your comments, gleaning from your insight, and particularly learning from you how a TEACHER takes these same principles and applies them to a classroom. I have seen first hand how you have done these things in your classroom and created a peaceful atmosphere in which all hearts are safe… and in the most unlikely of schools with some of the most unlovely of students,…or so many would think. But not you.

  4. Kelli

    Wow… Your kids had it easy!
    When I was younger and I acted up my mom would ask me “do you need me to take you to the bathroom?” I knew that meant that was a SPANKING, so I would quickly behave myself!

    • I agree with spankings on certain occasions. I’m going to be writing about that soon. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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