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.
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.
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.
Rhonda areyoupreparedtoSTOPTHEWORLDtodealwithyourchild’sheart ellis