THE Meltdown

Saturday was the worst day of parenting we have ever had.  Being cooped up inside for the past few months due to Snowmageddon or whatever else the weather reporters are calling it, we finally decided to brave it and get to the Rainforest exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo.  It started out as a wonderful time, the morning was fun watching monkeys and bats and porcupines and all kinds of other animals.  Ella named all of the turtles. We played I spy at all of the reptile displays since they were either hiding or they blended in perfectly to the bark and moss surrounding them.  We really enjoyed watching the lizard who could move his two eyes different ways at different times.    Then lunch happened, which was the start of  trying times.  Pax was in a high chair and so Ella wanted a high chair.  Then the high chair we got her was missing a strap so we got a different one.  This second one had the strap but one of the buckles was broken.  So I got another one.  And every time one of us got up from the table Pax would start screaming because he thought we were leaving.  Ugh.  So of course people started staring, which, whatever, I mean come on, we were all parents there, and they should know better than to stare.  

But we managed to get through lunch and as we were leaving we had to pass through the gift shop to get out.  This became the fatal flaw.  Ella saw these silly band necklaces.  One was pink and the other was blue.  No problem, we had already talked about this before we left the house and agreed we would buy her something small.  Decision time came.  We know she likes blue better so Erica tried to convince her to get the blue one.  But over and over again Ella protested, “I want pink!” So pink it was.  Now both the kids seemed to be in good spirits and they were asking to go back through one more time.  So we started down the path to the monkey exhibit and it wasn’t ten minutes later when…THE meltdown.  At the top of her lungs, and like she has never been disciplined a day in her life before, Ella starts shrieking “I want the blue one!   The blue necklace!” with tears streaming down her face and at this point it was already impossible to try to reason with her.  We darted off the main trail so we could park the stroller and deal with her, but she would have none of it.  Shouts of “No” and “Stop it” and “I want…” followed as her arms made feeble attempts to hit us.  Well, we tried to put her jacket on and take her outside (to go to the car) but she just screamed even louder (which I thought was impossible, but she proved me wrong).  So we picked her up and carried her to the door and then wrestled her coat on her because even though everyone must have thought by now that we were horrible parents, we didn’t want to prove them right by dragging her out in freezing temperatures without a coat on.  Oh, now of course we were both feeling like miserable parents and like we couldn’t do anything right, we were “those” people who never discipline their kids and are acting like spoiled brats in public.  

Disciplining children is hard.  We are re-evaluating everything.  What can we do differently?  Obviously what we are doing isn’t working.  We have house rules, she has a responsibility chart, we use time outs, and stern lectures.  We have not been spanking because we will not be able to use any sort of physical punishment when Macy comes, so we don’t want to have a double standard with our other children.  Escept on Saturday, once we got to the car I sat her down in the back seat and set her in time out.  I explained to her she was going to get a spanking for yelling and screaming and most importantly for hitting us.  She calmed down after just a few seconds in the car.  I felt calm, and I sat next to her and asked her if she knew why she was getting a spanking.  She did.  I spanked her two times and then hugged her and told her I loved her.  It always breaks my heart to do that. 

We are at a loss, lately it has been a lot of Ella yelling and being mean.  I’ve tried to explain ‘kind words’ as please and thank you and talking quiet.  She understands but constantly has to be reminded.  She is demanding and tries to boss us around.  And it doesn’t look like anything will get through.  I asked some parents on Twitter what some alternatives to spanking were and they suggested taking some toys or valued items away.  I’ve even been searching the web for discipline how-to’s and self helps on parenting.  Dr. Phil’s website…anything!  I know there are some systems out there like 1,2,3 magic and green, yellow, red but it’s always the question, “What do you do when you get to 3 (or red)?”  What options do I have other than time out?  Because she just sits there and uses her imagination and plays.  I think she personally likes time out.  So I don’t know, but I better stop writing and let you all talk now…I’ll be reading and re-reading all of your comments. PLEASE HELP!

(P.S. My daughter is not always horrible, and Erica and I are so thankful for the times of the day when she is cute and sweet and hilarious. )


12 Replies to “THE Meltdown”

  1. Lee,

    I have a 5 year old. We have also experienced what you went through. Sometimes, you just gotta give a consequence…for example. Even when it is freezing (like today) outside..if Olivia doesn’t put her coat on, and I ask her 3 times to do it, then I take it away, tell her that we are going to the car and I don’t want to hear her complain she is cold. Then I do it. She then realizes that mom is not kidding around and “Oh crap” I better do what she says because she means business.

    I have also done this method with her toys. I asked her to pick up her toys one day, 3 different times again. She refused, told me no, you do it mom. I told her that if I did it, then I was going to put her toys in a garbage bag and throw them away! I told her it was her last chance to pick them up otherwise I will. She didn’t believe me. 2 minutes later, I showed up in the living room and starting picking up all of her toys from the ground and putting them in a new (clean) trash bag. She FREAKED out…crying, telling me NO!!! Mom don’t throw my toys away. I said, then pick them up. She did…now if she doesn’t listen, then I remind her..and she does it.

    I think you just gotta follow through. At this age, kids think they know everything. I do NOT allow hitting by either parent or child..I don’t believe in hitting the dog when she does something bad, but some days,I have been known to pick, then drag her to a time out…and keeping dragging her back to the timeout area. She finally got it…crying and me feeling guilt and all.

    If Olivia thinks she can do something better than the way I said to do it, I just let her do it–as long as it doesn’t hurt her, another person or animal. It’s her creative mind. If she thinks she can eat soup with a fork, go ahead, but it isn’t going to work too well, and in the end she still has to eat her soup. In fact, I remember something Liv was doing when she was 2 or 3, and my mom tried to correct her because that wasn’t the normal way to use a spoon (or whatever it was). I told my mom, don’t correct her. Let her explore and figure the solution out. If she gets frusterated, then I will help her. It helps develop problem solving skills and encourages out of the box thinking.

    I hope this helps. Hang in there. You can do this and you are great parents. Kids are their own people… She is just developing her personality. My Olive is my mini-me. She is bossy, thinks she knows everything and very very loving. Always wanting to help. She is my angel and an old soul. I Love her more than words could express….ever.

    Good Luck!! If you need anything, let me know.


    1. That’s really gutsy Kelly! Man, what would happen if we took a garbage bag to Ella’s toys?!?! But I get your point and I agree, we definitely need to be consistent and follow through, that’s why we’re trying to be very careful right now about what we say will be the consequences. And I like the part about letting her be creative and explore, that sounds a lot like Ella’s personality! thanks for the comment!


  2. I always tried to explain the whys and why nots of the action, to explain the situation from another’s view. See if she can have empathy on the other people and children who were there. Explain how they must have felt…..fear, confusion, sadness,etc….things that may have ruined their nice time at the zoo. How embarrassed you and Mom were that people would think you were not a mom and dad that cared enough to teach their children good manners and how to behave. That you love them so much that all the things in life that they should know….what to do, how to act,etc…… want to teach them and this is why she should NEVER do that again. Ask her if she knows exactly what she did wrong, and what she could have done different to stop her wrong actions before it ended up like it did. Then, this I DID do,… the scene!! Have Erica be the “child” and you the parent,…..then pull out all the acting skills you both can muster up and let her see what a “brat” looks like!! LOL I didn’t have a movie camera 30 some years ago, but, next time, you might let one handle the tantrum and the other run the video, then, at home —-show her!! She probably never realized how she looks to others when she is screaming her pretty little head off!!! LOL So, hope this helps you…….you are great parents and she will learn!! You will learn!! You are in my prayers. You, Lee, are also a great writer………write a book!! We need Christian voices in the market. Me, …..I have been talking about writing a best seller for years now…I now have little time to do that!! I saw a plaque that said, “Don’t let your dreams be just that!!” Well, hope this advise helps…God bless, Lee ~ ❤ ~


    1. I don’t know about our acting skills, but if some other parents have put together a movie like this I’d love to see a copy of it on YouTube! I struggle sometimes with just how much to say about how her actions affect people around her. For example, I used to say that it made me very sad when she disobeyed, but then it hit me that I want her to know that I still love her when she disobeys. Now she seems obsessed with making sure that we are happy, so I’m not sure if I introduced this concept too early for her…will I ever get it right?!? Thanks for the comment!


    1. That was a great link. I think from some other stuff on his website, too, I’m just seeing that there is a big change that goes on in a toddler’s life from age three to age four. Defining her currency, yep that about sums it up. We are re-thinking the consequences for her actions right now. Thanks for the link!


  3. Hey Guys! I saw you posted this on facebook and thought I would check it out since this morning my usually compliant, helpful, almost too good to be true 3 year old, Bo flipped out and pitched the ugliest tantrum I have ever seen. I thought you might have some magic answer to all of my disciplining questions, but, I think we are all in the same boat. We are just trying to correct and train our naughty little sinners so that one day they look more like Jesus than their parents. Don’t feel too bad because I had to remind myself this morning that we don’t make our kids behave badly, they are just acting how they are born because of the fall. It is however, our responsibility to discipline and correct them when they disobey, respond with bad attitudes, etc. We spank. We spank because we believe it is following God’s outline of correction, but we do it the [hopefully] right way. Have you ever read Shepherding a Child’s Heart? I understand that you feel you can’t spank because of the adoption, and we have several friends who have adopted and have gone through similar struggles. We also do timeouts because sometimes our kids just need to be removed from the situation for a few minutes. I’m sure you have found it to be true that kids respond differently to different correction techniques. Our firstborn is VERY social and time out is a complete horror to him. Our second loves to be by herself and doesn’t quite understand the concept of timeout, but is clearly understanding the idea of spankings. This morning when Bo would not respond to the timeout consequences we began with, and then began to blatantly repeatedly disobey without heed to the spankings, I finally moved to putting him to bed. I’ve found that he disobeys much more readily when he is overtired and sleep really helps. So what if it was only 1030 am? He didn’t automatically go down without a fight, but he’s been sleeping now for 2 hours, so he must have been tired. Another good book I would recommend is by Ginger Plowman called ‘Don’t make me count to three.’ She contends that children should learn to obey ‘right away, all the way, and with a happy heart.’ [Delayed obedience, incomplete obedience, begrudged obedience is disobedience] or I especially appreciate a little poster we have hanging up that sells for about $3 from Amazon that contains Scripture references for each action or attitude of disobedience so that you back up your speech with the Word of God. These books and Scriptures have helped us a lot, and I heartily recommend them to you, but realize that we are not perfect and my children are just as naughty and disobedient as everyone else’s. I do, however, have hope that God will work in their lives and in the consistent discipline that I put forth to change their hearts and behaviors. So continue to do what you are probably already doing. . .be consistent, don’t give up, say only what you mean to follow through on, and pray pray pray. That really helped this morning. I prayed with Bo before I put him to bed that God would change his heart and help him choose to obey mommy. For non spanking techniques, I have also appreciated watching SuperNanny believe it or not. Her time out techniques and naughty mat suggestions have helped ME realize how to act when putting the kids in timeout. [i.e. I kept responding and talking to them and trying to lecture them while in timeout.] Hope some of this helps out. I’m sure she’s a GREAT kid and that you guys are GREAT parents. All this hard work when they are little will pay out when they get older 🙂 Hope you guys are doing well and tell Erica I said HI!


    1. We actually had to sign a form saying we would not use any type of physical discipline, so that will definitely be ruled out for us. Those sound like some good books so I may have to check into them. And I also agree about the being over tired thing. Looking back, we were almost asking for it. We should have just left right after lunch and not gone back a second time, I’m sure they were both tired…Thanks for the comments, I’ll be reading this one a few more times in the next few days! But I always appreciate it when people respond to my posts! Erica says hi back!


  4. Hey Lee,

    Yeah, a bit gutsy…and kills me on the inside. But she understands that when mom asks her something, she knows it is to either protect her or help her. Please note, I still clean her room (and make a game out of it). She is a very well behaved child though. She has issues with pouting sometimes, but her and I talk about what is going on.

    Olivia doesn’t live in fear of me. It was a way for her to see that mom (and dad) is the leader on most things and when we ask her to do something nicely, she should do it. If she doesn’t want to behave in public (which is rare) then I’ve been known to leave the store.

    Would I let her go outside without a coat on? NO, but I also went through this before. She REFUSED to put her coat on one day, so instead of arguing with a (at the time) 3.5 year old, (Note, you will never win, lol) I just said, OK. You want it your way?? Let’s go… Not even 5 minutes outside Olivia is telling me, well, ok mom, I should put my coat on. Then I say see, Mom wasn’t being mean. I was trying to protect you from the cold. Then she understands why I do the things I do. But yes, instead of arguing..I let her do it her way and see through her eyes (on her own conclusion) that hmmm…maybe mom and dad are right.

    Now, if I can only break her from her security “Pinky the pink kitty”. I went to a class tonight with my BFF and when I called at 10 pm to say I was on my way, Livi was in a meltdown..She couldn’t find the stuffed animal, the world has ended…I said, OK…Calm down, look in the entertainment were playing with your cars today. She pauses and says, no, I didn’t leave it there. I walked into the house, took my coat off and lo and behold, the stuffed animal was in the exact place I said it was. mommy instinct 🙂 But then I explained to her that dad was talking about getting rid of Pinky…(which I disagree somewhat) and if she continues to “hide” him so she doesn’t have to go to sleep, then Mom will stop using her special mommy powers to find him. That she is old enough to know where she last had him. Note: She does this at least 4 times a week…always at bed delay the sandman…

    You guys are good, no great parents. This is just stuff we all go through.

    Take care


  5. Lee, you will never get it right. I will never get it right. The good news is that there is no “right” way to parent. You love your child and want the best for her. You can read 1000 parenting books and get 1000 different ways to parent but you won’t find your child in any of those books. And contrary to some authors’ claims, you won’t find God in any of those books either.

    Since spanking is not an option (and I think that’s a great thing) stay away from authors who use spanking as their primary tool. You will just end up conflicted. Find Christians (online or in real life) who don’t spank, and gather some ideas from them.

    Parenting is not a battle of wills. Your child is a person with thoughts and feelings that need to be honored whether you think they’re right or not.

    I wish I had time to say more about expectations and goals but I’ve got to go tend to my own little one.

    God bless.


    1. Thanks Sharon, isn’t parenting the most difficult thing in the world? Things are getting better with Ella and I realize being consistent is a big part of correct discipline. i just keep repeating to myself “this too shall pass” and then it will be on to the next parenting surprise!


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