Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3 Lessons I Learned from the Biggest Temper Tantrum Ever

Here's a news flash for all you parents out there:

Sometimes, being a parent really sucks.

Like when you want to enjoy a nice, relaxing lunch out as a family, but one strong-willed child throws the mother of all temper tantrums, and changes your plans completely.

Been there. 

Done that. 

Just two days ago, actually. Yet here it is, Tuesday already, and I'm still thinking about how much being a responsible parent sucks sometimes.

On Sundays we like to eat out after church. Often, it's the only time the six of us sit around the table at the same time all week. It's sort of our little family tradition. This week, the kids picked my favorite: Ground Round.

Sundays are Penny-a-Pound at Ground Round, so it's always busy. Little Miss Strong-Willed-Morgan did not have patience to wait for a table. After running away from us a couple of times, not listening, and sassing back, I'd had enough. 

I took her to the van for a "talk" and had every intention of returning to the restaurant after we both calmed down. I could feel people staring at me as I dragged Morgan by her arm out of the lobby and across the parking lot. It might have looked like I was hurting her, but when I let go of her arm, she turned the drama up a notch and went limp and just laid on the sidewalk. So I hung onto her arm and pretty much dragged her to the van.

As I replay the scene over and over and over in my head, I've realized that the this monster temper tantrum actually taught me a few important lessons.

Lesson number one: don't judge other parents. It may look like they're being mean, but I bet they're just trying to control the drama.

After a few minutes in the van, it was clear this temper tantrum was not ending anytime soon. She kicked, screamed, cried, and pulled out every single excuse in her very big book of excuses:

"I'm starving!"

"I have to go to the bathroom!"

"Give me another chance!"

"I miss my family!"

"Please let me eat lunch with Jake!"

Unfortunately for Morgan, the kicking, yelling, crying, and attitude kept those excuses from working on me this time, that and the fact that she had already had three chances to shape up.

So we left.

In all my nearly 15-years of being a mom, I've never actually had to leave a restaurant (although I have ditched many a full grocery cart over the years). Usually just going outside is enough to fix things. 

But not this time.

Not even the idea of feeding my child for 41-cents could convince me to take her back into the restaurant.

Morgan continued her meltdown the entire seven minute drive home, and for another 25 minutes in her bedroom. 

I wanted to cry too -- I was really craving Ground Round popcorn and ranch dressing.

But, I knew if I didn't follow through, I'd regret it the next time she threw a tantrum. I had to be strong, stronger than my popcorn craving. She eventually fell asleep and woke up a different, happier kid.

Lesson number two: don't take an overtired, strong-willed child out for lunch on a busy Sunday.

I'm still bummed about missing lunch, but I'm glad the rest of the family could enjoy our Sunday tradition, and popcorn. I bet they enjoyed the popcorn and I bet they had a big bowl of ranch dressing to dip it in.

And I promised Morgan we'll try again next week. She has brought up the subject of her "really bad, naughty tantrum" several times since Sunday. We've talked about why how she acted was wrong, and talked about the right way to behave in public, and the right way to talk to adults. And I promised her we'll try again next week (she keeps saying "next year"… no way am I waiting a year to get my popcorn and ranch!)

Lesson number three: Talk about what happened, in kid terms of course, and, when the time is right, do something to reinforce what you've been talking (in my case preaching) to your child about.  So today, I asked Morgan if she wanted to go out for lunch. Of course she said yes, and as we walked in to the Ground Round, she reminded me of all the rules we talked about. Maybe it was because the restaurant wasn't busy, or because it was just the two of us, or because she hadn't hit "starving-mode" yet, but today's experience was a thousand times better. We had a nice conversation, a yummy lunch, and, of course, popcorn and ranch. 

Let me tell you, that was the most delicious popcorn and ranch I've ever had!

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