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help with dinnertime meltdown

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  • help with dinnertime meltdown

    we are losing patience and compassion over my daughters crying and meltdowns
    lily is three and half now; arent these supposed to be called the yes years?
    I was really good with her when she was a baby when she cried. (she cried a lot!) just feeling like it should be finished now. Cant see the end of the tunnel.
    i am pregnant with the third and have just accepted to child mind two other kids.
    im just not coping and im really worried about how im going to cope when the baby comes.
    i have lost it now about ten times; i get really angry, screaming and very rough with her.
    i really have to do something;
    I appologise each time to her. Then tell myself to not do it again then the next time it happens again.
    Our family in law are really non ap and i think it has unfortunately filtered through.Hence the losing patience.
    Here s some questions for you...
    Where is the line between spoilt brat and high need child? We are starting to think that maybe we have created a spoilt brat.
    When Lily has her meltdown at lunchtime she usually begs to go upstairs to bed. She sucks her dummies which are usually only allowed for sleeping then comes back down in a better mood. My dh has started hiding the dummies. Should we allow her to have them or continue hiding them? We feel terrible that she has to turn to dummies instead of us. I think she has obviously seen we have no more compassion or patience so she has to turn to dummies. I would sit and cuddle her but there is the other child to look after and the dinner to prepare and serve. My husband is a french farmer that rarely does 'womans work'. I am an artist that lived in London before living in french countryside.

    Is it ok to get strict at lunch time eg.' You eat what i give you or you get down from the table.'(she does come back and eat it in the end but we have ages of crying)
    Should we force her to at least try everything? otherwise no desert.
    Is it ok to say... no crying at the table or you get down. Is this emotion stuffing? We just cant stand it anymore.
    In the past we have cuddled, cajoled, clowned around tried to change the subject ect. To no avail.

    i have just spent loads of money on books i saw you had reccommended to other people mostly about tantrums in kids. But i think the main issue is really about me losing control,feeling put upon, burnout, not coping etc. can you reccommend one? My mum was mostly ap but my dad was rarely there and didnt help. She did have seven children and when we got bit older we wouldnt listen to her and misbehaved. Sometimes she resorted to hitting us with a plastic shoe. or crying or shouting or throwing our toys away if we didnt tidy up. Non of this worked and dont want to go down this route. Dont have time for therapy. Maybe there is a special forum for people who cant control their emotions. Most of the time am very happy person. Don t realise till too late that there is actually a problem.

    Have organised some home help which will start when i am four months pregnant untill the birth and perhaps things will get better with the books i am getting through the post.

    I have already posted here and each time things have miraculously got better just after posting. You really are such an essential service for parents. Thank you so much for being there for me and others. xxx

  • #2
    Hi Anna,

    I hope things have lightened up as you predicted they would.

    I also have a 3 year old and 3 has been BY FAR the most challenging age for me as a mommy. Having a new baby also made things harder for me, too.

    Originally posted by Anna B View Post
    But i think the main issue is really about me losing control,feeling put upon, burnout, not coping etc. can you reccommend one?
    I think you are right about this. It is certainly true for me.

    One book that was great for me was The Work by Byron Katie. Excellent book for exploring your emotions/thoughts/etc. You can also find lots of videos with her on youtube and she has a great website.

    My favorite parenting book of all is Unconditional Parenting. Really put things into perspective. It's not so much about what technique you are using but more about responding to your child from a place of love and not fear. Which is easier said than done when you are feeling stressed and burnt out.

    Wishing you peace,


    • #3
      Hi Anna-
      It sounds like you have a lot going on. There is so much to your email: past frustrations, future concerns, present day chaos. Did you say that you are also watching two other children? You said: "i am pregnant with the third and have just accepted to child mind two other kids." Yikes, that's a lot.

      Here are my suggestions:
      First look at where you can lighten the load for yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself first; it will help you in the patience department. I would strongly recommend dumping dinner duty. As a parent of a toddler and a 5 month old, eating home cooked meals was not doing me any favors, especially when both kids are screaming during the whole process. You will all survive with a few frozen meals, take out, left overs from the weekend, pasta every night or better yet, let someone else cook. If not dinner, what else can you let go for the time being? It is much more important to save sanity.

      Second, I would look for ways to have more one on one time with your toddler, on her terms. They call it “Time in”. For example, my toddler loves physical play. If I give him that type of play, he’s happier and were more connected. Try to give your toddler plenty of opportunity to have her way, in a safe environment because it is developmentally normal for a toddler to want her way all the time. Toddlers thrive on being outside. I also recommend “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen.

      Third, what can you let go when your toddler is demanding? I ask myself that question at least 25 times a day. A toddler will only listen to what you say and “mind” you 40-60% of the time, so says the research. Don’t expect 100% compliance. As they explore their own power and powerlessness, they will push boundaries. Letting her have her way will not make her a total “spoiled brat” if you are thoughtful, as consistent as possible, and clear with limits that matter (i.e. safety, health). How she behaves as a toddler does not necessarily dictate her character for the future. It’s a phase, and it will pass. I would not battle with "dummies" right now, especially if it is comforting to her.

      Fourth, my food suggestion: my toddler is so, so, so picky about food. I’ve decided to let him eat what he wants when he wants, and we’re all much happier. I don’t battle in the food department, that’s just my approach. However, I don’t keep unhealthy stuff in the house, so having dessert before dinner is not an issue for us. My philosophy is he can have what he wants when he wants because forcing him to eat will not make him a healthy eater. He does not have to eat when we eat. I find it is much more important to model healthy habits, provide healthy options without recourse and allow a child to understand and listen to their own cues regarding fullness, satiety, etc. Is she hungry when you sit her down at the table or is she filled up with snacks? Has she “run out” her energy before sitting down for a meal?

      Lastly, I say this to myself often with a toddler, you (mom) can feel as frustrated, angry, pissed as you want in your head, but don’t act on it. I also say to myself, as overwhelmed as I feel at this moment, it will pass soon. Trying to parent with these feelings is challenging to say the least. But better for you and her to be in a place where you can parent compassionately and effectively. If you have to , walk away or be silent until you can respond calmly or appropriately. I do have my “serious mom” voice and look. It’s not loud, nasty or screaming, but it is for real – calm and clear. My son knows when I’m serious, most of the time. We are not therapist or automatons. We’re allowed to have emotions (and bad days). However, our kids will behave as we model. So if we lose it during frustrating situations, so will they. We must try to act as we want them to act, and be as patient as tolerant as possible.

      Easier said than done, I know. Good Luck.


      • #4
        Every time i write a message on this site, the next day, or even the next hour, things go so much better. I think that asking for help to make things right, is a bit like saying a prayer and if you are open to the solution, it always comes.
        Thanks so much for the responses! They are great. I felt a real relief reading that it is ok to give them what they want at dinnertime(as long as the choices are all healthy) and this will not make a 'spoilt brat'. Also felt relieved someone said not to bother making homecooked meal.
        The same day I wrote message, I took them out shopping with me then we went to mcdonalds(something i have only done once before but Lily had remembered and she asked to go) Couldnt be bothered to cook, so said yes. When we started eating a girl a few tables away( about same age as Lily) threw a fit. Lily watched and we were able to talk about it. I said 'poor girl, maybe she is tired and perhaps very hungry but its still not right to throw a fit; its not nice for us or her parents; she agreed and talked about how they could find another solution; like a cuddle or how she could go to the car to calm down with mum or dad; later in the car she said how she had had a fit at the table and we talked about what we could do if that happened again. That was two days ago and she hasnt had a fit since. She did try to start crying again when dad got back for breakfast but i said we should hide behind the door to scare dad when he comes in. I think she saw that laughing and joking with dad is better way of getting attention.

        Will check out the books you all reccommended.
        Feeling much better. Thanks again.


        • #5
          One other great book I read is "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves" by Naomi Aldort.

          Glad to hear about your "shift"!


          • #6
            Just read two amazing books. Really helped me realise was trying to control my kids using positive reinforcement. Really feel much more able to let go of control. Since doing this have had some great results;
            Unconditional parenting by Alfie Kohn and positive discipline by Jane Nelsen have caused a revolution in my head. I bet i am the last to know about these books.

            Would love to start family meetings but think my husband will not be into it especially as he isnt often there. Is it possible to do them on your own? Without hubby? Perhaps my kids are too young. Lily is 3half and Jessy is two. Do i need to buy the book positive discipline age 0to 5? Am running out of money here but can afford one more at a push.


            • #7
              Naomi Adorlt book is great! and Unconditional Parenting is excellent...... this sounds very very stressful & I can't imagine, I find it difficult enough, not pregnant with just one 2 yr old, well, at times....

              I have been holding something in my hand for comfort (a cross for me) but cld be a stone or anything to ground you in those moments. I think what you did sounds great - role play is brilliant, laughter, compassion, deep breaths etc etc... GOod Luck!!x