The Meltdown

Unhappy freckle faced girlIt was a hot day.  It was getting late.  It was past supper time.  We had been there all day.  Outside.  My child had lost their brand new $40.00 cowboy hat, and my wife was looking for it.  We didn’t find it.

I was waiting, with another family, for my wife to return.  A family of three children, two of which are the same age as my child.  This was the moment that my child decided to test the limits.

Children do this from time to time, as I have learned over the last number of years.  My child is no exception.  Mix in a hot day, hunger and fatigue, and you have a lethal combination.  There was a puddle nearby.  I told my child to stay away from it.

They didn’t.

There were water fountains nearby.  I told my child to stay away from them.

They didn’t.

My child was escorted away.  They went back.

This is standard behaviour, and while it’s nothing really to worry about, it does, however, need to be corrected.  So I took my child by the arm and escorted them back over to stand beside a wall, facing the wall to remove distractions.  I stood behind my child.  Mainly for two reasons – to make sure they stayed, and to give them a bit more privacy from the crowds behind me.

My child didn’t want to stay.

Too bad.  They don’t get to decide when they’re done.  I returned my child to where I had originally placed them.

They still didn’t want to stay.

After a few minutes of repeated attempts to leave and being returned, accompanied with an increasing level of volume on the child’s part, with decreasing time between attempts to leave, I decided I needed to raise the ante a little bit, and reminded my child, rather directly, that I, not my child, am in charge by giving them a mild tap on the rear end.  Enough to be felt, but most definitely mild enough not cause any harm.

It didn’t stop the problem, but redirected the focus somewhat.  However, it also failed to end the building barrage of screaming and tears.  I raised the ante a bit more, wrapped my child in my arms, and sat down, with my child between my legs.  Restraining them in a big bear-hug, preventing them from leaving while also proving a sense of loving parental safety.

By this point, there was nobody else there from my perspective.  The world consisted of two people.  My child, and myself.

What happened next left me just dumbfounded.

Breaking into my consciousness was a woman’s voice.  A woman’s voice I had never heard before, coming from a woman I had never met before.

“Hi.  I know it’s a hot day, and it’s probably been a long day.  I can see you’re having an issue here, and I was wondering if you needed any help.”

“No, thank you.  We just have a time-out situation here.  Everything is fine.”

“Oh, well I was concerned, because there is a large number of people around here and they all saw you strike your child, and with everyone watching and the police nearby…”

(All the while, my child is still struggling)

“Yes.  Thank you for your advice.  I have the situation under control.”

“Well, I know that it can be difficult, as I’m a parent too…” As this moment, her voice faded into the background.

“Yes.  I.  Have.  The.  Situation.  Under.  Control.”

A few moments later, my friend handed me her cell phone and told me my wife wanted to talk to me, while my friend dealt with my child for a moment.  I spoke to my wife.  My friend calmed my child, and life resumed.

My friend also informed me that, had the lady not gone away when she did, my friend would have stepped in and had a thing or two to say.

I get that what you see people do defines them.  I get that I gave my child a reminder.  I get that my child was in the throes of a complete loss of emotional control.  That’s why my child is my child, and I am the parent.

How you parent your children is your business.  If you don’t believe in spanking, then don’t spank your child.  I don’t generally like the idea of spanking my child either, but I am not opposed to using appropriate and reasonable force to discipline.  A smack on the rear is appropriate and reasonable, based on the circumstances.

You never hit your child on the head.
You never strike a teenager.
You never use an additional object, like a belt, on your child.
You don’t strike a child out of anger, you strike a child, if necessary, to get their attention.

I got my child’s attention.

Thinking back, I was very — very — polite with this lady.  Mostly, I believe, because I was dealing mainly with a screaming and kicking child in my arms.  I was prepared to sit there for as long as needed to get my child calmed down and re-focused on appropriate behaviour, following instructions and behaving within the limits I had set.  I was not focused on having a debate on parenting style with a total stranger, who had offered to help me.  Make no mistake, the offer wasn’t extended to discipline my child, but was to help me “calm down” – give me a “time out” as, in this busybody’s mind, I obviously needed.  I didn’t need to “calm down”.  Had I not been calm, I wouldn’t have been holding my child in a bear hug, sitting on the ground, facing a concrete wall.  I don’t blow up like that.  I also know that, if I’m going to blow, *I* walk away.  I would have said, “I need to walk away for a few minutes, please keep an eye on my kid” to my friends and then walked away.

I should have been far more rude to that lady than I was.

Never, ever, ever, intervene in a parental discipline scenario unless you see a full-out, clear cut and obvious act of child abuse.  If I had turned my child over my knee, pulled their pants down, and spanked their bare bottom, then that would been a time to intervene.  In fact, it would never have got to that point, because my friend is such that they can see the signs and intervene without even me realizing they’re intervening.  In fact, they’re welcome to do so – because, as I’ve discovered, someone other than mom or dad but known to the child, can have a very profound impact in a discipline scenario.

That lady was out of line.

And before any of you try to report me for child abuse, read Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

And don’t tell me how to parent my children.  Ever.  That’s not your place.
In return, I won’t tell you how to parent yours.

As I passed the police officers who were about 50 yards away, I glanced over to them.  They smiled and waved.  I nodded and waved back.

About Steven Britton

Steve is a freelance programmer, partial billionaire, dad, Recovering Atheist, Conservative, and occasionally prolific blogger.