The Truth About Mall Meltdowns

Confession time. I have been one of those moms who have judged other moms who can’t control their kids in the mall. It’s very easy to say, “It won’t happen to me” until it actually does. Just when I thought I’ve sort of mastered some parenting skills, God reminded me that it’s never about mastery but about continuous discovery. And so, a couple of months ago I discovered that mall meltdowns can happen to anyone.

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It’s Just a Haircut

Over the past four years, Timmy has had a lot of haircut. So you could imagine my surprise when he resisted that particular day to have one! It was the same kid’s salon in the same mall we always go to. I could’ve simply let it go if his bangs were not covering his eyes almost entirely. I’ve tried giving him a trim before and that didn’t go well. Plus, he gets fidgety when I do it and the risk of me injuring him with a scissor is pretty high.

As a mom, you could very well tell if your child is just acting up. You could distinguish crocodile tears from the real one. At that moment, I could tell that he was just being stubborn. I was leading him to the door when he started raising his voice saying, “I don’t want!” It was like we were playing tug of war with ourselves. One of the lady barbers even welcomed us because she recognized us! She already opened the door and offered a lollipop to Timmy.


This well-meaning lady was trying to help me get my son to come in by offering an incentive that was supposed to be given after the haircut. I thought it would somewhat do the trick because he doesn’t get to eat lollipops unless it’s haircut time or he gets a party loot bag with it. An early incentive is a real treat! But he still said, “I don’t want! I don’t want!”

At that point, people in the mall were already looking at us. Moms with tots would look and point at how Timmy was misbehaving. Now I was the one being judged for poor parenting and being manipulated by a tiny man.

Truth #1: It’s humiliating but humbling.

God allowed Timmy to behave that way in public to humble me. He wanted me to be in the receiving end of mocking stares. He placed me in the same shoes as the mom, whom I pretended to ignore, but questioned in my head, “How can you not control your own child?!” To make matters worse Timmy started to wail. Not cry but wail as if he was about to experience death by haircut.

I tried everything from praying with him to echoing his emotions, assuring him that I will not leave, to being firm in my stance and telling him that he was already being disrespectful and disobedient. None of them worked. And when I told him that there would be consequences later when we got home, he screamed even more!


I was at the end of my rope when I told him we were going home. Guess what? He wouldn’t budge. He made himself stand stiff and not move. So it was like tug of war once again. Of course he wouldn’t want to go home because he knew he would get disciplined. But he didn’t want to go in the salon either.

I was calling my husband telling him to rescue me because he was the only one strong enough to carry Timmy either to go in or go home. We’re way past the stage where his 4-foot-10-inch mom can carry a fast growing 4-year-old toddler.

Truth #2: It shifts from being child-centered to self-centered.

I have to admit that at some point I wasn’t concerned about what my son was feeling anymore. I felt that I’d done every approach from being gentle to being firm to going back to gentleness to being authoritative again. It was a vicious cycle and all I got were yells and fits.

I reached the point when I told myself that I failed in parenting and this was the tangible proof that I did. Anger and bitterness were slowly eating me up. I was so mad at Timmy that I started to walk away when he began to lie down on the floor. Of course I could see him in the corner of my eye but I was dead set on not dragging him.

Thankfully, he stood up and started following me but he was screaming “Mommy! Mommy!” so loud that it was causing every person to look at us. In my head I was like, “How can you do this to me?” I was so mad I didn’t even attempt hold his hand anymore. I was just letting him follow me around.


Before I lost it altogether, I saw my knight in shining armor headed our way. Omar already knew what was happening because I called him earlier. He was surprised that the tantrum wasn’t done. He carried him inside and much to my surprise he wasn’t that resistant to his dad. I felt worse! He was still struggling in Omar’s arms but not as bad as he was with me.

Truth #3: It’s not just a parenting issue. It’s really a heart issue.

Timmy ended up sitting on his dad’s lap during haircut, which was a first. After he got settled, I opted to step away and sit at the couch far from them so I could sort through my emotions. I was trying to hold back the tears as I was pretending to watch “Cars.” Then I started pouring my heart out to God.

I prayed something like, “God I know I shouldn’t feel this but I don’t think I can forgive my own son for what he did today. Please help me.” I never thought I would struggle forgiving my child! I asked the Lord for His grace because I was too hurt to forgive. I also told Him how sorry I was for all the times I had judged other moms and for failing to see that they were trying their best to get their kids to behave. I also confessed my selfishness and for thinking too much about my reputation.

I humbled myself before the Lord and allowed Him to just reveal every sin in my heart so I could confess them. I thanked the Lord for His never ending forgiveness and patience. I thanked Him for allowing me to experience a mall meltdown. I asked for His help in restoring my relationship with my son. You see, Timmy had not apologized yet for what he did. By the time I was done praying, they were also done with the haircut.


Timmy approached me as if nothing happened and said, “Mommy! Look at my haircut!” I smiled a little and said, “Nice haircut.” After I gathered his stuff and paid at the cashier, Timmy approached me again and said, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” My heart melted and I got teary-eyed. I hugged him and said, “I forgive you, baby. I love you.” And he replied, “I love you, Mommy.”

It was the first time that Timmy said, “I’m really, really sorry.” He probably realized how bad his meltdown was. Only God can speak to him like that and convict him of what he did. We didn’t even ask him to apologize yet. He said sorry out of his own volition. I whispered “thank you” to God and I knew He could see that my heart was brimming with gratefulness. He restored my broken relationship with my son and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Processing what happened

When we were all alone, Timmy and I had the chance to process what happened. I asked him first why he said sorry. He said, “Because I disrespected mommy.” I told him that what he did was wrong and hurtful. He said sorry again and I told him that I’ve already forgiven him, that it was okay now, and everything was back to normal.

We got home around 8 or 9pm and I felt so tired that I decided to take a quick nap without changing my clothes. I woke up an hour later. Timmy approached me at the sofa and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” And then hugged me. Omar said that he probably thought that I felt sick because of what he did. The truth is, I didn’t! I was just so sleepy that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Well, I guess it’s the stress, too.


My body just decided to shut down. But I never really related my sleepiness with what happened. I told Timmy that it was okay and I just felt tired. No need to apologize anymore because I had forgiven him already and we’re all good now.

This incident happened three months ago and since then whenever I saw kids misbehaving and moms trying to talk them out of it, I sincerely pray for them. I pray especially for the mom whom now I see is trying her best to keep her child under control.

Parenting is no easy task. There’s more to it than just love and discipline. A lot of mentoring and learning is involved and we simply can’t do it on our own. We need God’s daily grace to help us through. There may be a lot of daily hugs and kisses but there are days when there are tears and tantrums. But it’s all part of a day’s work.


At the end of the day, what matters is we have done our part in being good stewards of our children. That we have shown them Christ’s love in our words and actions. We may not control when they will throw a fit but we can control what happens during and after and how we can move forward with the new lessons we’ve learned. With the help of God, we can prevent it from happening but when it does happen again rest assured that He will be there to hold you and strengthen you. It’s a part of His day’s work, too. 🙂

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