How do YOU stay calm in a difficult child meltdown

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Steely, Nov 24, 2007.

  1. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    I need help, ideas, and advice, on staying calm in the middle of my son's meltdowns, rudeness, manipulations, and his attempts at blatantly pushing my buttons. I used to be the most calm mom, ever - and now I have lost whatever it was I used to have, and with just one button pushing statement he can set me off like a fire cracker. It is not good for my health, or helping him for me to be mad all of the time, and it has become a huge dysfunctional cycle.

    Please help! I need all the tips, input, and guidance you can think of!!!
  2. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    My daughter used to be very good at pushing my buttons. I'd try to not blow up and lose it anyway. Then I quit trying because I'd lose it anyway. It took a lot of effort but here are some of the things that ultimately worked to stop me (at least most of the time):

    Slow, deep breaths.

    I would not respond to anything -- good or bad -- until I counted to 3. It became such an ingrained habit that it helped when I was ready to explode because by the count of 3 some of the steam had dissipated.

    I would imagine her in extremely comical positions or her face frozen in the SCREAM. I'd do my best to not laugh out loud but it was awfully hard to take her seriously when I saw her as a caricture of herself.

    If she was still pushing my buttons, I'd imagine her tarred and feathered or in stocks, which is what would have happened way back when for her behavior and comments. I admit to being the first to throw the rotten fruit at her in my mind.

    I'd try to walk away. This was the hardest one because she'd follow me as much as she could and keep up the verbal assault. Once she was old enough to be left alone, I'd get in the car and just leave. If there was any damage done while I was gone (which did happen on occasion), I'd simply tell her to clean it up and figure out what she planned to sell to pay for the necessary repairs. After paying through the nose a few times, she quit damaging the house while I was gone.

    So, stopping before I responded, lots of humor and flat out running away when absolutely necessary are what worked/s for me.
  3. braedonconnornoah

    braedonconnornoah New Member

    Sometimes, I put on my mp3 player really loud during one of his fits so I can't hear it as much. Many other times, I send him to his room so he can be miserable by himself. Currently, I'm debating sending him to a third world country so he can realize how good he really has it *wink*. :=P
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Sometimes I have to physically leave the house and go walk around outside. Now difficult child has gotten better so that I can just go to another part of the house. He only throws things for a second in the kitchen or LR and knows enough to go to his rm, and finish his tantrum up there.

    I have been taking Effexor for a while and it really helps. It gives me a second or two of lag time so I don't immediately light off. I was getting WAY to angry, and anger can be a sign of depression, so I have to admit that was part of my problem.

    Sometimes, just hiding out in the bathroom for 5 min. helps!

    And you all have been a great help -- I have come up to my ofc and typed away while he's been raging and there's always someone here to hear me. Thank you all!!!!!
  5. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    You need to be really, really calm even if you're not. You won't be calm. Fake it, ignore the meltdown. I work with autistic 5 and 6 year olds, we do not show any emotion while this is going on. You have to give positive reinforcement when the child is calming down. Be quiet, otherwise you are prolonging the ending of this. Good luck. PM me if you need ideas- I know alot about meltdowns.-Alyssa
  6. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    You've helped me more than I could help you, but, I try hard to remember the times when a new medication or tactic worked and that remindsme that he's not in control of as much as I think sometimes, so, if I "go there with him", I can't help him. If I walk away, maybe I can help him later. And, not that I'm so religious, but with my difficult child, "This too shall pass"
  7. Janna

    Janna New Member


    I think alot of it depends on the situation. For every incident, you are not going to react the same.

    So, for instance, today I had an issue with Dylan. He was getting a little more agitated than I like on the Playstation. I gave him his only warning. "Dylan, that behavior is inappropriate. If you continue, the Playstation will be turned off". That's all I said, very flatly, very matter of factly. I walked by 3 minutes later, and he was freaking out, still. I walked up, turned off the PS2, and that was that. He fell to the floor, started crying. I calmly stated "when you are calm, we can talk" and left the room. He wasn't raging, just crying, when he used to rage (i.e. throwing stuff around the house), I had to restrain him. Then, I didn't speak either. I simply put him in the position I needed to so he was restrained, said nothing, and waited until he was calm. He knew the drill. He knows the drill now. These kids aren't stupid. He laid there, silent, for about 7 minutes. Got up, went outside for 5, came back in and was fine. LOL! He dropped a level, and that's that.

    That's another thing we do now. I adopted the behavior mod charts from the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) Dylan is in, and use them for all 3 kids. Levels. There are 5 of them. I would go into huge detail here, but am gonna opt not to. If you'd like the "book" on them, haha, I will take the time to type it out for you, but PM me and ask me for it, so I don't waste time.

    But the bottom line is, it works. Dylan moved out of a house of 12 "ODD", defiant, disrespectful, argumentative children, and these levels worked.

    As far as any smart mouth stuff, I just drop levels now, too. But all disrespect has always suffered a consequence in some form.

    I've learned the art of "flat affect". I say it once, and say nothing more. I'll go do dishes while there's a tantrum or some nonsense going on. I'll ignore everything.

    And back to the levels, it's nice because everything is clearly marked for all the kids. So, for example, if I tell Brandon to do the dishes and he says "no, I don't feel like it", I say "level 4" (that's an automatic level drop) and say nothing else. It's funny, because he'll go do the dishes anyway, but a level 4 means he's lost his internet for 24 hours. Darn for him.

    Takes alot of work. Won't lie to you. But over time, works like a charm.

  8. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    The beauty of that system is that you don't need the kids' cooperation to enforce the rules. I dock my son's allowance for the same reason.
  9. goldenguru

    goldenguru New Member

    At 17, I would walk away. I like Janna's advise of 'flat affect' when you do have to speak to them.....

    I learned that when my daughter got really out of control, it was in part because 'I was doing the dance' with her. Remove yourself and you may find that your son doesn't engage.
  10. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Yes, I agree, flat affect is what I need.....but it is what I don't seem to be able to muster lately. I agree with Terry that depression has some to do with my anger, and I am looking into resolving that. However, it also seems like my difficult child and I are engrossed in this viscous pattern, where he pushes, pushes, pushes, and finally I pop.

    Meow I like your idea of counting, and imagining him in goofy poses. That is good. And I do walk away, or leave if everything is really bad.

    He just seems like he wants to engage in this dance to no end. Finally after 20-30 minutes, he says something that he knows cuts me to the core, and I just snap - get angry, and then the true saga begins.

    difficult child just came home from his dad's after giving me a 2 day respite, (well sorta, his dad is a major difficult child in and of himself - but I needed some time before I had a stroke) and the minute I saw difficult child, I said something edgy. His very presence is just causing me major unrest - and I don't know how to alleviate that.
    And, I don't know how to breathe threw his tantrums, manipulations, and general difficult is like I cannot detach enough or something. Somehow, someway, he gets to me.

    Wow......funny, as I was typing this a commercial for Cymbalta came on:
    "Do you feel unlike yourself? Do you feel angry and emotional? Do you have aches and pains?"
    "Why yes!" I say
    "Cymbalta can help!"
    Oh sighhhhhhhhhhhh :wink:
  11. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat


    if there is a rage/meltdown/argument/disagreement/difficult child-thingy going on, you should not even be in the same ROOM as him for a half hour!

    Of COURSE he wants to dance endlessly! Thank him for the dance about 1 1/2 minutes into it (or the very second you see that it is going to be "one of those") and leave! One of the things that I did wrong with Copper was staying until I was satisfied she understood I was right, and WHY.

    Forget it! I don't do that with Tink.

    Not worth the rage. I'm right because I said so. Walk away. Do not engage. Get in the car and SCREAM but do not let him see or hear.

    Bite your tongue as much as possible. Tell us all the "edgy" things that you want to say about him. And don't say them to him.

    Try real REAAAAAALLLL hard.

  12. I'm going crazy!!!

    I'm going crazy!!! New Member

    i have no other advice that you have not received and that all seems to be summed up in one word "leave" as in the house the boy is too old for you to have to put up with this and you shouldn't have too heck none of us should but we do my prayers are with ya'll stay sane i'm also on effexor for anxiety and it helps so much i also found a vitamin called niacin that promotes mental health don't know if it really works or if it's all in my mind but i don't care i am doing soooo much better!!!!! hope you find something that helps love ya
  13. lynnp

    lynnp New Member

    This has to be one of the hardest things. I admire all the strength I read in these posts! My mantra is "calm and firm, calm and firm". Someday I'll get it right. We had a child psychologist once tell me that it was ok to get upset and cry because it was who I was. I swear that was the worst advice I'd ever gotten! It will take me years to get past it! Good luck.
  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    J, I like your levels. You're way more strict than I am. I'm going to copy you. I'm still putting up with-too much.
  15. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Hugs WW~

    Initially, when difficult child was younger it was very difficult not to get sucked in by her rages, her badgering, her shadowing. Ugh!! It was maddening to be followed by her everywhere I went and her back and forth between hating me and needing me to hug her. I would feel guilty for not hugging her but hate myself for being sucked into the hug and getting hurt by her again.

    As she grew and we received some counseling, I learned to do that flat thing that everyone has mentioned I guess. I tried to remain neutral in stance, language, voice, reprimands, and even consequences. That helped a lot but there were times when I felt like I was stuffing my emotions to such an extent I would explode myself.

    Eventually, leaving the house worked some as she didn't follow me so much - but usually SHE WOULD LEAVE FIRST! Then I was torn between enjoying the moment of peace or leaving myself to find her. At first I would run after her, but then I sort of figured that at 15, 16, 17, 18, she's old enough to take care of herself and call me if there were a real emergency.
  16. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    I think staying calm is a talent that grows with use. Some weeks I did better than others.
    A lot depends on where I'm at emotionally. I had to do some self talk. What was I getting out of triggering another argument? Did I have a need to be right or to get the emotional response? I tried to keep asking myself what does my difficult child need?
    There were other days when difficult child was just being oppositional vs. irritability. I never could make a point when he was irritable.

    Taking a walk away from the situation when difficult child and I were engaged was my best tool. It gives me a chance to ask myself what I'm trying to accomplish. If I'm going to "blow" I want to make sure it's for the right reason, I guess. I still want to cause no harm but never, ever be a doormat.

    The more you tell yourself that it's not your fault that he is miserable the better you are at disengaging. At 17 the rules of engagement are different than when in elementary school. He has some responsibility for his attitude. Needless to say we have a responsibility to be the adult who wants to parent to the best of our ability.

    There is a difference when a difficult child is not stable. If that is the case with a 17yr old, then your priority is to stay safe and get professional help for him.
  17. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I remember at this age, M would push my buttons, then he would try to leave (go play video games at a friends or generally not do homework/household chores, etc. which is probably what he wanted in the first place), saying he needed to step away from my turmoil. husband used to buy into that one and it made me crazy!

    I agree, 17 is too old to have to worry about his safety being alone. I hope you will find it in you to turn on your heel and walk out. Even for five minutes. Kind of like a time out when they were young to defuse the situation.
  18. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    I learned to stay calm when I realized that not doing so would only make things worse. My son was made psychotic and quite violent by antidepressants. For a long time I didn't understand why my son's personality had changed so dramatically, only that it did and it wasn't my real son. I had to change a lot about how I responded to him when he was most unstable. I don't mean to imply that I didn't respond appropriately when he was normal, just that what had worked no longer did.

    I tried to walk away but he followed. During a few of his most violent moments, I tried to get in my car and leave but he wouldn't allow me to. He was as afraid of this uncharacteristic violence within him as I was and he didn't want to be left alone.
  19. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    You know, Fran, I am wondering if that is not exactly it. I do have a huge need to be right - because I am panicked that if he does not start viewing what I say as correct, he is going to end up in a gutter or jail. My fear is fueling my anger, or the need to make my point, or be "right".

    Hmmmmppppppppffffffffff :wink:

    So, if I accept the fact he may not learn anything from his meltdown, OR my reprimand, lecture, and consequence - there is little need for me to become indignant or become filled with theatrics while in the middle of it. There is no reason "to argue my point", right? He will either learn it, or he won't, and I need to accept that he may not.
    Does that make sense?
  20. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I know when my difficult child is in the middle of a meltdown, she doesn't hear anything I say anyway. I could be right all day long, but she doesn't hear - or remember - any of it so it doesn't matter.

    I'm lucky in that for the most part she will go to her room (after I tell her) when she's in a meltdown or rage. Sometimes I have to say it loudly, but she goes. The times that she refuses I just completely ignore her. I don't engage at all. Oh...and I really, really want to. I just remind myself that engaging her will only escalate things. She'll go from 0-60 in 2 seconds flat if I engage. Then, when she's finally out of the room, I call my mom or a friend or come here and vent, vent, vent. None of it sounds pretty at that point, either. I know a few times (at least) I've vented here and it must have sounded like I can't stand my kid. The constant verbal and emotional abuse becomes too much at times.

    We become the target for our kids. It's exhausting, unfair, uncalled for and demoralizing. It's only human to hit our limit where we just can't take anymore.