How could I have cut short the violence?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Lulu, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. Lulu

    Lulu New Member

    So, another "what could I have done differently?" from us.

    N asked me to play trains with him this afternoon. I said in a friendly tone, "I can't right now, I have some work to do." [I probably should've added: "But I'll set the timer for fifteen minutes, and THEN we'll play."--would that have helped?] He threw his train across the room, and I calmly retrieved it and put it in my pocket with no words to him, not wanting to fan the flames. As I walked away he began throwing megablocks everywhere. I went back, knelt beside him, and whispered calmly, "We do not throw. Please stop." He didn't. As you are probably aware, consequences (losing the blocks/toys for a day-week-month-year-forever) just don't work at this point. So he doesn't stop, and in fact moves on to the puzzle pieces as I walk my daughter up the stairs to get her out of harm's way. He never throws them AT us, and he doesn't even throw them at the walls until a little later. He keeps looking over to me and waiting until I'm watching to throw them. So then I go back downstairs and carry him up the stairs himself since I do not want our walls ruined. Again, no angry words from me, just calm business, and quiet.

    Upstairs, he fights to get out of my grasp and find some things to throw. I try to hold him and say, "Are you mad because I wouldn't play trains with you?" [Should I not bring up the core issue during the tantrum? I thought I could get him to find some words then, but obviously, no.] Then the hitting begins. He punches at me and runs to escape my grasp over and over. Each punch is a little harder than the one before, but none hurt. Eventually hides under the table. I told him that it was perfectly okay for him to stay under there (we'd all be safer), but then he screams and runs out again at me.

    WHAT DO I DO WHEN HE IS IN THIS STAGE OF THE GAME? I tried holding, talking, ignoring, walking up to the top floor, and he was still out of control and getting more so. The way it came to a head, and this was EXACTLY what has happened in the past, he had to HURT HIMSELF, make himself cry, then ball up in my lap, sobbing. He bit his hand, pretending to try to bite my arm when I was restraining his arms from hitting me. I am astounded that he's latched on to this type of resolution, but what do I know? This sort of tantrum doesn't happen terribly often in our house, but I can tell now there's a pattern to how it plays out. I don't want my kid to have to bite and punch himself to release his sadness. :( Is there any way to stop this child in mid-riot? HELP!

    *ETA: I said the expected, "We do not hit." "We do not hurt." And especially after he bit himself and was hitting himself in the head.
  2. JulienSam

    JulienSam New Member

    Lulu --

    It sounds like you did all the "right" things, but as we know, sometimes those just don't work. Certainly getting your daughter out of the way was a good idea.

    One thing that seems to work for my husband when difficult child is in the middle of a meltdown (or on his way) is getting difficult child to laugh -- usually by tickling, but sometimes by saying silly things. It's worked for me when I've had the presence of mind to use it (although I mostly just want to throw my hands up in the air & cry).

    I don't know if this will help you with N, but it might be worth a try.


  3. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Lulu, there is no one size fits all kids answer to this question. We can give you some ideas for you to try out though.

    As soon as you saw him respond in way that was going bad, I probably would have jumped right in there and tell him I'd changed my mind and the work could wait and played trains for a bit. I know there's a concern that you'll raise a demanding little tyrant if you bend to his every wish but most parents find they can be a lot more flexible than they are. A 2 hour meltdown stops the family dead in its tracks and prevents you from getting done what you'd planned anyway.

    Many parents of Hyperlexic children find using printed language works best in critical times. Try carrying a notebook and pencil around for awhile even if he has what you see as strong speech skills.

    Try writing
    1) First Mom works for 10 minutes
    2) Then Mom plays trains with N.

    Or if he's starting to get wound up
    Do you want to play Thomas or Percy?

    Have you explored sensory integration or sensory processing dysfunction yet? It sounds as if self-inflicting pain may bring about calming and mentally help organize his thoughts so you want to find appropriate alternatives. Some kids respond well to a big pillow squashed against them or being wrapped very tightly in a sleeping bag or big quilt to provide deep pressure. The idea is to give them what they need in a preventive fashion but it can be helpful in early or late stages of meltdown.

    We've always had routines built in to deal with difficult child heading into meltdown. Those have varied depending on the age and once he caught on that he could go into that mode when he started feeling a meltdown coming or going he's been cooperative. When he was little it was a snack and a video in our tv area that is adjacent to our mini gym, early elementary it was a snack and show in alone in his room with lots of sensory calming--bean bag chair, weighted blanket, crunchy snack like crackers, juice or Sprite sipped through a straw, video series set aside for these times, etc. This gives him a routine, privacy and a calming experience.

    We also have had success by removing him from the scene of the crime. One of us drops what we're doing to take him out of there when we see it coming on--go for a drive, stop on an errand, sit in the bookstore cafe, drive through, etc. It's not very convenient but it beats the heck out of a 2 hour, family stopping meltdown.

    Put together a stash of distractions to have on hand--new books, half cans of pop, small individual servings of M&M's, licorice, etc. to offer. Some times out of the blue they'll work at home but these can be especially helpful when you're out. I sometimes used something as simple as a Tic-tac to give my difficult child enough of a distraction to get him to the van smoothly to leave for school.

    Finally, there are some children who need to vent it out entirely. If it's very disruptive, becoming habitual, or is potentially dangerous to anyone in the family (ie younger sibs) you may at some point need to talk to his doctor about medications or making a safe room. I wouldn't go there until you've been through a full evaluation process and have put interventions into place. Have you been able to get a referral?
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    There IS no "one size fits all" solution. A lot has to do with what's wrong with the child. My son is on the autism spectrum and we had to deal with him a certain way that, say, wouldn't work with a mood-disordered kid. by the way, hyperlexia is often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). My son had had hyperlexia. One thing that worked, because he was so fascinated by letter and numbers, was to start singing the alphabet or counting when he was raging. He would literally stop in his tracks and stare in fascination. Like I said, different strokes for different kids. I would get him evaulated ASAP and recommend a neuropsychologist. Good luck.
  5. Lulu

    Lulu New Member

    thanks, ladies. I am going to start an emergency stash in both the car and at home for these times. Your ideas are invaluable.

    I'm going to make a separate post about where we're at with evaluation and ask some questions.

    Here are some more questions about meltdowns like this.

    Unfortunately, he had another one today at the shoe store. He hasn't had a public meltdown in about six months. Is the effect of yesterday's bleeding over? Is it a physical/brain thing that makes it last more than a day? Or is it that he is stressing over something I don't know about? I know you don't know the specific answer, but experiences are welcome.

    Public meltdowns: he is now over 40lbs and I can't well carry him. But I had to carry him to the car nonetheless because he was becoming phsycial inthe store and trying to run away outside. apparently my arm hurt his neck as I carried him, and this made him cry, which seemed to mark the end of the tantrum, so I squatted on the pavement and held him as he cried in my lap (did I mention I have a labral tear in my right hip and am screaming my way toward surgery with these unruly children?). Meanwhile, the girl was bawling and totally uncontrollable. I started crying too.

    So, public tantrum, big guy biting my shoulder as I carry him out, WHAT CAN I DO? I need to carry the "emergency distraction kit" in my purse, I guess. And stop going out for a while, too. I had to stop taking them out last summer because they were too hard to handle. But then it got better. ARGH!!! I'm crying again.

    Do we have a calm-rational-time discussion about these moments and what we are going to do when we feel them coming on? Do I explain the notebook-and-pen option ahead of time? Do we "practice" what he can do to calm down? How much attention do I want to give these meltdowns while he is rational?

    He hit me at home once since we got back. He has been minorly destructive. He is in a mood. Do I try to get at what he might be stressing about?

    D and I are going out tonight and they will have a babysitter for the first time in a long time. They both know and like her, but I am expecting the worst. :(
  6. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I have no idea if today's incident was bleedover or not. I do know that there's a peaks, valleys, and plateau tendency for many children. As you start to tune in to what's going on you often can start seeing patterns which are helpful.

    I don't think you're likely to get any real answers by pressing him for what he's stressing out--Bits and pieces maybe. Usually on the surface it looks like defiance to parent instruction but often when you dig deeper there's often more to it. Start keeping a journal and see if you can identify triggers, common themes, etc.

    Some parents have had to greatly reduce the number of outings we normally take. The change in routine, sensory stimuli, unpredictability, etc. all made trips out difficult. Plus I came to find out that my difficult child needed a lot of downtime at home in order to just maintain--thankfully we weren't a family constantly on the go, so it didn't cramp our style too much. Also, rethink when you do your trips out--when N needs shoes, schedule it for a time when your husband can take your little one, when the store is less busy, and make only one stop. The journal should help you--something as simple as a juice box while waiting to be helped can make the difference.

    Don't explain the notebook and pen option (some kids like whiteboards) ahead of time.

    Are you using a calendar for him? This can help provide structure and give them an idea what's coming in the day to help prepare for transitions. We used a calendar identical to mine in the kitchen but hung at eye height. Used it to list the days main events and went over it in the morning during breakfast.

    I hope you got out last night and talked about something other than kids--you deserve a nice night out after the week you've been through!