Oh my, what a night! Long, sorry so much stress


New Member
Well, our difficult child just got back from her weekly visit with her Bio Mom, and it is the first week since her bio mom got back home from Rehab. We always have problems the day she vists mom, but tonight was exceptionally horrendous....

Homework took....let's see.....7 hours to complete tonight. She got home at 5 and started to work on it, and JUST went to bed at midnight. Bear in mind, she only had ONE subject, MATH to complete homework in, and really, only about 10 or 15 problems.....

During the last seven hours, we endured like, 5 or 5 horriffic meltdowns, and I discovered our difficult child's new "outlet" since she is no longer threatening suicide, banging her head on the walls or floors, and has decided that she doesn't particularly enjoy cutting herself. She decided it would be nice to try to suffocate herself.... she put one hand over her mouth and used the other hand to plug her nose and just sat there with her eyes clenched shut for what seemed like forever. I kept insisting that she remove her hands from her face (all the time trying not to make physical contact with her by moving her hands myself, because touching her at all when she is raging makes things a million times worse and will turn her violent in the blink of an eye....) I finally told her that if she did not remove her hands from her face I was going to call crisis. That prompted her to listen, because in our county, any call to crisis means an automatic 6 month course with an intervention worker coming to your school several times a week during this time, which she JUST completed her last course two weeks ago, and she absolutely HATES her crisis worker, so she did NOT want to have to go back into that again. Don't get me wrong, I don't think she was really in any "danger" because if she did it long enough to pass out, her hands would fall away and she would start breathing again, but there is always the matter of what happens when you deprive the brain of oxygen for that long, plus I am always worried that there is that small chance that she might NOT start breathing again....

I just don't understand what is going through her head when she does this stuff. I mean, she will go for days that you can tell she is REALLY trying to behave, and just when we get to a place where we start to think that MAYBE she has figured it out, she goes and does something like this, and it doesn't even seem like she tries.

I read the Explosive Child and I have been trying to put some of the techniques into place in our home, but the biggest thing we have going against us is that I honestly don't beleive that our difficult child is "unable to control" her outbursts. She riles people INENTIONALLY, and she will tell you that she does it intentionally, just to see how far she can push things, and she doesn't lose control until we "p*ss her off" as she says... which doesn't make much sense to me, because that is such a self-destructive attitude and I am not sure which would worry me more. Having a child that CANNOT control their outbursts or having one that CAN control their outbursts and CHOSES to have outbursts like this on a regular basis???????? Any adivce? Comfort? It has been such a LLLOOOONNNNGGG night!!!!


New Member
WOW! It does sound like a horrible night. I'm sorry. It's hard taking care of a child that is not yours. I did it for 12 years, and it put me in a hard position. It was a lot of work...I feel your pain.


New Member
Well first let me say sorry for the bad night of homework. I have been there many a time myself.

I would venture to guess that she does not have control of her outburts, it is typical ODD it appears they do and that is the frustrating part.

Personally I would have put the homework away and let her suffer natural consequenses of not having it done for school, just did that with one of mine tonight, just would rather do ANYTHING than homework, so I let it go. When she gets another failing grade on the test, she wil have consequences for that.

Sometimes it is just not worth the fight to do the homework, I know it is important, but was it really worth it?? It will make HER feel good tomorrow when she turns it in, but at what cost? How did it make you feel tonight?

Hope tomorrow is a better day for you.



Active Member
Coupla things -

1) The homework. It sounds to me like you guys weren't the wones pushing her to do her homework, she was motivated, bus stressing about it. Am I right? I get this from easy child 2/difficult child 2 and difficult child 3 - they want to get the work done but get so worked up and frustrated they make life miserable for anyone within earshot. I'm not so much pushing them to do their work, as hosing them down so they don't explode. And keeping the attitude of "I'm not going to help you if you take it out on me" does work for me, better than anything else. The help I give - I will tutor for a maths problem, I will encourage, "buck them up" and generally be around. Rub their back, bring a snack, that sort of thing. But only if they're being nice to me. I recognise that the meltdowns are anxiety-based, but I still won't stick around for them. They have to calm down and come and fetch me, if they want me. Instead, I go to my room and read a book. I shut the door to my room if their noise is bothering me. if they get physically aggressive with the computer, I throw them out (regardless of where the work is at) because I can't risk damage to expensive equipment.

2) Didn't you ever read Dr Spock? Kids do the breath-holding thing around 12 months and up. They do it to get a reaction - it's pure emotional blackmail. It IS far preferable to cutting or other forms of violence, but she's doing it because it is working - you reacted. You threatened. And there really is no need.
Because another point Dr Spock made, is that the best thing you can do when a kid holds their breath is to walk away. Ignore. If, by some amazing feat of personal strength they succeed in overcoming the urge to breathe and fall unconscious due to lack of oxygen, they will no longer be holding their breath. The body will take over and they will breathe again.

Don't fall for her blackmail. Do not react. Walk away. But also recognise - she is panicky and afraid. Seeing her mother is making her all the more unsettled and she is trying to re-establish the ground rules for interaction, each time she comes back.

I'm going to give you a crash course in how the human body works, with oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. You should be mightily reassured, as well as better equipped to respond in as laid back a way as possible to the threats. You don't need to touch her. Some people used to throw a glass of cold water on a breath-holder, but that is considered assault these days (the cold water would cause them to almost instinctively take in a deep breath, a gasp).

Our bodies respond automatically to blood levels of carbon dioxide. They do NOT respond to oxygen levels, which is how breath-holders can even try this trick. But there is always a balance between oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels. So the body only worries about one of them. Carbon dioxide. We breathe in air which contains about 20% oxygen and a fraction of a percent of carbon dioxide. What we breathe out contains about 5% carbon dioxide and about 10% oxygen.
Our cells are constantly working and living. This means that even if we're asleep, each cell is using up oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. Both these gases travel in the bloodstream, attached to the red blood cells. There is a tiny group of cells on both sides of your neck which actually measure the carbon dioxide levels in the blood. They then send signals to the brain stem to either speed up or slow down breathing, according to whether carbon dioxide levels are low or high. (Example: when we exercise, our bodies burn oxygen faster, much faster, and carbon dioxide builds up really fast, so our lungs end up taking bigger and faster breaths to blow off all this extra carbon dioxide).
If you like to swim underwater, you might have tried hyperventilating or overbreathing before taking that one big breath and diving in. It is very dangerous. A person who takes a lot of breaths, deep and fast, is forcing a faster breathing rate onto a body which doesn't need it. The carbon dioxide levels drop to very low. This on its own isn't dangerous, but it does reduce the urge to breathe, because there is no signal coming in from those cells on the neck. (A surgeon may get his patient onto pure oxygen, just before making an incision. This causes a short period, a couple of minutes maybe, in which the patient doesn't breathe, because the body has no need to).
Then the person takes one big, deep breath. In goes a lungful of 80% nitrogen (inert to our bodies), 20% oxygen and a fraction of a percent carbon dioxide, which does nothing to bring up carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

Then the person dives underwater. Now, if you do this without going underwater, you can find you can hold your breath for a lot longer before you feel the urge to breathe. You may even feel you can hold off this urge indefinitely, but eventually the urge will force you - it is irresistible. What is driving this urge is the level of carbon dioxide, slowly rising purely because the body is slowly converting the oxygen via cell metabolism.
What CAN happen - as the body is using up oxygen, the level of oxygen in the bloodstream is falling. Where does the blood get its oxygen? From that lungful which is now getting a bit stale. The oxygen level can sometimes fall too low for consciousness and the person passes out. They still may have no urge to breathe because their carbon dioxide levels are still too low for the urge to re-breathe to kick in. But at some stage their carbon dioxide levels rise high enough to trigger the breathing reflex. If the person is unconscious, they cannot over-ride this. if the person is unconscious and underwater, they drown.

So next time she holds her breath, even if she's plugging fingers in here or there, ignore her. If/when she falls unconscious her muscles will relax and she will breathe normally again. There is no chance of brain damage from trying to not breathe - you fall unconscious long before the oxygen levels get low enough to cause harm. She will be fine, until she thinks up some new way to torture you.

As for "The Explosive Child" - it IS harder when they have BiPolar (BP). It can still work well but you may need more ammunition. There is a book called "The Bipolar Child" which people here also recommend - if someone can give details that would be good.

Hang in there, keep calm.



New Member
<span style='font-size: 14pt'> <span style='font-family: Georgia'> <span style="color: #990000"> i know every parent think difficult child's getting the homework done is their (the pareent's) J*O*B. it' not! it's the kid's job to get it done. there is no homework assginment worth this kind of battle....not one! when she sits down to do homework let her know you are there if she needs help & then back off. she gets done what she gets done.

step back from the homework wars....they are basket C according to dr. greene. now i know how hard this is to do as a parent. it goes against everything our parents did & what the teachers expect. let the teachers deal with-incomplete assignments. allow natural consequences take hold. notify the teachers you are done with-this. let them deal.

visits with-bios are a huge trigger. i would work hard to make the transition very low key.....keep expectations low.

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Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Sorry for your rough night. I agree with not making homework a huge battleground. Let natural consequences kick in. The battles are so not worth it and kids that stay up til 12 doing homework are going to be tired in class the next day.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
I wonder how much of this could be PTSD rearing it's ugly head? It sounds so very familiar - kt & wm both have similar type behaviors & such. Most of the time it's anxiety related.

What sometimes works for kt here (foster mum does this for wm) is during the meltdown/rage anxiety driven behaviors to just sit & rock, while talking quietly about this & that. Eventually the calm voice begins to sink in.

I've been doing some research & I spoke with a U of M therapist yesterday about complex PTSD. During a difficult children PTSD moment, their little frontal lobes completely shut down - it becomes a fight or flight type of thing.

Many times it looks like defiance, adhd, etc. It's truly a traumatized child looking for a way to cope.

Something to consider....if I'm off base just ignore it.

by the way, Parenting with Love & Logic tends to work better for our Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)/PTSD children. It tends to put the choices in our little wonders laps while explaining the consequence & making them responsible for the outcome of their choices.

Again, just something to consider.


New Member
I am extremely grateful for the support you all have given me, and to Marguerite, for the information you supplied regarding our little breath-holding experience, Thank you. This is what I THOUGHT was the case, but I was not CERTAIN about that.

Seems everyone is in agreeance that the homework is a basket C issue, however there is one thing you must consider...the fact that our difficult child was placed with us by CPS and that they are still in charge of her until July changes EVERYTHING in regards to our priorities in the "baskets". It seems our caseworker does not have much experience with "explosive" and "inflexible" children (which surprises me, considering the trauma of being "in the system" is usually enough to make children manifest behavioral problems). So until she is officially ours, come July, instead of our "non-negotiable, basket A's" being the things that are important for her, they most definitely HAVE to be the things that CPS points out as important. The biggest of these probably being homework. This is our biggest battle and one that needs to be put on the back burner as most of you have suggested, however, the word on the street is, that CPS can have her removed from our home if we allow her to fail her classes. And it has happened once before, in her second foster home, and miraculously, in her third home, she managed mostly A's and B's on her own. But then she moved in with us and suddenly, she is set up on refusing to do any homework and she is okay with the idea of failing, because she says it is "easier than spending HER time working on SCHOOL stuff." and When I mentioned that she was dangerously close to failing, she said "I don't care".

My other problem, with the breath-holding thing though, is that it seems like she is always trying one dangerous thing after another, and it just seems to be getting worse. I mean, first she was only threatening to kill herself, never actually did ANYTHING to hurt herself, but then all of a sudden, she started doing this thing with banging her head on the wall/floor and she was doing it hard enough to leave bruises, then she tried cutting herself (thankfully, that was not a pleasant experience for her and she decided she would not try that again), but now the breath-holding thing. I just can't help but think that SOMETHING has to be done to stop this stuff before she really does something to hurt herself. But she refuses to discuss these feelings with her therapist, and I personally am not sure that her therapist is agressive enough with her at working on these issues. Her bad feelings go back a long way, and until someone takes the time to drag all that up from our difficult child and make her face it and make her deal with it, I am afraid she may not get better. I know that it will be painful and unpleasant for her to have to face all these old issues, but I fear it is the only way.


Well-Known Member
Oh, so sorry!

I agree, that the homework is her problem and she needs to suffer natural consequences. Is she afraid of going to another foster home? Would the threat of that (in re: to your note) be enough to spur her to to her homework?

Also, you can't kill yourself by plugging your nose and covering your mouth. (But don't tell her that!) Mean Mom that I am, I would have walked out of the room, and checked on her in a few min. to see if she had really passed out.
Clearly she doesn't know how to deal with-her feelings of frustration and being out of control.

The therapist sounds slow and frustrating. Sigh.

Good luck.


New Member
do you have an IEP for her? I know with my difficult child we have an IEP and when we had the meeting we specifically talked about homework, and the issues it caused. We have the right to say no to homework without it affecting her grade, if we can make it up within a week (when she is in a better place to do it) You might want to talk to the teacher(s) about a plan like this. Parenting a difficult child is hard enough, going back through school for you is just added stress you don't need. Just an idea, that might make it a bit easier for you.