Son has a meltdown at a fireworks show



Neighbor asked if my and difficult child wanted to go to the fireworks downtown in the city. We said sure. So, neighbor drove to park and ride, took the bus to the city. Walked around the lake front for a nice place to sit. It was cold last night. So we found a perfect spot, in front of a building Lake side. But the walkway was kind of like a bridge, over the water. When we said we were going to sit there difficult child totally lost it. Said he is not staying there he will leave, find his own spot, and he took off. Now this is downtown Milwaukee, summerfest is going on, drunks all over the place and difficult child is gone.
So, we went looking for him, used friends cell phone to call him, no answer. He finally appears and says he will not sit there. I went to him and grabbed his shoulders. Told him to STOP. He started hitting me. Never has he ever hit me. I lost it...neighbor told me to take a walk, they will all stay on land.
I took a walk, cooled down. When I came back, neighbor stopped me and told me not to say a word to difficult child. Not to ruin the evening. I didn't ruin it,,he did. He was so upset though he couldn't breathe, and neighbor was getting him to calm down, take deep breaths when I left. As the night went on, difficult child acted as if nothing ever happened. I cannot forget how he acted. I cannot forget he was hitting me and he took off. I am just so very upset still. Haven't brought it up today.


I wonder if your difficult child had anxiety about the spot chosen to sit. And I wonder why it was so important for you to sit there if he was freaked out about it.

If this occurred with my son, I would ask him why he objected to sitting there and then how we could work together to find a solution that was acceptable to everyone. When you work together, you avoid the meltdown (including the hitting).

Have you read The Explosive Child yet?


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The truth is, difficult child needed to do what he was supposed to. He flipped out, getting lost etc....that was it...he should have left immediately. None of theis , "don't say a word", business- he got his way, and he didn't even get reprimanded. What do you think will happen next time? Something similar. I think he should have been removed, and next time go back with a reminder like: you need to stay with us etc... or we leave. Then he will learn the right way. Next time, try that. I think he should not be kept from places like that, so he can have lots of opportunities to be succesful. Which will be met with praise. -Alyssa


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Maybe I am biased due to my difficult child being anxiety ridden and also Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

My daughter can not even sit in the same room if the volume is not on an even number.
I would have assumed he was fearful of sitting on a bridge. And I would have offered to take him some place else to sit. If you did not have time for that because he took off and I am sure that made you quite emotional from the fear of harm coming to him, what were you trying to accomplish when you grabbed his shoulders. You told him to STOP. He was about to meltdown, telling him to stop will only make it worse. I think this is what your neighbor was trying to tell you when she said to take a break and to not say a word to him.

If I were you, I would tell difficult child that his running made you so fearful that you could only think about what harm could have happened to him and not about his feelings or thoughts that caused him to run in the first place. You realize now that grabbing the shoulders and telling him to stop was not the best way to handle the situation and see if he can tell you what he really wanted you to do or what he thinks the best things for you to do would have been.
He is 12, he should be able to think through that.


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My gut feeling from what you described was that he was panicked about sitting on a bridge of some sort. I can relate to that fear. If I had thought I was going to be sitting someplace on dry land and suddenly found myself on a high bridge, I would panic too.

He is 12, had a cell phone and told you he was gonna sit someplace else. No he didnt act nicely but he didnt leave town without a forwarding address. He panicked. He probably should have told you what he was feeling but if he could do that he would be 30 instead of 12!

I wouldnt be mad at him. This is probably something he cant help. People have fears. Remember this for future reference.