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To be reluctant to tell ds (4) off for this

(32 Posts)
99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 00:43:24

Ds,4, has an interest in an obsession with his train tracks. When I say obsession I mean they are everything to him - all he plays with and he is very particular about them (builds amazingly creative tracks and doesn't like anyone else to touch/try to help etc).

He has some special needs relating to speech and lang and a pediatrician reviews him every 6 months, my brother has Aspergers and I think this is what they are monitoring.

Anyway, some of the tracks ds tried to build are not really sustainable, and will break after he has made them. At this stage, he goes completely, and utterly hysterical. It's like he totally loses control and is utterly devastated. He gets angry, and will subsequently smash up his track and shout at me. He screams for about half an hour. I am really at a loss as to how to handle this, dp thinks we should be 'stricter' with him, tell him off for outburst. I'm more reluctant, although I think we need to make clear to him it's not acceptable to throw things around/smash things up, shouting at him at the time seems to exacerbate an already chaotic situation. This is the only time I feel like I have no control over his behaviour - other than when his tracks break he never ever behaves this way.

AIBU to not tell off ds at the time, rather let him vent his frustration, providing he's not hurting anyone, and talk to him afterwards? Or am I being completely 'soft'?

CocacolaMum Mon 01-Apr-13 00:45:50

I honestly don't know.

I think my gut instinct would be to distract his attention with something else to try and stem the grief rather than have a go at him?

99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 00:51:36

I have tried everything, there is absolutely no reasoning with him, it's like the sound of my voice is a red flag to a bull when it reaches that point. I've reached a point where I've just been letting him scream, but at the same time it feels wrong. Ahh wine

CocacolaMum Mon 01-Apr-13 00:52:29

How long/often has this been happening?

99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 00:56:56

It's becoming a more regular occurrence as the tracks he's making are becoming more ambitious! They are actually fantastic, I honestly don't think even I could make them like he does. But he has bits balancing all over the place and eventually they fall/break.

The only other time he behaves in a similar way is if a drawing he's doing 'goes wrong', he's cry and screw it/tear it up and put it in bin. Nowhere near as bad as his trains though.

Shellington Mon 01-Apr-13 00:58:19

Maybe look into calming techniques, put a calm Dvd on or music or just create a corner with cushions he can retreat to?

One thought that came to mind was whether he could photograph his tracks too, with help?

Longer term, looking at a phased introduction of the idea of the non-permanence of things may be a route to consider (eg build a small tower with 3 blocks every day for a few days, break it apart, rebuild it, make patterns with it while just eating cereal or something -no pressure- then add in another brick or two, use those for a week and talk about how it's nice to change things, it's ok if it falls, it's safe and nothing to worry about... Add a few more bricks, try with other things, Etc etc?)

CocacolaMum Mon 01-Apr-13 01:00:51

Does he like Lego? Might be a good direction to steer him in.

He sounds like a very clever child rather than naughty, I agree though that it needs to be made clear that you wont put up with him making his frustration physical.

YouTheCat Mon 01-Apr-13 01:02:23

My ds used to get horribly frustrated when his tracks didn't go as planned.

If he is HFA, could you help him plan them before he builds them so he can see where the problems might be?

99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 01:02:25

Thank you Shellington, I will definitely try that. I also recall when a piece broke off his snowman and he went completely mad and smashed it to pieces. He was like a child possessed.

Photographing is a great idea! I may have to bring forward the next pediatrician appointment I think

99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 01:04:56

He likes lego but nothing compares to his train tracks, he has been obsessed with them since he was about 1. Yes planning could work too, all great ideas. Would you tell off when he's having a 'meltdown'?

YouTheCat Mon 01-Apr-13 01:12:43

I'd give him the chance to self-regulate. But also prevention is often better than cure, so if you feel he is over-tired, maybe distract with something different and save the trains for when he is more settled.

DaveMccave Mon 01-Apr-13 01:14:57

No I wouldn't punish for this, it's beyond his control.

I work with children who have autism and aspergers. I do see your dilemma, often children's parents excuse behaviour as part if their diagnosis when it's obvious to an outsider they are pandering. I can't give examples for fear if outing myself/confidentiality. There is a difference between a child tantrumming/whining/ and meltdown and that's what you need to figure out. Meltdowns happen in NT children occasionally, but not regularly and are usually specific to the SEN. Meltdowns should not be punished. It won't work anyway.

It's often hard to figure out why they are having a meltdown but you can probably tell if its a regular child tantrum or meltdown. If its the latter then distraction, comfort etc will work best. Don't try to rationalise until he is calm.

Obsessions and interests or anything that they can become super focused on are triggers for meltdowns if they are thwarted or struggle. It might be better to give him suggestions for when he's struggling, objects that will stabilise the track when you notice it's wobbly?

Try and predict the problems. Eg, we often remove toys before a particular child arrives that we know causes problems. One who also loves train tracks, has a meltdown if a particular train doesn't complete the very large track without another child touching it. If lots of other children are in we make sure it's not out. We wouldn't punish for the meltdown we'd help then to calm down. Another child has a keen interest in jigsaws but meltdowns if one is too hard, so we remove any that they would struggle with etc

Do you think you could talk to him when he is calm, about how he feels when he is struggling with the track? teach him to recognise the frustration building up and ask for help? Put together a box if things that might fix the problem, Sellotape, building bricks, etc?

Apileofballyhoo Mon 01-Apr-13 01:20:15

My DS at 4 used to get quite upset when creative things would go wrong. He could be cross or sad. Also has speech difficulties. He drew a picture the other of space and commented that the star went a bit wrong and looked like an angel (it did). A year ago or even less, there would have been a lot of balled up paper, tears, frustration, anger. Your DS is really frustrated I would think. Try and get hold of tracks that will stay together/different building toys/show him how to use supports from other toys to keep his tracks up. I gave comfort when it was accepted but I also said lots of times 'that activity makes you cross, I don't think you should do it anymore'. But I left it at his choice, to accept his own feelings or leave the activity. Really your son sounds super bright, his materials are not up to scratch and he doesn't have the emotional maturity to handle the frustration of that. Try explaining it to him. And that it upsets you and Daddy when he is so upset.

thornrose Mon 01-Apr-13 01:24:13

I have a dd with AS and in my experience shouting or telling off during a meltdown is pointless.
Have you looked at social stories? You could make one up very specific to the fact that tracks do and will break! Read it through every day, particularly before building.

happyAvocado Mon 01-Apr-13 01:24:21

I don't know much about Autism or Aspergers, but found this film has very good explanation of how perhaps your son sees his hobby
www.wimp.com/explainsautism/

I guess in his design everything is working and has logical place, so it should not break. If it does it upsets him as his reasoning says it should never break. I think this is how I understood some explanations in this film. I guess telling him off has no effect as he grieves over his design and inability of his creation to last for as long to last frustrates him.
I guess there are some strategies you can use.

My nephew has been tested for Aspergers and I have been reading articles by searching google for "how to cope frustration asperger" - there are various articles which are worth reading I think, such as
www.myaspergerschild.com/2011/10/helping-your-child-cope-with.html

totallystumped Mon 01-Apr-13 01:24:21

I would also suggest the planning help, or maybe, as he hits the frustrated bit ask him if he can think of why that span collapsed? And show him using something others than his tracks that it is unlikely to work. I would call my ds into the kitchen for that bit to get him away from the non-compliant toy, still do sometimes.

DaveMccave Mon 01-Apr-13 01:25:25

This is useful at telling the difference:

http://theautismfactor.com/meltdowns-vs-temper-tantrums/

My dd used to have terrible meltdowns and we really struggled when I was trying to discipline her through them. I used to be incensed! When I started to realise they weren't 'normal' tantrums and stopped battling with her they became much more tolerable and infrequent! She only has very mild aspie traits though and some of it has probably come with age.

Ds2 is similar. Not about trains but in terms of the meltdowns. I've learnt that reasoning and distracting are pointless, I just have to let him freak out. After a seemingly random period of time he'll abruptly switch from screaming about whatever caused the meltdown to shrieking 'i need to snuggle you'

At that point I can give him a cuddle (before this point and I'd be likely to be kicked in the face) and he calms down (usually, sometimes he starts up again within minutes)

Every child is different (asd or not, ds2 is possibly on the spectrum too) and will respond to different approaches. If intervention makes it worse then you are probably doing the right thing waiting it out.

neverputasockinatoaster Mon 01-Apr-13 09:57:23

DS has an ASD and can have the most amazing meltdowns born out of frustration if things don't go the way he has planned.

I don't punish him for the meltdowns, I get him to a safe place and wait it out! He then has to face the natural consequences of his actions ie he smashes a toy then he no longer has that toy and it won't be replaced.

At the same time we are working on anger management and giving him strategies to deal with rage.

MrsCosmopilite Mon 01-Apr-13 10:23:40

Hmm, the meltdown does sound like AS behaviour of some description, and certainly 'punishment' or being stricter won't help if that is the case.

I say this because I've a friend who has only recently been diagnosed as having AS. She's in her late 40's and thought she had bipolar depression and a form of autism. She had a smashing things up meltdown about 2 years ago, just prior to diagnosis. Her problem was that her PC wouldn't do what she wanted it to do, and she lost some saved work. Cue her throwing the keyboard and the mouse at the wall, smashing them, and kicking the screen! sad

Waiting it out, and being there to offer reassurances sound the best way at the moment, perhaps with some discussion of how to build stronger/ more stable tracks at a calmer time?

99problems Mon 01-Apr-13 10:32:35

Thank you for all your replies! I am going to show dp, so hopefully he will see other points of view and realise this is beyond ds' control.

I guess one of the hardest things is I don't know if he's on the spectrum, and actually would hazard a guess that he isn't, this is the only ASD trait he has. I think he has ADHD, which is why I took him to pediatrician in first place. Wonder if ADHD causes similar meltdowns?

However after reading that article about the difference between tantrums and meltdowns I am convinced this is a meltdown - he has lost control. He's not tantruming in the hope of achieving anything or manipulating a situation, he's not thinking about the safety of himself or others, he's just completely 'lost it'.

Some super suggestions on this thread, next time ds reacts this way I won't feel pressure to 'shout'. I guess the hardest part is friends and family not understanding and wondering why I'm 'letting him' act that way.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Mon 01-Apr-13 10:40:13

I think all you can do is try to make sure you and dh get plenty of time away from the kids to enjoy yourselves. It sounds very hard and I can see why dh wants to discipline and stop the terrible behaviour. Equally I can see that if your ds has SN it is not his fault and outside his control. A tough situation for you both.

lljkk Mon 01-Apr-13 10:55:15

ASD can be comorbid with ADHD, it isn't one or the other.
Huge challenge with children is managing expectations, if you can think of a way to convince him that every time he makes a train track it only lasts so long before it needs dismantling, instead of forever, perhaps he can choose when and how to dismantle, he may be able to cope better.

likesnowflakesinanocean Mon 01-Apr-13 10:56:13

I think that punishing the meltdown wouldnt work as in shouting or telling off whilst it is happening because he just wont be able to take it in but when everything is calm i would be talking about why it isnt acceptable to do that and what would of been a better way to handle it. When ss gets into a complete meltdown nothing you say actually goes in or gets responded too so its better that he and everyone else is safe then afterwards it will be explained why it was wrong and what would of been a better way to handle it. he does get taken off things like the nintendo wii for the day though as these meltdowns are becoming more frequently the way things go when things dont go the way he wants too and he needs to realise that kicking off because he didnt get his own way is not going to be ignored. its a battlefield and sometimes i walk away thinking ive been overly harsh, sometimes i think ive been to soft. it sounds as though your son reacts to the trains not going his way though which is abit different to a screaming meltdown because dinner isnt what he wanted so abit different again.

mummytime Mon 01-Apr-13 11:03:02

He sounds on the spectrum to me, sorry but signs are: family history, obsession with train tracks, and proper melt downs.

If he is high functioning it could be it only becomes much more obvious as he gets older. As he may be clever enough to cover up some signs.

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