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To ask how we can help teach our 8yo son to calm down after a strop?

(30 Posts)
Fabulassie Thu 05-Feb-15 11:02:27

My middle child has had a problem with tantrums from a pretty early age. Even when he was at a normal age for tantrums, his could be pretty epic. Like, storming around the house knocking over chairs and then doing this weird "I'm not leaving my bedroom after you have sent me to it." It can go on for hours.

Although he no longer tips over furniture as much, he can still get into a strop that lasts for hours. The problem is now that he will do this at school. He may spend an entire day crouching in the cloak room or somewhere refusing to participate or even come out of the classroom at the end of the day. This can start because something has upset him on the school run or if he's told off by a teacher in class. He gets really upset and can't get out of it and then will act up and compound the problem.

A few years ago I was cuddling him during one of these and I said, "baby, you need to calm down" and he said, "I can't!" I think he gets very angry and then doesn't know how to calm down - and even gets angry at himself for having been so naughty in the first place. Like, he is upset then he's told off and then he runs into a corner which exasperates parents/teachers/whoever and so he's now even more upset and he just digs a hole and can't find a way to walk away from it. I think he wants to be able to calm down and doesn't know how.

I do know that I have been able to jolly him out of some of his strops. At home, we sometimes have success with leaving him to it for a while and then perhaps he can be enticed out of his mood/corner with a bright cheerful thing to do or eat or something (so long as this temptation does not appear to be in any way related to his strop.) Obviously, at school, he can't be handled this way. He needs to be able to shake off what has upset him and move on.

How can we help him learn to do this?

hellsbellsmelons Thu 05-Feb-15 11:08:00

Get the school involved.
My DD had to have anger management session when in high school.
She's so much better now but has the occasional moments when she just can't control her anger.
She was tested for ADHD and ADD when younger. Although never fully diagnosed I'm sure has it to a certain degree.
She's 17 now and it took a lot of work with her in her earlier teens to get her through all of this.
She was a total nightmare. She's lovely now though.
Take him to the GP and ask the school to help with checks and tests to see what might be bothering him.

MmeLindor Thu 05-Feb-15 11:08:58

Hmm, I think this goes beyond a 'strop' tbh. My DS used to be very huffy, but would be a matter of 10 mins, and he was (mostly) able to control himself in school.

I found that giving him time to calm down helped, but I think if it goes on for hours, then you need to find another way of dealing with it.

Have you spoken to the teacher about this?

Fabulassie Thu 05-Feb-15 13:15:40

The teacher has spoken to us about it!

He was disciplined and it took a week of no ticking offs to win back his "golden time." Last week he was so pleased to have been good all week and gotten back his "golden time." He really does want to be good - he's a very sweet boy and sensitive.

I'm going to talk to the teacher about it a bit more at length and we'll see if there isn't some sort of "anger management" for him.

Bettybodybooboo Thu 05-Feb-15 13:31:23

Yes think you need more support here op as this seems quite extreme behaviour for 8.

Don't the school think so?

Fabulassie Thu 05-Feb-15 13:35:10

Yes, they do seem to think so. I'm not 100% sure what he's doing at school. I don't think he literally hides in a corner all day but I do know he can sulk and be uncooperative all day. I'm going to have to talk to the teacher in more detail (so far it's been his father who has talked to the teacher at picking up.)

TooHasty Thu 05-Feb-15 14:41:19


Floggingmolly Thu 05-Feb-15 14:45:41

How could spending an entire schoolday crouching in the cloakroom (hmm) possibly be ignored, TooHasty??
That is very extreme behaviour; I'd expect a referal to CAHMS, tbh.

juliej75 Thu 05-Feb-15 14:45:54

These may be a little babyish for your DS but I have a number of techniques that help my DS(5) as he has also struggled to move on from tantrums for the last few years.

We try:
- drawing a line. A literal line on the ground (grout line between tiles, floorboard edge etc). I run my finger along it then he does the same. We talk about leaving the sadness and anger on one side, then we hold hands and jump onto the 'happy' side.
- taking off his sad face. I pretend to wipe his face off as if it were a mask. I screw it up and give it to him to throw away. Then I find a happy face in my pocket and 'wipe' that onto his face.
- starting the day again. I talk at top speed about everything he's done today with a few actions (focussing only on the positive stuff!) eg getting out of bed, cleaning teeth, eating meals, walking to school etc until we get up to the moment when the tantrum started and we can bypass the action that set him off.
- asking him to describe the 'crossness'. Where is it? (always his tummy!) What colour is it? What shape is it? You can get increasingly silly (does it have 7 eyes on stalks and a bare bottom?) which seems to distract.

We're 'lucky' in that our DS always tantrums at home with us so it's easier to deal with, but perhaps some of the above could be adapted for your DS to do in his head, or perhaps with a bit of input from teachers?

I would also ask the teachers to make sure that, once your DS is feeling better, he is allowed to move on and not be reminded of the tantrum. I think it is very hard for a child to cheer themselves up if they think attention will be drawn to their behaviour or they will have to explain/justify etc.

TooHasty Thu 05-Feb-15 14:48:38

How could spending an entire schoolday crouching in the cloakroom (hmm) possibly be ignored, TooHasty??

why not? He is just waiting for attention

Johnogroats Thu 05-Feb-15 14:52:13

My 8yo can be a stroppy little bugger, but only at home. His teacher thinks he is angelic hmm. And even at his worst he isn't that bad.

Agree that this is something that you need external professional help on as others have advised.

hellsbellsmelons Thu 05-Feb-15 14:57:33

Aaahhh.... TooHasty if only it was always that simple.

Bananayellow Thu 05-Feb-15 15:19:47

I don't know what the answer is, but what you are all doing now clearly isn't working. I think you need outside agencies to get involved to hèlp you with more strategies. I do like julies ideas though.

KerPlunkKid Thu 05-Feb-15 15:34:37

My DD7 does this, something minor upsets her, she overreacts and just keeps digging. Most recently something in a swimming lesson upset her, she swam into the middle of the pool in the deep end and would not come out-a lifeguard had to go in blush
Afterwards she cant tell what upset her and promises not to do it again.

Things is ~I have Aspergers and wonder if she's somewhere on the spectrum. However aside from that behaviour she is bright, articulate, popular, athletic ie has no signs of ASD

MmeLindor Thu 05-Feb-15 19:19:06

Ignoring isn't an option when a child is sulking for an hour. Why should the entire family/class suffer through that?

I like Jule's ideas. One thing that worked for me was talking about feelings, and allowing him to be upset. Don't say 'oh, come on, it's not worth getting that upset about', but 'I can see how upsetting that was for you'.

And then move on. What you really want to avoid is him being the 'sulky one', because I think that could really cement his behaviour.

Sunnysideup5883 Thu 05-Feb-15 19:29:47

Yes I think you should consider high functioning Aspergers. ASD. Look on the national autistic website for traits.

It might be worth him having a 'safe place'. Somewhere he can go when stressed/upset to calm down.

PiperIsTerrysChoclateOrange Thu 05-Feb-15 19:33:53

Is he able to write, if so could you buy him a diary in which he writes down his feelings.

PiperIsTerrysChoclateOrange Thu 05-Feb-15 19:34:40

Ds is ASD and this doesn't always work but ear defenders help or distraction.

TeenAndTween Thu 05-Feb-15 19:36:15

We have recently had a milder version of this with DD2, where it was taking her up to an hour to calm down (only exploding at home).

Our experiences may not be at all relevant, but:

- it seemed to be linked to self esteem issues, mainly coming from feeling 'less good' than others at school, coupled with emotional immaturity

Best way to handle for us:
- letting her go away to start with, not trying to 'force' her to comply
- then after 10 or 15 minutes sitting nearish (but not too close)
- then budging closer
- eventually she'd let us hug her
- empathy that she was sad/cross
- not going on about it afterwards
- lots of praise wherever possible

School have
- done work to improve self esteem, including regular writing in home-school book of things she has done well each day
- started ELSA sessions with her (Emotional Literacy Support)

Our experience of ELSA sessions as a family (elder DD accessed when in primary too) is they have been great. A trained adult who can help them 'unpick' their feelings in a safe environment, and can give them coping strategies. I strongly recommend you ask school about them. A session one or twice a week will save them hours in the long run.

mommy2ash Thu 05-Feb-15 19:37:21

I would get him some lessons in meditation the breathing exercises can be very helpful to give kids enough time to calm their emotions

JamesAndTheGiantBanana Thu 05-Feb-15 19:53:12


JamesAndTheGiantBanana Thu 05-Feb-15 19:57:07

Oops! Pardon me, that was me carrying a baby and a phone I apparently hasn't closed down. Was reading with interest as I have a similar boy. Sorry! confused

Fabulassie Thu 05-Feb-15 20:12:31

I like the idea of talking to him about how he's cross and helping him to "wipe off" the sad face, etc. I do think that if I can take the time to sit and empathise with him, it can be helpful. However, his strops tend to be about things like having to stop playing and put on his coat and go to school because we'll be late if he doesn't. His strops are rarely at convenient times!

He's not ASD or anything (my brother and his older brother are, so I'm familiar with those.) He's just very sensitive and emotional and emotionally immature.

capsium Thu 05-Feb-15 20:21:15

Could you get him to write down why whatever upset him and plan a resolution with him?

For example the stopping playing to go to school, you could talk about how he has to leave at a particular time and agree a detailed time table for him. Get him a digital clock. You could even set warning alarms, 10 mins, 5 mins till tidy away time etc.

MmeLindor Thu 05-Feb-15 20:21:33

Do you give him enough warning when you are leaving?

I found that using a timer or alarm clock to give 10 min warning worked well with DS.

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