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Does anybody else need to restrain their 6yo?

(31 Posts)
BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 12:02:14

It's only day one of the holidays sad <welp>

Does anybody else's 6yo (7 in Oct) have tantrums like this? After being told he couldn't go on the tablet until after lunch (which he already knew) DS pulled food off shelves and onto the floor, stamped his foot, shouted and threw things at me. I think he was semi in control, because he held off picking up totally hard plastic/glass/metal objects and instead went for bits of cardboard which he'd emptied out of a recycling bag.

I told him to go to his bedroom and calm down, which just escalated things, so I took him there. Sometimes in this case he will then go and stay but this time he kept opening the door and laughing manically and refusing to stay in, so I sat down on the floor and held him in my lap. (I know from experience that if I just ignore his coming back out he will come back and start throwing and pushing things over again, and holding the door closed just turns into a game which he finds hilarious). But I'm not that strong and he was having a great time fighting against me and I know his stamina will outlast mine so I ended up pinning him to the floor and sitting on him blush

Unfortunately that just led to a state where he swung between enraged screaming/crying and reaching for anything to throw at me, almost reaching something triumphant laughter and trying to stove my head in with whatever he could reach and frightened crying where he was saying "I can't breathe... let me go" (he could breathe, he was panicking though). sad I desperately don't want to push him into a state of panic because I don't think it's the right thing to do but if I let him go then he was just attacking me and going back into that destructive mode and I can't let him do that. I don't know what else to do!

Kept talking calmly/reassuringly to him to try and get somewhere. I suggested other things he could do to calm down. Eventually he got to a point where he was accepting of other suggestions and he agreed to sit and drink a glass of milk, which he did. Then he sat down and cried and we talked about it. He said he had three feelings: Annoyed, worried and scared. I told him I was sorry for making him scared and I didn't want to make him scared but that I needed to take control when he cannot control himself and I need him to help me think of another way I can help him calm down when he is getting really mad and throwing things because it is not okay to do that. I told him that I will do whatever I need to do to make him safe, he said it made him feel the opposite of safe. He says the only thing that I can do to calm him down when he feels like that is to give him what he wants. I said that is not an option. There are other ways to get what he wants, but also that sometimes the answer is just no and he needs to be able to accept that. (And mentally, I'm going why don't you get this yet? I've never given in to screaming violent tantrums ever.) I reminded him he can go and punch a pillow, count to 10 and breathe, splash cold water on his face, draw a picture of how he feels, if he starts feeling too angry and wanting to throw or push things. We had a long cuddle and he moaned about being bored and then he went off to do something else.

I am drained and exhausted and I need to know what I am supposed to be doing in this situation? And whether it is normal, because it doesn't feel normal. Thanks in advance if you read this far!

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 12:04:20

Oh and I still need to get him to clean up the food he spilled, but I thought I'd let him calm down first.

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 12:05:43

Oh. Scratch that. He's just done it perfectly happily confused

JiltedJohnsJulie Mon 10-Aug-15 12:07:06

Bertie sorry haven't got time to reply but you are not alone. Will try to pop back later brew

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 12:11:23

Thanks Jilted smile Luckily he seems happy for now so perhaps he's got it out of his system for a bit confused

swisscheesetony Mon 10-Aug-15 12:13:48

Bertie - you are not alone. DS1 is 5 and I've been dealing with this for at least 18 months thinking "just a phase" until I broke down in tears at a pre-school group where I held him in my arms to stop him attacking other children and he bit me, screamed and punched me.

He trashes his room deliberately and seven (!) times this morning I asked him to get dressed because we're going out. He just didn't hear if that makes sense and screamed and cried because he thought I was going out without him... 7 times I told him I wasn't. When I was sat on the loo - I'd told him twice I was going to the loo - the third time I was sat on the loo telling him I was there - he ran out of the house screaming because he thought I'd gone out without him. sad

Anyway, after the pre-school incident I spoke to his nursery teacher and said I wanted a professional to "take a look", she was not in the least bit surprised.

You're not alone. x

mawbroon Mon 10-Aug-15 12:26:46

We are mostly out the other side of this phase with ds1.

I found that nothing seemed to work until I realised from talking to him afterwards that whatever triggered it (often a no to screens) was usually the straw that broke the camel's back and there was usually a whole catalogue of seemingly minor things bothering him.

Often now he will come to me and ask to talk rather than exploding, but it has taken a few years and many outbursts to get there. Most of the time, talking is enough, but sometimes we come up with solutions to try to sort whatever is bugging him.

I think he also uses screens to zone out from difficult emotions so if a no to screens causes a seemingly over the top outburst then there's usually more to it.

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 12:55:51

Interesting mawbroon, thanks (I remember your name from breastfeeding days smile)

He was "skittish" today noticeably. I wonder if the no screens in the mornings thing is a good idea. He has been so active at Kindergarten and now I'm asking him to do calm things inside. And I've noticed his frustration trigger is so narrow recently. He got a ping pong set and I was showing him he has to practise just balancing the ball on the bat first and see how long he could do it for. Well, when he was increasing by 1 second each time, then he was happy, but as soon as he got a 2 second after reaching 10 seconds, he was screaming and crying. It's not like him - he usually does try things a few times (and then he gives up very dramatically).

He is probably nervous about starting school. He only found out a week ago that his best friend is not going to the school, after thinking that he was. He's been tearful and quick to anger since then. Even yesterday I made him a toastie and he asked if there was ketchup in it, I said no and he stamped his foot and made a "HMPH!" sound like a toddler. And then immediately said "Oh no actually it's fine". confused It's like the reaction is there so fast I can't pull him back from it or pull him up on it and then as soon as it's happened it's gone but if I say "I don't like the way you said that" then he gets all attitude-y in response.

DS does not trash his room. He generally doesn't do anything catastrophic, he has that much control. But he has had episodes like this since he was about three and I have never really found a concrete way of dealing with them. DH can do holding him in his lap easier than I can and that seems to help.

BackforGood Mon 10-Aug-15 13:26:25

Am on my way out now....but just to reassure you, my ds was like this at 7.
Will try and come back tonight or tomorrow. Just wanted you to know - it's not you, it's the way they are wired.

swisscheesetony Mon 10-Aug-15 14:04:19

Oh yes, screen time is definitely a trigger. I tend to hide all devices because it just leads to meltdowns.

I have proper breaking of furniture, pulling the curtains down style blow-ups. sad

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 14:17:48

It's odd because we've gone with a ticket system for screen time and he's very good at accepting that if there are no tickets left then no more screens. But this is the first holiday since we brought that in several months ago (holidays much further apart here) and so I hadn't tried restricting it for a part of the day before. But, I do think that he ought to be able to cope with being told not yet? And blimey, I was only trying to make sure he didn't run out of tickets by 10am and then be bored for the rest of the day grin

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 21:02:36

Update is that he kicked off about something else - I don't even remember what. I think I was trying to talk to my mum on skype and he wants to join in, which starts nicely but then it becomes a show where he just wants to see himself doing ever increasingly silly things on the screen, he doesn't have a conversation, it all goes a bit wrong. So he was hanging off me and stuff and I couldn't get him to calm down. Ended the call of course and then he still didn't leave off the same stuff, so this time I shut myself in a bedroom and sat against the door so he couldn't get in. Then I get the repeat. Kicking the door repeatedly, running the length of the flat in order to launch himself against it (worries me as he's doing this right next to another door with glass panels!), hanging off the door frame doing the laugh/frustrated scream/cry/laugh cycle again. Just manic. He got the door open a crack and started posting flip flops and bags and bits of brio and whatever he could find through, which he thought was great fun. Managed to get those out and close the door. He is shouting "This is JUST THE SAME as when you sat on me. I HATE you when you do this!" (So my call that this was less scary/panic inducing was incorrect then.... right-o!) Eventually starts saying that he is hungry and I said I needed him to calm down and promise not to throw things at me before I will come out. And also that it would be nice if he said sorry. He did say sorry, but he didn't have any clue what he was saying sorry for.

I have done the locking myself in a room thing before, and DH was really against it, because he thought that it meant DS would feel like he had won. I just feel like when I'm out of options...? I think it's better than trying to restrain him. I mean, he's doing it for a reaction, he doesn't want anything else. He even said "I'm going to go on the playstation now mummy!" I said that was fine if he wanted to pay a ticket. He claimed he didn't, but then he didn't go on the playstation. Presumably because then it would take him away from what he was focusing on - ie, bothering me!

I do see DH's point that locking myself in a room to avoid my child seems crazy and like the power balance is all wrong, but I don't know what else to do!

mummytime Mon 10-Aug-15 21:31:17

I think you would do well to start to look at your son as very unhappy right now.
He is stressed about: starting school, starting school without his friend, being out of his usual routine, feeling he needs to grow up.
Then you do an activity like the ping pong one, well I can't see any of my children not ending up having a screaming match if you carried that on too long. They are all hyper competitive, and eventually through tiredness or whatever you will start doing less well. You should have stopped after he'd got a 10 seconds. You should also show him you make mistkes (maybe even fake dropping it.) Also praise him for effort and keep trying so long, not the actual achievement.

Screens can be great for some children, as an opportunity to destress. If you aren't going to allow that you need to find another destress activity that works for him.

Also realise that transitions are always extra stressful (stopping thing A to do thing B).

Your son is still little.

Was it a tantrum or a meltdown?

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 21:55:41

The ping pong thing happened after about thirty seconds of playing, and was just an example. On that day he was actually very happy but it was hot - over 30 degrees in our house, which frays everyone's temper, and close to bedtime. I wasn't actively doing it with him, as I was doing something else at the time, but he was frustrated at first because he couldn't do anything with it, so I was trying to break it down into stages for him. DH helped him too. But when playing something like Uno, for example, he is fine with losing. He takes it well, says "Good game!" and is quite happy. Of course, he likes to win, too! But he's fine with losing and doesn't see that as a failure. He also likes to play games on the tablet where he will have to take several attempts to beat a level, or something, and again that doesn't frustrate him as much. Occasionally a tricky one will after multiple attempts, which I consider quite a normal reaction (as well as a cue to take a break.) I did not consider it a normal reaction to react angrily immediately after failing at something one time. But perhaps it was just bad timing on that particular day.

From that list I'd say it was a tantrum rather than a meltdown. And this is the first time that he's done such a thing in months, so I don't know that I would class him as "very unhappy". He gets anxious, like many children, and (I think normal for his age) every emotion is multiplied. At the moment every day is classed as "the best day EVER" or "the worst day in my life". He is very happy to talk about feelings and we talk about them a lot. There are some other children he plays with going up to the same school, so he won't be completely on his own. It's a large school with multiple classes but they normally put children from the same kindergarten together, I am told.

I do allow screen time, and it does help him destress, always has, but I won't let him have an expensive electrical item when he's throwing stuff around. That just seems nuts. Aside from the whole rewarding bad behaviour thing it just seems like a recipe for it to get broken. And he behaves worse when allowed totally unlimited screen time with no breaks, so the ticket thing does work well usually. Just an experiment really to try to structure the days a bit without preschool, to prevent us winding each other up and trying to kill each other (going well, huh? smile)

BertieBotts Mon 10-Aug-15 22:14:13

Interestingly another thread has just made me notice that although DS is aware of swearwords he does not use them when he is in these moods. He says I hate you, he says poohead, stinky bum, etc, you are the worst mummy, I'm going to punch you in the face, (always countered with no, you won't, we don't punch people) but he doesn't go all out with the absolute worst things he knows.

He lost two tickets today, one for respecting others and one for being (age appropriately) responsible.

Tomorrow I'm going to try and get out and about a bit rather than staying in.

mummytime Mon 10-Aug-15 22:54:44

Getting out always helped my DC. In fact if we weren't out by about 9 ish with my eldest the day would be bad.Housework would go to pot in favour of sanity.

Personally I never used tickets etc. But thats your choice. I agree I wouldn't hand over an ipad to a child in the middle of a tantrum, but if I could see them getting wound up/tired, I might distract them with it.

Swear words don't normally mean anything to children of this age, so won't occur to them to use in a tantrum. Now words like "idiot" or "stupid" occur much more along with "poo head" and "bum".

My DS once got into trouble at school over a drawing him and another child did, an anatomically correct drawing of a little boy. Now the bit my DS thought was "rude" was the belly button not the penis (I thought his teacher was a bit silly and making a mountain out of a mole hill).

Crazyqueenofthecatladies Tue 11-Aug-15 09:31:50

Screens are a big trigger for strops in my ds, TV seems fine, but the tablet drives him batshit - and it seems to have triggered two of your dss' hissy fits. We've one week left before school goes back up here but the only time he's been on the tablet for five weeks has been on a six hour train journey. He's like a different child. It's amazing.

BertieBotts Wed 12-Aug-15 13:38:55

Back to feeling like a failure again today, SIGH.

DS has been complaining of tummy ache for the last few nights, I'd said if he still had tummy ache today we'd go to the doctor, and then later DH pointed out that DS had been eating haphazardly and was probably hungry.

So today before we went out I wanted him to eat some lunch. It started off well but then instead of eating he decided to come and wave sausage skin in my face. I took it off him but he wouldn't sit down and eat and I said okay, eat in your bedroom then. He didn't want to eat alone so he came out with the sandwich, no amount of scary voice did anything so I threatened and ultimately did take the sandwich and put it in the bin.

Cue giant tantrum again. I did actually manage to get him in his room this time and just held the door closed. Took about 15-20 mins for him to calm down. We made a new sandwich together. Lots of drama about sitting properly, needing it cut, etc. Eventually "I'm not hungry". Oh you must be ill then. Go and lie down.

Nope, not hungry, not ill, just determined to drive me insane. We can't go out because I am not buying him lunch out and I can't take the sandwich with us as it's a messy one. Probably soggy by now. We really NEED to go out. The errand is not urgent but getting out of the house is kind of necessary. But I also can't back down on insisting that he eat something before we go! Argh!

This is what it was like when he was three, and why I can't stand three year olds. He's NOT like this when he has school, just now. <might phone up holiday club and beg them>

BertieBotts Wed 12-Aug-15 13:41:02

Ticket system does work well for us, I don't need to change that.

Ah well. Only three hours until work time grin

BackforGood Wed 12-Aug-15 15:13:59

Like mummytime - I had to get out for a few hours with my ds every day. People used to liken it to having a dog - you have to exercise them.

Quite often I'd incorporate necessary jobs into the day - get going in the morning to do the supermarket shop for example, getting him "helping" with that, knowing that once that was done then we'd be off to the park / country walks/ forest walks / swimming / wherever. Not every outing was someone particularly exciting, but just needed to be out in the fresh air, moving about, and being stimulated by seeing different people and different things.

I know you have just given us things as little snapshot examples, but some - like the food - I think he's just being given too many chances with. I found ds much more settled with simple rules that were always stuck to - eat at the table and eat what's given, or go without....... no screens before 3.30/4 (time would normally get in from school, or Nursery).....etc. Impose them from the start and the battles are fewer. Just make it non-negotiable (say, like wearing seatbelt on a journey which he never liked, but it was non-negotiable). The first chink of you weakening is punced upon otherwise.

Not meaning to criticise in anyway, just saying what made life easier here. Not that he ever made life easy, just easier. But to give you hope, he's downstairs now cooking a full roast dinner for tonight, and asking if I'll nip out and gt some ingredients as he wants to make a homemade pud as well - there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though it seemed in short supply when mine was your ds's age.

BertieBotts Wed 12-Aug-15 16:31:57

Ah, I only tried to make him eat in his room because it seemed my presence was making him act up. Perhaps I should have removed myself. I would normally say just eat it or don't eat it, but I really wanted him to eat something, because of this tummy ache business (which I'm sure is just a ruse to be awake at 9pm, BTW). I had felt like a bit of a failure for not enforcing proper meals the day before so I was trying to do that today, and it just became a battle point.

I do totally agree about making rules non negotiable, but I feel like I do, but he negotiates anyway and I don't know how to make him do something.

Neighbours actually asked if everything was okay because he was making so much noise today sad I'm about to go to work but I've asked DH if he can do something nice with him because today has been one long fight/ignoring each other/as soon as we get in the same room something else was sparked.

I should have just gone into town anyway. Though I dread to think what the trip home would have been like!

I'm trying not to think about this too much because it's upsetting me a lot, but we'd just been through 2, 3 years of behaviour like this and I really thought it was over and was able to actually do fun things with him and enjoy his company, and if it's not over and I can't then that's just really depressing. It had got better! I know there's something which will click and it will be better again but I am struggling to see it and I am at a loss as to how to deal with anything when even a simple thing like eating lunch is totally impossible.

We are planning to go meteor hunting tonight. So hopefully, that will be fun. That should give tomorrow a slower start and then we can go and do the shopping in the afternoon or go to the pool if it's too hot to do that (forecast 37).

headoverheels Wed 12-Aug-15 18:31:36

Hi Bertie, I don't want to worry you, but just to let you know that this sounds similar to my friend's DS who has now been diagnosed with PDA. Have you ever considered having your DS assessed?

BertieBotts Wed 12-Aug-15 20:57:38

Hi headover. I have actually heard of PDA as I find I cross posts with PolterGoose a lot who is very knowledgeable about it smile But while some things are spookily descriptive of DS, he doesn't fit into other parts of it at all. For example, his speech has always been excellent (he is now bilingual), and he's never really been one for imaginative play. He will play at being characters with other children but they just run around and chase each other with different names every time.

headoverheels Wed 12-Aug-15 22:50:49

My friend's son's speech is fine. Not quite sure about imaginative play thing.

BertieBotts Thu 13-Aug-15 13:51:11

Two of the major diagnosis points for PDA are speech delay (which may catch up to normal levels later) and very strong imagination/lots of imaginative play to the point that it bleeds into real life and the child has difficulty separating real and imaginary. DS fits some of the behaviour parts (though I also watched the documentary with the girl with PDA and he is not quite the same - similar in flashes, but not in all situations) but he doesn't fit those two background parts. From what I know about SN and neurodiversity etc it's not enough just to meet behaviour symptoms because behaviour symptoms are just the very surface level, if that makes sense. So you need to look at the parts which seem totally unrelated because those are usually the key, although it's very difficult because often the totally unrelated seeming parts are really hard to pin down for diagnosis.

I'm currently waiting on assessment myself for ADHD so if it turns out I have that then the spotlight will turn onto whether or not DS has it which could also explain some of the issues. But that will get picked up (or not) when he starts school, anyway.

Last night's walk went really well, and gave me hope because I had my normal child back (yay!) we did some cleaning up this morning and we are about to head to the pool in around 10 minutes. He has had some lapses into manic silliness but I have been able to head them off and redirect a bit and fingers crossed he will save all of his manic energy for splashing around and we can have some fun smile Then tomorrow, dramatic temperature drop so town ought to be achievable.

He's still not really eating. But maybe he's just too hot to eat. I don't feel like eating when I am hot, either.

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