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Please help me deal with DD's house trashing meltdowns.

(10 Posts)
megletthesecond Wed 19-Apr-17 09:45:33

I'm not very good at this sad. When 8yr old DD starts throwing things around (plants, water, paperwork etc) or tipping furniture over I still feel like I have to tell her off. And there isn't any point, telling her off didn't work the first 100 times so it's not going to work now is it <<sigh>>.

She has no diagnosis (the paed blamed me 3 years ago and said I need to be stricter).

Is the best way to deal with it to just pick her up and make her sit somewhere, even if its a battle and I have to hold her? Her brother is good at clearing up the mess, she will not do it, but I feel like I should be dealing with that too. It's like we have to clear up the mess before she will calm down.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Apr-17 20:04:18

Do you know why she's meeting down? The first step is always prevention, so think about what causes it (and it might not be the thing immediately before, it could be a cumulative thing and final straw) and what signs there are before she melts down. Incorporate lots of calming activities into daily life, build in lots of easy low demand time as standard.

Once a meltdown starts it's really a case of calmly riding it out, keeping her safe but not increasing demands. Once it starts it better it just happens as they can be cathartic. It's worth agreeing in advance what you'll be asking her to do, e.g. having a calming activity to offer (I always ask ds if he wants to go on the swing as that's his thing) and a room where she can do least damage.

Initially I had to make myself appear calm when ds had a meltdown, but over time it just got easier, and while I don't always stay calm (and sometimes a firm response does seem to jolt him out of it but it's a fine balance!) it's a lot easier on me when I do.

taratill Wed 19-Apr-17 20:14:29

I agree with Polter about staying calm and trying to find out what is causing the anxiety/ meltdown.

The other thing I have learned with my DS who has meltdowns without a diagnosis is to be clear that the behaviour (hitting/kicking etc is unacceptable) in an undramatic way.

Holding the child down or reacting is giving positive reinforcement to the behaviour. Once the child is calm try to focus on what they have done well in the situation not what has gone wrong. For example my DS seems to calm down quicker these days so we say something like.' I know you were upset about something but what we liked was that you calmed down quickly. Can you tell us what the matter is..... '

PolterGoose Wed 19-Apr-17 20:43:21

I'm not sure I would do all of that taratill.

- behaviour during a meltdown is out of control, you can be aware of what you're doing but not be able to stop it, knowing you'll be told off or getting told off when it's happening can make it harder to get out of the meltdown, imho ignoring is best. Look for ways to redirect rather than stop. E.g. Child likes tearing or throwing so stick a box of Argos catalogues and newspapers or foam balls nearby.

- a meltdown is an extreme anxiety attack. Some children cry when they're anxious and parents don't worry about hugging or placating those children. A child who externalises their anxiety is no less deserving of compassion and kindness and sympathy because what looks like anger and rage is almost always sadness and distress.

- it can take 24+ hours for the stress hormones to recede, so don't post-morgen the meltdown, just do nice stuff. Save the analysis for another day or week.

- 'positive reinforcement' is irrelevant unless you think a child is in control, which in the case of a meltdown they really aren't. Be neutral, it's over, move on.

- until a child can (and not all ever will be able to) learn to monitor and manage their own emotions you have to support that, you need to learn the subtle cues and act quickly (and often stealthily!), it gets easier and in time you might be able to back off. But you must listen to what your child is telling you, don't dismiss or belittle, just roll with it. Be a calming presence and believe them when they tell you how they feel.

taratill Wed 19-Apr-17 20:55:19

to be clear I don't tell DS that the behaviour is unacceptable during the meltdown as long as he is safe I leave him well alone. He can't process it.

Sometime after I tell him it is not acceptable to hit and kick. Which it isn't - we all need to be safe.

I do not hold him down when he is having a meltdown as it adds to the tension/ feeds the anxiety. And if, (bearing in mind there is no DX) there is an element of control it would be giving it, as it is showing that we are reacting to the behaviour.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Apr-17 21:09:19

I wasn't criticising, more expanding on your points. It's all about working out what works and it's a lot of trial and error. But the fundamental thing has to be that a meltdown is a loss of control and is a sign of extreme distress. As parents we need to make sure what we do doesn't add to that burden of distress.

taratill Wed 19-Apr-17 21:28:18

and it's really really tricky Polter what works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another. My DS does need to understand his boundaries for other children that probably wouldn't work.

My understanding of my Ds's anxiety is that it causes him to want to have control in our house as that is calming to him.

We have had major ups and downs but fundamentally he is a good boy and wants to do the right thing. He responds well to being told what that is when he is not having a meltdown. He also responds well to agreeing what the issues are and what the limits are.

When we kept a record of the meltdowns they seem to be over similar issues such as bed times/ coming off the screen.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Apr-17 21:38:04

Pretty much all children want to be 'good' though, meltdowns are beyond that. Knowing what we 'should' do but being unable to in the moment does make it feel worse and being in meltdown is utterly awful :-(

Having a meltdown in response to a fairly ordinary daily request is a sign of bigger things going on, as you know of course (we have to remember other people might be reading so I'm trying to clarify). Have you looked at PDA strategies?

taratill Wed 19-Apr-17 21:51:17

Hi Polter, I think there is a lot of PDA going on with my son but not been able to access all of the resources on that yet. Really sorry OP I haven't meant to hijack your post and I hope there is something useful in this for you to see.

megletthesecond Thu 20-Apr-17 09:27:07

Thanks all. Am reading and thinking smile.

Back later, got to go out shortly.

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