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Melt down dilemma - non negotiable
  • Mickrick
    Posts: 20
    We are struggling - our 4 and half year old is controlling everyone and everything. If we challenge, say no or over demand - its destruction time and hitting our at anyone close by. If we cuddle and calm - its a fight with biting. If we isolate to his room he destroys the room and accuses us of hurting us - if we stay in the room he attacks, if we stay out of the room just holding the door slightly open - he screams and accuses us of hurting him.

    To avoid this - do we just give in - do we let him wreck the house? How is he going to learn the norms of life - At the moment he is coping well at school but as soon as he enters into the family dynamic its just a matter of time before he blows.

    Someone suggested we need to be consistent - so every time he hits out at someone it should be isolation in the room and just whether the melt down storm till he tires?
    And/or - mum and other children live the house and leave him with his dad until he calms down?

    We are at a loss - they say reward and consequences don't work - we agree but surely he must understand the seriousness of what he is doing - will he eventually learn the lines not to cross if we persist in isolation and withdrawal and a way of managing?
  • RhanHRhanH
    Posts: 1,152
    Hi Mickrick, we found ourselves in a very similar situation a few years ago, no matter what we tried the behaviour carried on. We made the decision that where possible we'd put our daughter in her room as they were her things and if she chose to destroy them that was her choice. We then waited outside her room until she calmed, just offering a few reassuring words so she knew she wasn't alone and we were there when she was ready. Sometimes it took 2-3 hours!

    What we then did was to identify the reasons for the issues we were having ie. masking at school and releasing when at home, difficulty transitioning, disappointment when something didn't go to her plan, panic at bedtime, etc and then tried to find a way to make each of these things easier for our daughter to manage. We used Ross Greene's collaborative approach as outlined in his book The Explosive Child. It took several months but we began to see changes in her actions, especially when her 'trust' of the staff grew within her new school placement. Her understanding continues to grow and we work with her specialist school on things like zones of regulation and the 5 point scale, whilst continuing to work things through collaboratively before they become unmanageable.

    She now has her own set of strategies to help her cope which includes crawling into a sensory tunnel, playing with putty, blowing bubbles and more recently playing a card game! They don't always work but our life is certainly much calmer than it was. Advance planning for us is key.

    It can take a while to find the right approach so do keep trying. If you haven't already please do take a look at our family pages ( which offer advice on strategies and meltdowns.

    I hope this helps you a little, please do keep posting so we can continue to support you.

  • Mickrick
    Posts: 20
    Thank you so much Rhan. So there is hope? We suspect he is masking so well at school it must take quite a lot of effort so when he is home the smallest issue triggers a release.
    Its complicated because he has an older brother only 18 months older and a baby sister who is only 6 months old. So sibling rivalry and attachment issues are playing part here as when we separate the brothers they are both much calmer and easier to manage.
    His melt down was so bad the other night I had to go round ( I am Grandad) the family were in crises with a destroyed kitchen, dinner over the floor etc - I decided to distract and appeal to his helpful and creative side - I asked him to help me look for a neighbours cat with a torch - he did willingly - Still, outside much calmer but - insisted in shining the torch into his own eyes, taking most of his cloths of in the supermarket just as we were leaving ( it was -1 outside) continually negotiating for the amount of time to spend at the park, threatening to drop his favourite hat off the bridge into the river and at one point sitting down in the path saying he is tired and his legs won't work. But - I did get him out - he was calmer - when we arrived back - he was greeted by his dad - he immediately hit out - but i calmed him and engaged him in some drawing before I left. Apparently he continued to melt down until his mum managed to calm him down before bed time with supper and a short film!!! We have a lot to learn!!! Thanks for your help - hearing others who have managed similar is helpful
  • June67
    Posts: 816
    You are not alone Mickrick we are all still learning too. How lucky your family are to have someone who is prepared to help out, try to understand and shows them support when things are tough. Wish we had someone like you close by, my parents live a long way away and are only able to be supportive at a distance. Yes the meltdowns do often take ages to subside, keeping everyone safe is priority 1 anything else is often a bonus. Unpicking issues is important as is deciding together which things are the red lines and which can be let go. Caution if you are exhausted you might (like I have done in the past ) give too much control and it's hard to get it back once it's gone. It's good if everyone can get a break at sometime so this doesn't happen. Distraction is really useful for us although you have to have a stockpile of things to do it with; my youngest now frequently asks me to distract him when he's close to or starting a meltdown. That's progress I suppose. All the best June
  • Mickrick
    Posts: 20
    Thanks June
    Yes its particularly exhausting for the parents. We have booked a holiday for them with us - at Butlins in May half term - two adjoining apartments - we are hoping that will create opportunities for fun and breaks together but also worried that two much stimulation maybe bad - Christmas fortnight at home was traumatic we think because of the lack of routine and chaotic fun - just wondering if any has any tips for survival on holidays?
  • Rubytuesday
    Posts: 308
    Hi, sorry to hear you’re all having such a tricky time... I agree that his masking at school is probably making home life more difficult. Not the ideal solution but once we took school out of the equation our daughter was far calmer generally.
    In terms of holidays we’ve had some tricky ones but a few suggestions that have helped us: look at photos/YouTube videos of where you’re going so it’s familiar to him; if possible create his own space that he can retreat to while you’re there; give him some control over planning the activities you do each day; and if necessary take turns to be with him so everyone else has a break! Your children and grandchildren are so lucky to have you to help. I’m really lucky too as I have my Mum nearby who is so supportive to us - don’t know what we’d do without her x
  • Mickrick
    Posts: 20
    Thanks Ruby good suggestions! Fingers crossed.
    Also we hope to see a difference once school is involved.
    Meeting the founder of a PDA parents forum in Leeds next week so hope also to get some support there too. I hope we have the energy for this journey!

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