Getting Your Child to Calm Down During Explosive Meltdown

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    • #83921
      Amanda Marshall

      Hi All,

      This is my first time posting a topic in the community. I have read so many good topics that I am hoping this one will help.

      My son is 7 years old and can be extremely explosive. When he is explosive his swears, hits, kicks, throws things, etc. I can handle the swearing. In fact, I just ignore it. But how do I get him to stop the kicking and hitting, he does it HARD and it hurts. I am also afraid he is really going to hurt someone one day – like my 66 year old mother.

      He has been diagnoses with ADHD, mild ODD, anxiety and SPD. He is on 3 different medications to help him through each of these.

      We have tried to leave him alone in a room but he just chases after you. We would lock him in his room but we can’t get him to go upstairs on his own and carrying him isn’t a long term solution. Suggestions on how to calm him down?

      How have you overcome this challenge?

    • #83933

      Hi has your son been diagnosed with anything? So sorry your going through this is the right place to get support and answers you need if you haven’t taken him to a therapist to rule out any symptoms that would be your best place to start also try some incentives to give him when he does something positive and give him praises also use a timer when he’s doing something and needs to finish up. When he hits and throws things he must have a consequence but only for a short duration and then explain to him why he has a consequence. Lastly when watching television what is he watching? That may be a key reason also and he may think it’s normal behavior but using it as a teaching moment to talk about thinking and feeling and right and wrong. Hope this helps

      • #84240

        We have dealt with this since our son- now 12- was 2 or 3. We argued over approaches- did he need more discipline? Understanding and a hug? He knew what he was doing was wrong. Our choice was to use language that expresses clearly our upset with the action/ behavior. While balancing this with messages of pride and love – usually at times other than the explosive incident. Over and over for years. I am happy to report that this behavior is slowly fading. Read all you can. Watch your tone of voice, and of course, make sure there are no other underlying issues that may be causing this behavior. These are super- sensitive children ands what we may perceive as a small issue to them is monumental. It’s a humbling learning curve for parents.

    • #83963

      I wish I had the magic answer. I have struggled with this and my daughter is almost 15. What has been sort of successful is giving her a reward if she releases her anger in a positive way. We have the 3 strike incentive. I asked her what is some thing she really wants, then that is the goal to work towards. It’s constant reminder when she starts to get heated. Our deal was 3 weeks and if she got three strikes she started over. I gave her three weeks cause if her age and she has more control than what your little guy probably has.
      Maybe start daily and if he doesn’t hit or throw things he can have a special treat , like a ice cream for instance. If you decide to implement something like this make sure you sit down and explain in detail how it will work so he totally understands the rules.
      Good luck , I totally feel your frustration and pain.

    • #84002
      Penny Williams

      Behavior is the symptom of an underlying problem. The key is to discover what triggers these meltdowns and then address those triggers. The behavior won’t change or improve without doing so. Read Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child.” His approach for this in phenomenal and effective.

      Time for Plan B? 10 Tips for Dealing with an Explosive Child

      Free Webinar Replay: ODD and ADHD: Strategies for Parenting Defiant Children

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #84194

      Oh, Mama, you are not alone. Please try to always remember that, even in the hard days. Until I joined this group, I thought I was completely alone in dealing with a child who had explosive behaviors. My son is nearly 13 now and we have been dealing with the same explosive behaviors. When he was younger, I would have to sit and bear-hug him until he was able to regain control. I just kept whispering in his ear “when you get your control back, I will let you go.” Now he is taller than me and weighs nearly the same as I do so that doesn’t work. I have learned what some of his triggers are and am able to cut down on some of the explosions by confronting the situation head on (too much junk food in a day, too much gaming or tv watching, too much time with just one friend, etc.). Some other things that have really worked for us are behavior counseling, appropriate meds, and teaching him to talk through what is bothering him. The book by Ross Greene that was referenced already in this thread was also a game changer for me. One final thing that we are beginning to implement in our house is the development of a growth/flexible mindset as opposed to a very fixed mindset. There is a great group on Facebook called “Raising Kids with a Growth Mindset” that I belong to. They are very positive and supportive – just like those within this group. I know there are so many other things that people have found to be effective with their children, but maybe some of the things I have tried will help you as well. Hang in there – it does get better as long as you stay consistent.

    • #84198

      Hi, I don’t know know enough about your son to make much of a judgement but if he has SPD and ADHD he will have a really tough time with his emotions. Personally I have found penalties to be counterproductive.
      Telling your child he is wrong for not being able to manage his anger may make him feel a failure.
      My son is 12 now and is autistic with ADHD. Spd, hemiplegia etc. He had very distressed meltdowns and sometimes still does but much less now that he is more supported and understood. I think a running conversation around managing his difficulties is good, but absolutely not when he is in high emotion. Also, ODD..where does this stem from. My son has PDA, or Pathalogical Demand Avoidance. Similar kind of presentation to ODD but driven by excruciating anxiety. If you read ‘The Explosive Child’ by Ross Greene, you will find different strategies. Good luck!

    • #84199

      It could be turrets, there’s a rage subset. I think my daughter has it. I’m still trying to find an effective way to handle it and teach her to control her temper. I know some people, myself included are just wired to get angry faster than we can think about it. Still, that’s not a viable reason in court, with the police, or employers when you act out of anger or rage and get yourself into trouble. We all have to learn to manage out emotions, even if that means taking a medication. Beta blockers help with rage and so does zoloft.
      Sorry I could be more helpful, but know you are not the only one going through this.

    • #84203

      This was our life as well, and we walked on eggshells just waiting for the day our son injured his baby sister, now toddler. We have ‘graduated’ from PCIT (Parent Child Interaction Therapy) with a very solid and highly recommended psychologist (not a therapist) and it’s been LIFE CHANGING. Our son- ADHD, ODD went from unmanageable (holding him in bear hugs, destruction, aggression, cursing, biting, hitting, running away, destroying the house) to completely manageable. Our lives are so much better now, and although we still have the occasional burst of bad behavior, it extinguishes itself over a week when we hit the PCIT learnings hard and apply them again.

    • #84219

      I had this kid once upon a time, and he is now a reasonably well-adjusted 17-year-old. Many of my friends have neurodiverse kids, and we’ve noticed that puberty seems to have a weirdly calming effect on kids with these issues, so hang in there!

      One of the things that helped me – we deal with an anxious/aspergers/EFdysfunction child – was advice given on – think of your child with developmental delays (of which ADD is one) as being 1/3 less his biological age. These kinds of behaviors aren’t that unusual for a four-year-old – they have to do with frustration with communicating, changing gears, and dealing with authority figures. Your child is probably going through that stage in some parts of his development.

      We found for my son that the only thing that worked was isolation – so either he went to his room to calm down, or we did. We taught him to see the signs of an oncoming attack of frustration (balled-up fists, tight shoulders, clenched jaw) and gave him license to go to his room to calm down whenever he noticed that happen.

      I remember being scared that my kiddo’s outbursts portended serious issues with violence as a teen/adult…I am sad for both of us that that concern is there. I think it’s unlikely that your child will continue this way if he’s functional in other ways: he will eventually develop and catch up. In the meantime, teach him specific skills to manage his frustration – isolation, using a fidget, writing/reading instead of talking, putting on earplugs or headphones or sunglasses, taking a movement break – whatever works for him. There’s a great OT therapy out there called the ALERT system where they basically try every intervention they can think of and chart them all so you have a lot of tools in your toolkit; I highly recommend that if you can find it where you are.

      I also like the Ross Greene approach; take a look at The Explosive Child or Lives In The Balance and see if you can find help there.

      Hang in there, Mama! You’ve got this – it’s going to be OK.

    • #84233

      This is my first time posting, too, so we’re both beginners! I have a child with ADHD and we had him on meds for a while. I finally realized that the meds (we tried several) were increasing his behavior problems to the point where it was unbearable. I discovered this purely by accident when my husband asked if we could take a break one day from the meds and we noticed a slight change. You may want to investigate whether the meds are playing a role in increasing the behavior problems.

    • #84243

      Hi, a lot of great advice!! I have 2 kids with ADD & a newphew That also has odd as well. My oldest is almost 20 & our other son is 7 as well. We found that ( of course it’s per the individual on what works) our nephew has aggressive outbursts thankfully he calmed down dusince puberty but still has the impulse anger that raises-up at times. With him, any form of communication that sounded like an order to do something would set him off. I would have to remember who I was talking to & to give a few advance notices. Like doing dishes for example. This helped him to prepare for doing the chore. Now with our oldest & now our youngest. A set routine, I know. Hard to do a routine but when we kept one, they transitioned better. Also we helped them try to learn to calm themselves. We would praise for good behavior & natural consequences for the outburst. Ours has to earn his electronics back. We have a code word for cooling down time & that is “Turtle time”. This word is used for him to know that he is getting upset. He knows that he needs to go somewhere & calm down by listening to music, legos or just leave the room just to get himself some time, then after he is calm, we talk about why he was upset & what he did that worked. He will now just tell us he feels like he needs some turtle time. Our oldest used music & when he was old enough, go on walks. The oldest now goes for a walk daily because he says it’s when he relaxes & thinks about his day. I know you are having such a hard time but keep at it & keep it going because they are kids & will always test us to see if they could get away with it. Stay strong & good luck!!!

    • #84244

      Write down things that you find that work. These are some for me (I have an 11 year old ADHD, symptoms of ODD but we believe he will outgrow it):
      1. speak in short sentences 12 words or less like “Did something happen at school?” 2. My son has tantrums when his expectations are not met, so I don’t set him up for expectations. If we are going to a party, I tell him when we get in the car or a few hours ahead rather than 3 days prior to the party. 3. Reward like crazy with words and treats when your child doesn’t get angry when they were on their way to a tantrum. When my son gets angry but doesn’t spend two hours under his bed or hitting his head on the wall, I praise him like crazy and tell him how proud I am of him. 4. Recognize that most of the time, it isn’t something you did – for my son it might have been the fact that no one threw the ball to him at school or he got a bad grade. He just feels safe with family so that is where he explodes. Don’t blame yourself. For a long time I felt like it was my fault. 5. Don’t punish like a normal child – they can’t take it but be consistent. Don’t threaten anything extreme and keep punishments short. 6. After a tantrum remind your child how much you love him but want to help him so he doesn’t have a tantrum. We can never make our children feel bad that they have to deal with a behavioral disorder that isn’t their fault. 7. Give him a pillow to punch. 8. Go punch a pillow yourself. Right now I’m trying to work with him on shorting the anger so I’m trying to redirect with short sentences when I see a problem. Also, I give him play dates of short segments when he has been well behaved. You aren’t alone. Hang in there. I love the newsletters on the ATTitude and I read everything I can get my hands on. Right now I’m reading the Defiant Child by Douglas Riley and The Whipped Parent (forgot the writer). I look for parenting tips. Even if I find one thing, it was worth it. I don’t always agree with recommendations as a whole because all of our children are different but if I can find a few new things to try, it really helps.

    • #84290

      Forgive me for throwing this out but just want to help… Have you heard of P.A.N.D.A.S.? I have a close friend whos brother had similar episodes so after many yrs of seeking treatment they visited a psycologist in Houston and was diagnosed with P.A.N.D.A.S. and the treatment was very promising as his brother has not had an episode ever since. I suggest you look into this and i pray to God this issue gets resolved and Peace reigns in your home once again. Have a blessed day.

    • #84298

      I feel your frustration. 25-30 years ago we didn’t know as much about ADHD, or ODD. Now I can see, the signs were all there, but we thought he was just a difficult child. He is 30 years old, a recovering alcoholic, divorced because of the anger and rage, and he has been physically abusive. He is in legally mandated anger management counseling, on a plea and abeyance, and has a trial coming up for a DUI. He has severe depression, intense anxiety, and debilitating panic attacks. He also smokes to relax himself.

      My son is the 4th of 5 children. When he young and in trouble, I would send him to his room…he wouldn’t go. I forced him into his room, and he would try to open the door. I held it closed…he pounded and kicked at the door. When that didn’t get him out, he would start tearing the room apart, and breaking his younger brothers things. I didn’t know until they were adults that he would also take it out physically on the younger brother, if he was near his angry brother. The younger one would run and hide when he knew he was coming. Spankings did not make a difference, grounding him wasn’t much better. I couldn’t reason with him until he had calmed down and came to me. Then he would listen and say he was sorry. My son was a very independent child. He would just take care of his wants, by taking what he wanted. Climbing the cupboards to get to the highest shelf. If he didn’t want to stay for church, I had to hold him on my lap tight, and he would scream and kick my legs as hard as he could, until his disturbance got him out of the chapel because he was making a scene. As a teenager he would get so angry when he was in disagreement with a rule I made, a punishment, or a chore he didn’t want to do, I could see him stiffen and he made fists at his sides. I thought, “he wants to hit me?”

      Okay, so suggestions:
      1. Like others have mentioned, get him to a doctor, in therapy and meds, if needed.
      2. Give him choices
      3. Remain calm, be patient, and show you understand his limitations.
      4. Praise his efforts to control his behavior, and when he responds correctly
      5. Tell him how much you love him as often as you can (he’ll know if you’re not sincere)
      6. He may have been shamed for his behavior by others or himself, he will feel guilt either way, and will not like himself because he feels like a monster. So he needs to know he’s not a freak and not alone
      7. He interprets the world around him from his unique point of view, and has a hard time seeing things from other people’s point of view. So, help him see the other side of things
      8. He might benefit from spending time helping others…forget about himself, get out of his head
      9. My husband and I attend a help group, once a week, for parents of adult children with addiction. It really has helped us focus on ourselves, what we need to do for ourselves, and how to step back and let them figure out who they want to be. We can’t control them, they have to know we believe they can figure it out on their own, and we’ve got to stop enabling them.

      I hope some of this might help. It’s been a long road. But we are moving forward…that’s what matters most.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by lucyss2u.
    • #84314

      Amenda Hi.
      I would be happy to chatt with you on private line. I want to hear more about your son and your dealing with him.
      I will leave you my email so we can co-ordinate time together if it suits you.
      I am a psychologist working in Israel. the time differences might be a struggle.
      yours Danny

    • #84315

      Forgot to write my E mail:

    • #105199

      Hello, I am also looking on any strategies that you might do at home, or even in school that will help with Meltdowns during transtion times, example changes from one class to another ?My daughter was diagnosed with adhd,and isnt on any medication her bigggest struggle is transtion and also controlling her emotions. If you have any suggestion I would greatly appreciate them.

      Thanks in Advance

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