The other day, I watched a video posted on Facebook. The tagline was something like “what happens when have spoiled kids”. My heart ached as I watched this mother struggle yet maintain calmness during her son’s physical aggression.
What was more troubling was the comments made about the boy’s behavior. Many said that he should be beaten or he knows better. I’ll admit the behaviors were bad. He was hitting and using profane language.
I thought about my child’s past and present behaviors.
In the beginning, Preston displayed extremely aggressive behaviors. It began in preschool. He didn’t always hit people but he threw objects in class. By 1st grade, he was knocking over desks and tossing chairs. For years, constant calls from teachers and countless meetings.
I made every effort to figure out why he was doing these things. I tried everything to discipline bad behaviors; timeouts, spankings, behavior charts, taking away favorite things. Some of them worked while others made the behaviors worse.
I received stares and judging glares from people when Preston had meltdowns in public. At first, I was embarrassed. I noticed people were looking at the both of us in disgust. On his end, I thought people were thinking he’s an unruly child. For me, it was easy to believe they thought I was a parent who couldn’t control my child’s “bad” behavior.
I had to get out of my head and focus on what/why my child was acting out. I had to learn his triggers. Still, meltdowns were difficult to prevent. Many of his caregivers didn’t make efforts to learn them.
At school, he had to be removed because his behavior would be deemed threatening to himself and others around him.
Some family members chose to use corporal punishment as a main form of discipline.
Meltdowns are different from tantrums. Children having tantrums are doing it to seek attention. They are careful not to hurt themselves and others.
In cases of a meltdown, children with autism have no control over their behavior. In some cases, they can hurt themselves and/or other around them.
Meltdowns are tornadoes of emotions; anger, frustration, anxiety, and overwhelmed.
It is important to know what to do and not to do during a meltdown.
Remove the child from any area that can threaten anyone’s safety. Avoid access to objects being thrown. Sometimes, physical restrains are needed. In the past, I’ve had to physically restrain Preston. I would wrap my arms around him until he calmed down. That wasn’t always easy to do because he struggled to get away from me but it helped him relax.
Be patient and keep calm. Nobody can stop a meltdown once its started. You have to wait it out. They can last for a few minutes to over an hour.
It is necessary for the caretakers to recognize and assist in diffusing the negative behavior. You have to learn what triggers these types of behavior.
Distraction is best for young children.
It is best to teach children what to do when their triggers begin to surface. Breathing techniques worked well with my son. Also, I taught him to verbally express his feelings. That doesn’t always work but it is another technique that been beneficial.
Don’t engage in conversation with the child during a meltdown. They are not hearing what you’re saying and it’s only adding to sensory overload. The behavior can be discussed once the child is calm. It be used to teach them what can they do differently.
Once you’ve learned what their triggers are, many meltdowns can be avoided. You have to be consistent. With practice and patience, children will learn to gain control over their emotions. The ultimate goal is to get the child to learn acceptable behavior patterns before or by adulthood.