Thursday, 22 December 2016

Dealing With A Major Meltdown

Yesterday was supposed to be simple.  My sister has arrived from Toronto and the kids wanted to see her, so we'd planned to go after school for an hour or so.

Cue the meltdown from Nathan about delaying his screen time.

I'm starting to think that maybe screen time shouldn't be an option for him.  He obsesses about it and it triggers at least 80% of the meltdowns and fights on his end.

This was a spectacular meltdown, with screaming, hitting, and plenty of shouting about how he wishes he would die or that we would die or that the police would take us away.  He tried to cling on to the front door and got his fingers pinched as it closed.  He screamed at full volume for most of the car ride and hit Alex and me.  He threatened to hurt himself over and over and over and over.  (I do take these kind of threats seriously, but with Nathan, I've discovered it's an attention thing.  He's never acted on it and when pressed, he has no idea how to proceed with what he's threatened.  But I always keep a close eye on him.)

End result of the tantrum: no screen time until Christmas and his favourite computer program is now gone from the computer.  (We did a backup so it can be restored later.)

It also ended up with me sitting outside in the cold on a wet bench for half an hour until Nathan could calm down enough to get past the mad part of the tantrum and into the sad part of the tantrum.

Once he shifts from threats and screaming to crying, then I can be more understanding and sympathetic.  As long as he attacks, I need to present a wall of indifference.  One of the reasons that he threatens us with hurting himself and saying that he wants to die is because those are hard things not to react to.  

It's a long process.  And it's exhausting and frustrating.  Particularly because I have to keep my anger in check and stick to the process I decided on when I am not angry.  (Anger distorts your perceptions, so it's too easy to get carried away if you're acting spontaneously in the moment.)

He's asked several times if he can earn back his computer game and screen time.  To which I've told him: no.  Even though he has said sorry and stopped being angry, what he did while he was angry is real and has real consequences.  He's a little young for the concept, but I think it's one we need to start pressing.  That "sorry" doesn't undo everything and wipe the slate clean.  "Sorry" is a promise to try and do better in the future, not an undo-ing of the past.

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