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Autism - Support Across the Spectrum Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

How do you tell the difference between a meltdown and a temper-tantrum? Sometimes I think my son is having a meltdown but he seems so angry and manipulative that I wonder if it's just a temper-tantrum because he didn't get what he wanted.  For instance today he had a dr appt so I got off early to get him from school and go. Since I had to get off early I skipped my lunch break. I was going to pull into a fastfood place real quick between picking him up and going to the dr's office and since the only one on the way was Hardy's I pulled in there. I asked my son if he wanted some fries or something because he had already had lunch. He asked if they had chicken nuggets. I said I don't know. So then he wanted to go to McD's. Well that is on the other side of town and I didn't have time to go there so I was just gonna get an extra large thing of chicken tenders and an extra small fries and share with him. Well he started screaming because he wanted to go to McD's. I tried reasoning with him telling him they do have chicken nuggets and I was getting him some but he wasn't having it. He started kicking the seats in my van and pitching an all out fit. I ended up leaving the drive thru with nothing. Then he refused to go into the Dr's office when we got there. By this time I was really fustrated with him and said some things I shouldn't had. I told him I was so sick of this and if he thought this was going to get him what he wanted he was out of his mind, and further more he was NOT going to have a birthday party we were plannning for awhile. I was yelling at him and telling him I was so tired of it. Then I was in tears. He got out of the van but then he sat in a chair in the hallway sceaming and pitching a fit saying he wasn't going in. We missed the dr's appt because he would not go in and he is too heavy for me to carry him in.  The nurse even came out and bribed him with candy trying to get him to go in but he still refused. So I told her we would just reschedule and I told him come on lets go. He still refused to move. I said well I am going home and if you want to stay here all by yourself then fine..the drs and nurses are leaving to go home too. So he goes to the van but he is screaming at me the whole time. I wanted so bad to tear his tale up right there in the parking lot. I had to really restrain myself from the urge to do so. He gets in the van and he is still screaming and yelling and kicking the back of my van. This carries on the whole way home. I was so fustrated and angry with him.  He comes inside and sits and cries softly but not screaming anymore and I went into my room to cool off.  All this carried on for over an hour. His brother comes in and talks to him and gives him an icecream bar and he stops crying and eats it.  So..with all that does that sound like a meltdown or a temper tantrum? He was mad because he did not get what he wanted. I did not give in and give him what he wanted so he pitched a fit the whole time.  And it wasn't going to the dr that caused it. He loves his dr and the staff there. It was because I chose to pull into Hardy's instead of going clear across town to McD's and being late to the appt.  I am not sure if I understand the difference. I want to punish him for his behavior. But not sure if I should be. I don't even know what to do with him anymore and how to handle him anymore. I don't think I can do this anymore! The older he gets the worse it gets!

Cindy Jean   

nativity   wreath

by on Nov. 29, 2012 at 5:27 PM
Replies (21-28):
mels712
by on Nov. 30, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Temper tamtrum.     temper tantrum are for manipulation and because they arent getting what they want. a melt down is when they become overwhelmed cant proccess anymore input and then lose control. an easy way to tell the difference is to ask yourself  "If I give him what he wants will he stop?" If your not sure try it a couple times (only on things that arent really a big deal, dont give in on something big to find out) understanding the difference then testing it once or twice will soon have you being able to tell pretty easily

KatyTylersMom
by on Dec. 1, 2012 at 12:29 AM

I will say that with my daughter giving her 5HTP morning, noon, and night has really helped make her able to self-soothe (she's nearly 4 now and just got diagnosed with PDD-NOS).  It's pretty much the precursor to serotonin so it's acting to boost her levels by providing her body with more of the buildling blocks to make serotonin rather than like an antidepressant such as Prozac which prevents the body from recycling the serotonin it's already made.  We went from like 5 time-outs a day to maybe 3 a week.  HUGE difference for her.  It's not that she doesn't get all worked up b/c lord knows that child takes RIGHT after her momma (what can I say, I'm Italian, we have opinions...) but she's able to continue to "see reason" as it were despite getting super upset. 

zenwildcatmomma
by on Dec. 1, 2012 at 11:08 AM

To me it sounds as if this was a temper tantrum.  But I also think there are other things going on, and you must address them soon.  My ds had lots of trouble on days his routine was changed, which would snowball into a tantrum like you described.  The sooner you get a handle on his anger, the better.  I stood alone in my family, by not pacifying my ds when he was little.  I could physically deal with the outburst when he was 3 but the thought of similar outbursts at 13 terrified me.  You might want to find help to learn how to de-escalating these types of situations.  

One thing that struck me by your post, was that you must be in control of restaurant choices.  Don't just do one because it is easy for him, and tolerable to you.  Go to the other places when you are not in a hurry. Even before going, prepare him...look at their websites with him, plan the next visit over a couple of days.  Don't ignore the family type restaurants, either.  We eat out a lot and we made a decision when my oldest was just starting to have problems that eventually where dx'd as autism to never go to the same restaurant two times in a row.  Sure we had fits like you describe, but eventually he came around.  Now he is almost 13 and we can take him anywhere and he can find something to eat.  

If you can, find a way to allow him to earn some sort of birthday celebration back.  The party might be downgraded but every birthday should be celebrated some way.

And be nice to yourself.  These younger years are so tough for moms with special kids.  We go into this totally unprepared and its hard to learn as you go along.  Just when you get one challenge met, another one comes. There were days when it seemed all there were challenges with my son.  But one by one, we get through them.  Good luck and lots of hugs.

cindyjean68
by on Dec. 1, 2012 at 11:28 AM

He has already earned his birthday party back so to speak. He done some things yesterday that got that. I never really intended to take it away in the first place. Just was grasping at straws to try to make him stop. I am not a super patient person. I have a meltdown of my own ...lol. But I really am trying.

It's like it starts out as a temper tantrum but then he looses all control.

Ajisai43
by Bronze Member on Dec. 2, 2012 at 7:03 AM

Just adding to what everyone else has already said, it sounds like these are tantrums that turn into meltdowns.  If you are in a safe place/environment, don't react.  It took me a while to figure that one out, but the more input he gets from you, positive or negative, the longer it lasts.  And also, when in full blown meltdown mode, my son literally cannot hear me.  So consequences and threats of taking things away don't even enter his realm of consciousness.  He is beyond understanding what is being said, and so for me it is best to let the meltdown run it's course and just let go of it.  Later on, when things have settled down, ask what he was feeling or say "It seems like up you were really angry about not getting what you wanted" and put names to his feelings and try to validate them.  Then you can explain that when he does ABC (is physically violent, or threatening or whatever the unacceptable behaviors are) it is not ok and there will be privileges lost.  Be sure to give him acceptable ways of voicing or expressing his feelings.  I often tell my son that when I am so angry I could spit I usually stop what I am doing, count to ten take a deep breath and then look at the situation again.  He needs to be shown what appropriate behaviors are, not just what they aren't.  And on the flip side of the coin, when he is upset and can tell you without all of the drama, he needs to be praised and rewarded for handling the situation/his emotions in an acceptable manner.  As an aside, checking out social stories or finding books on explaining emotions at your local library might be helpful.   And might your son's teachers have some insights into his behaviors? I am forever asking for thoughts and advise from the teachers at school

Hang in there.  Things will get better and your son will learn and grow and at some point in time these will be a thing of the past.

Basherte
by Silver Member on Dec. 2, 2012 at 11:57 AM

That sounds to me like it started as a temper tantrum and went into a meltdown.

My son's therapist told me (while we were in a store), and my son had one that I should walk away, while keeping an eye on him. I looked at him, told him "no" then while I was walking away from him told him that I was going home. He looked at me while crying and got up and stopped crying while walking to me. He grabbed my coat, and tugged a bit. I looked down at him and he put his head against my tummy. Not moving, not yelling, not screaming, not angry anymore, but upset that he upset me, and was apologizing. We left. 

He then got to walk part of the way home without holding my hand. Different thing. He wasn't happy about it, but he wasn't in tears or screaming either. He made it home, then walked in and wen to the couch. I told him that we needed to take off his coat. He stood up and helped me. Then he wanted nothing to do with me. When I praised him for doing such a good job walking home, his chest poofed out and he smiled. But he didn't want me to give him a hug. 

He was proud of himself for doing so well. 

I hope things go better for you in the future. It's kinda hard to tell when it's a meltdown and when it's a temper tantrum.

I respond like it's a a meltdown until I realize differently. 

You did a great job, Momma. I would have dragged mine into the dr's office kicking and screaming. But then mine's only 3 and I can still pick him up.

Bluerose1482
by on Dec. 2, 2012 at 1:05 PM


Quoting mels712:

an easy way to tell the difference is to ask yourself  "If I give him what he wants will he stop?" If your not sure try it a couple times (only on things that arent really a big deal, dont give in on something big to find out) understanding the difference then testing it once or twice will soon have you being able to tell pretty easily

This is an excellent point.  I guess I never really thought of it that way, but this is the main way that I knew it isn't a run of mill temper tantrum.  Even 2 or 3 mins. into the incident giving him 10,000 chicken nuggets wouldn't have stopped it because it wasn't about that anymore.

shauna999
by on Dec. 2, 2012 at 10:39 PM

im new to this group and learning myself. if u coulf find my post it may help you.

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