Meltdowns seem easier to handle if we know what is going on for the child. We can allow them time to melt, then help them process the feelings and situations. We can often even reach a solution.
When the meltdowns or struggles come from what we see as nowhere, they are much more challenging to help. Will often struggles with daily life without an obvious trigger. I know something is going on in his brain, but I don't know what specifically.
Today, Mack had the massive meltdown. We have no idea why he lost his composure in the situation. He brought a sheet of school work downstairs for Leigh to check. Leigh asked what the paper was and why he needed to check it. Mack claimed to not know what he needed checked, or understand the question. Leigh rephrased. Mack broke even more.
After Mack started to storm upstairs, and I told him to stop and return, the following conversation unfolded:
Leigh: What is up?
Mack: (screaming) I don't know what you're asking me!
Leigh: It's simple--what is on that paper and why? What do you need me to look at?
Mack: I don't understand! What do you want from me?
Me: Dude. Simple. What literally is on that paper?
Mack: I don't know what you're asking!
Me: For real? The words. On the paper. What are they?
Leigh: What did you write?
Mack: I don't understand.
(Mack screamed every word of this exchange)
Leigh: Ok, you can either tell me about that paper, or go do whatever this assignment is again.
Mack: screaming as he takes off upstairs
Me: NO, come back.
Me: Dude. What did you do on this page?
Mack: I wrote words.
Leigh: Great. What words?
Mack: (finally calm-ish) what do you mean?
Leigh: Read me the words.
Leigh: So I know if you did what you should have.
Me: Maybe you can tell Daddy why you wrote the words and where they're from?
Mack: I copied from a book.
Leigh: Why? What purpose?
Me: What are you practicing with this assignment?
Mack: Writing letters right and lowercase ones and spacing.
Leigh: Then reading the words to me doesn't matter. I need to see it and determine if you did the letters correctly.
Leigh: Was that really that hard?
Me: Why did you act like you didn't understand?
You see, even he has no idea what was going on in his own brain to cause the struggle we had to combat. He was obviously struggling, and we usually let kids go have their time to scream. But in this situation, keeping him engaged in the conversation and working through it was necessary because of his tendency to be destructive when alone and that worked up. Hours later, he still doesn't understand what happened or why he struggled this way. I doubt we will ever know. The above chat took more than 15 minutes and Leigh and I felt defeated. We got through it. Mack succeeded.
Not understanding the route of the issue is one of the most exhausting parts of parenting. We want to know why our children are hurting, and work to fix the hurt. We can't do either sometimes. Whatever the source of his frustration, he persevered, and finished his school work.
We hugged it out too. Sometimes, we just need hugs.