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3 Steps to Handling an Aspie Tantrum

Updated on December 19, 2014
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Putting out a 5-alarm tantrum

It's been drummed into our heads since we were children.

If you are on fire: Stop, Drop and Roll.

Whether in the beginning stages of an argument or in the midst of a 5-alarm tantrum, handling the situation with your Aspie child is much like dealing with fire.

It's always best to diffuse the situation early on - before - the tantrum is out of control.

Before the assessment

The argument got louder and more animated.

Doesn't every child like the amusement park?

A simple, fun planned trip was turning into a huge nightmare before we got in the car and I was SET on getting my way. "You're GOING and you're going to have FUN!"

"If you make me go I'm going to (expletive) kill you!" With that he picked up the kitchen knife and held it in a threatening manner.

(continued)

Here's some advice:

Stop - Drop - and - Roll With It.

Aspie kids hate conflict but for some reason you find yourself arguing with your kid all the time. If you are reading this it is probably because you are dealing with tantrums on a regular basis. You probably want to pull out your hair because of the frustration of it all.

What to do when you are at your wit's end and your child thinks they are always right? It is always best to temper the flame before it gets out of control. It is hard enough to do at home but what about at school? The simple fact is: you cannot be everywhere all the time but you can attempt this exercise. If you find that it works then contact the school and share what works with the teachers, guidance counselors, and anyone else in contact with your child.

Watch for tantrum triggers

It is difficult for NT (neurotypical) siblings to remain patient and understanding. Oftentimes they are resentful of the attention paid to their "special" sibling. To them, it's just their brother or sister who doesn't play well, share toys and says the most ridiculous stuff. Siblings are amazing triggers for tantrums because they know how to push buttons if they are feeling spiteful.

You can be a trigger too. Maybe you've had a bad day and feeling a little frayed. Maybe just for once you want to have a day without an argument or debate. That switch in your head insists you are going to win the battle of wills and the situation spins out of control.

Maybe your child had a particularly bad day at school. They are finally in their safe place and trying to process their day but you and/or their siblings are "bothering them." NOTE: "Bothering" could be something as simple as knocking on their door to say you are home. Whatever the case, your Aspie started freaking out.

Here are three steps that may help in this situation - if you are willing to try.

(continued)

When he picked up the knife I got ice cold, quiet, and calm. Very, very calm.

Intrinsically I knew my son is not a psychopath or I would be dead right now.

His reaction to my sudden quiet was palpable but here we were in some crazy, horror-movie stand off.

"You have a choice, kiddo." I started very matter-of-fact. Don't ask me where it came from or how I pulled it off. "You can use that knife but you better make sure I'm dead **OR** you can put it down, go to your room, and think about what just happened here."

Without hesitation he put the knife down and escaped into the safety of his room.

3 Critical Steps

STOP:

Common scenario:
You are trying to remain calm and make your point.
He is shutting down and blocking you out. His defense mechanisms are on full blast and he is starting to spew.
You are trying to remain cool but it's getting harder because your adrenaline is pumping and you just want to make sure they are understanding.
You are both losing your temper and your voices begin to get louder and your stance is more confrontational.

It's a full-blown fire and the flames are spiraling out of control.

Stop. Just STOP.

You are the parent/guardian. You must take control of the situation. Be quiet, take a deep breath and a moment to regroup. Get yourself under control.

DROP:

Once you are (somewhat) under control. Drop it down. Drop your tone of voice. Drop your shoulders. Relax your body. The tantrum is secondary to getting back into control and taking charge.


Calmly and as monotone as you can: "I am done with this argument. I am done being yelled at. We will finish this conversation when we are both calm. Please go to your room and think about what happened. Come out when you are ready to talk."

By doing this you have regained control, demanded respect, made known the intention to revisit the subject, released your child from the situation, and empowered them with the decision to come out when they were ready.

ROLL WITH IT:

Your child will often say hurtful things in the heat of the moment. Never take it personally. It is a defense mechanism - a way of pushing away whatever is offending them so they can retreat to their safe space. Let it go. Just roll with it.

Stop, Drop & Roll

Have you tried this approach? What was your result?

See results

Give permission to make decisions

Yes - EMPOWER your child! They are confused, bombarded by societal rules, and constantly feel attacked or out of place. If they cannot feel safe and in control around you, then where?

Hindsight is 20/20. Most arguments are born from a communication gap. By stepping away from the situation, it gives all parties an opportunity think about what happened and let the brain catch up to the action.

You will know when to revisit the subject when your child ventures out of their safe place. You may even be surprised by an apology gracing their lips. Once everything is calm you may even come to a respectful and mutual understanding – even if it’s agreeing to disagree.

If you practice Stop, Drop, and Roll, you may be pleasantly surprised by the new lines of communication.

Put out the fire before it destroys you both
Put out the fire before it destroys you both | Source

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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This is an interesting hub. I have an adult friend in his fifties who has some degree of Aspergers. If the person is younger than about 12, I'm not sure the other person's 'regaining control' is something an intelligent person with Aspergers likes or always allows. But the Stop It idea, I know is important. Taking time to figure out what just happened and why and then taking time to bridge the gap and sometimes make some concessions is good. Voting up, useful and interesting.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I wish I had known this 20 years ago! My Aspie is now 26, and the medication she is on keeps her from having these types of issues. When she was 6, we had them rather frequently! This is great advice that I'm sure would have worked well then.

    • merej99 profile image
      Author

      Meredith Loughran 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, Pamela & Denise! The more I reflect on my own experiences with A.S. the more insight I have to help my son. It's not easy looking myself in the mirror seeking truth then telling him how vulnerable I am or how tough it was for me. All I can do is SHARE and hope someone is helped while others are educated.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What a creative method for dealing with a difficult situation! Your advice should help many people. Voted up!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I hated to vote "It does not work." When my aspie son was growing up I tried very hard to do exactly what you said. But he would get violent often times. It would have helped though if I had known some of the things that were truly at the root of his triggers. He wasn't diagnosed until age 15 and living with his father. He has better control now, but I also know more about what I'm dealing with and have learned to do what you've said and it does work now that he's an adult. So taking your quiz was hard because it didn't used to work but does now.

      Once again, great information.

    • merej99 profile image
      Author

      Meredith Loughran 3 years ago from Florida

      As your son experiences and explores life beyond his safe places (work, college, shopping on his own) he is definitely going to improve. Knowing you have Asperger's doesn't give you a pass to behave badly so the older you get the fewer excuses not to TRY to get along. When the "normal" community beats you down and teases you every day it's difficult to justify wanting to belong in their world. Attitude and trying to stay positive helps alleviate the anxiety and stress that triggers a tantrum.

      When my son pulled the knife on me it was a sobering experience. Right then I realized that a lot of his triggers were based on MY behavior toward him. I knew he was different at a young age but my entire family thought I was nuts for trying to make excuses for him. When I was finally justified with a diagnosis I never stopped advocating for Asperger's - and in doing so - telling my family to curb their behavior so he has a chance to process and catch up - their relationship became 100% better.

      Now that my son is older we can actually have conversations. It often comes to a head because we disagree on something - or one takes over the conversation so the other gets frustrated that they're not getting heard - but we've both learned when that happens to stop, and say we'll finish our talks later. Being that I have Asperger's too it's kind of like the Bugs Bunny cartoon when he goes to jump in the pool and stops just before he hits the water to dunk his toe to check the temperature! That's great in cartoon-world but difficult/impossible in real life - but we keep trying. Thanks for stopping by :)

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