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BOTD 7/8/14 "The Meltdown From Hell" A DMK Production

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David M. Katz


Marshall
The Meltdown From Hell
A DMK Production

It is Sunday morning and your thirteen year old son, Nathaniel, is obviously tired and is also unusually grumpy.  He enjoys going to church with his two best friends and insists he wants to go this morning.  He and the one friend who spent the night head over to the other friend's house who is also your neighbor.  That friend's father is driving the boys to the church service.  It seems all went well at church but Nathaniel is still edgy and seems stressed.  You ask him to talk to you but he repeatedly says, "I'm fine."

A bit of background on Nathaniel's situation.  He is biologically your spouse's great-nephew but was orphaned when his mother died two and a half years ago.  You and your spouse were the only available family and so you adopted him.  He has adjusted well and did attend several counseling sessions.  You recently took in two foster children which required adjustment on his part.  He will be turning fourteen in less than a month and seems to be unduly stressed over that.  He is going to be starting high school next month as well and is apprehensive.  You and your spouse are also having some marital issues which are impacting him.  At certain points Nathaniel has talked all of this through with you.

You and the neighboring friend's father have arranged to take Nathaniel and his foster brother and two best friends to the YMCA pool for swimming. (Your spouse and foster daughter are not at home.) You take two cars as your neighbors have planned to not come directly home after the trip to the pool. Nathaniel still seems stressed but he assures you he is fine.  You decide he is just tired as you know he and his friend stayed up late the night before.

The YMCA has a mandatory ten minute rest period at the end of every hour.  You all arrive at the pool about ten minutes before rest period.  The boys jump in and are happily swimming.  You and your neighbor take up residence on a pool side chaise.  At the appointed time the life guards blow their whistles and call rest time.  The pool empties except for a certain thirteen year old boy - yes, Nathaniel is refusing to leave the pool.  He starts arguing with a life guard saying he has only been there ten minutes and doesn't need to rest.  The life guard is chirping his whistle at Nathaniel and telling him to get our of the pool.  Nathaniel is not moving.  You are now in the pool and have your son by the arm and you lead him out of the pool.  As the two of you are exiting the pool Nathaniel unloads a string of obscenities on the life guard including the dreaded "F" word.  Everyone at the pool is now staring and you are angry and embarrassed.  You get Nathaniel out of the pool and apologize to the guard and send him to the locker room.  He runs off crying to the locker room and you make arrangements with your neighbor to bring your foster son and the other friend home - he agrees to alter his after pool plans.  You leave to go get your son who is sitting on a bench in the locker room and is sobbing.  You ask Nathaniel to talk to you but he won't.  You help him to the car.  Nathaniel is sulky and silent on the ride home.  You are still angry and so you are afraid to say much.  Nathaniel refuses to discuss the issue.  

Nathaniel - 13
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You get home and send Nathaniel to his room and tell him to stay there and you all will need to talk later.  You go to your office to cool down.  You look outside a few minutes later and see Nathaniel riding off on his bike.  Your immediate reaction is to want to go after him but you don't. You remember that Nathaniel will often take solitary bike rides to gather his thoughts. Nathaniel comes in about an hour later and goes in his room and slams the door shut.  You give things a few minutes and go knock on his door.  He invites you in.

What happens?


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David M. Katz


Marshall
My apologies for posting early but I have a commitment later this afternoon.

Yes, this really happened with Nathaniel yesterday. I will tell what happened with him after everyone gets a chance to respond.


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Kat


Editor Extraordinaire
If Nathaniel is ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. He's almost fourteen and that is a difficult time. Kids that age are prone to meltdowns, often without knowing why. I'm not going to punish him or lecture him or prod him to talk; I'm just going to indicate my support and availability. Later, when things are less volatile, I will have some things to say about his behavior. While I'm prepared to allow the occasional meltdown, I don't want them to become a pattern of behavior.

Kat

Pi Beta


Deputy
Ditto Kat. This is not the time for punishment.

MemoryMan


Sherrif
I sit alongside him, put an arm round his shoulder (If he'll let me) ............. and wait.


(PS I'm off on my travels again for a couple of weeks.  See you all later.)

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John Boy


Sherrif
We talk and see what is up. Then we see where we go from there, but it sounds like he just needs a quiet stress free night and some extra rest.

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Jack


Admin
A mandatory, 10-minute rest period?

Okay, not going to go there... concentrate on the actual problem.

There are a number of things I should have done differently here, and I need to stop and think about those things when I have a chance, so I don't make the same mistakes in the future. In the meantime, I'm going to sit down with Nathan, ask him what's going on, then listen to him. Where it goes from there is up to him, but I feel like a back rub and nap might be what the situation calls for.

In the future, I'm going to tell him that there might be times I suggest we change our plans, when it seems like maybe we need some R&R.


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AFinch


Sherrif
I agree with everyone else. Not a time for punishment, but for talk. Early adolescence is difficulty enough without the added issues (new siblings, parents having personal difficulties, etc). I think at least a session or two with a neutral party (therapist) would probably be helpful, though I'd expect Nathaniel to be resistant to the idea. "Everything's fine" is the mantra at his age.

As to "a mandatory 10 minute rest period"--I don't know if they still do, but the community pool where I lived when I was married had such a rule. And it resulted in many a similar meltdown until my kid figured out it didn't apply to "the baby pool"--so he'd go there and splash and stay cool until the whistle blew and he could return to the main one. It was especially onerous if the 10 minute period was whistled right after we arrived, which happened more than once.

I think it's a stupid rule, much like "no swimming for 30 minutes after meals" which has no basis in physiology. But we don't only get to obey rules we believe make sense. It may make sense when everything's cooled down to approach the administrative staff at the Y (not the lifeguards) and see whether there is actually a good reason for that rule, or whether it's just "tradition" (like not swimming after eating).

kalico


Sherrif
Aw BIG HUGS Nate

I'm in agreement that now is not the time for discipline but talking and just being there for him.

Our pools do that here buts it's do that the life guards can get in the pool and cool off because all ours are outdoors



Hugs kal

1strappedboy


Sherrif
Aw, poor kid! Difficult enough being 14 and having so many changes and difficulties swirling around but having the occasional inexplicable melt down is part and parcel of being 14.

Heaven knows I rarely sat comfortably that year and some of that was indeed my own fault. This is one of those occasions that dialogue may be more useful than straight up punishment. Given that he is willing to discuss the issue, I'll do that first. We can cover why it's wrong to drop the 'f bomb' in a public setting but unless he continues being obnoxious I'm willing to give him a pass on it "this time!".

Hopefully I can cajole my boy to being his sweet old self in relatively short order but I will impress upon him that my patience has limits and further outbursts/behavior of this type may well earn him some toasted buns.

Stone Man


Marshall
Being invited in is a good sign. Hopefully Nathaniel is interested in talking, but if all he can tolerate is my presence that will have to do for the time being. I'll make it clear that I'm willing and want to talk with him and wait him out (if that is even possible). Sounds like a back rub time.

My goal here is not Nathaniel's punishment but his well being. Punishment is not ruled out, but if there is one it will be agreed on by both of us this time around.

ivor


Marshall
I also think the 10 minute rule is mad, but perhaps you should have timed your arrival at the pool better to avoid it having such immediate impact?

Also perhaps time to cut down on the 'sleepovers'. Wonder why they are called that as the last thing the kids do is sleep?But it seems lack of such may be adding to Nat's other problems of which there appear to be rather a lot.

I don't see this as a spanking matter, but some other penalty seems justified in view of the public behaviour.

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squarecutter


Sherrif
We.ve all got a lot on our plate and he has the added stress of being into adolescence and it all came out just then. I assume since he has invited me in that he's ready to talk because thats all it will be. The only thing I may ask of Nathan is a few apologies to those who heard the F bomb go off but I won't really push that either. There are times when something is beyond punishment and this is one of them

Jack


Admin
ivor wrote:Also perhaps time to cut down on the 'sleepovers'. Wonder why they are called that as the last thing the kids do is sleep?But it seems lack of such may be adding to Nat's other problems of which there appear to be rather a lot.

I always found the key to be 'no sleepovers when someone has to get up the next morning. There are some exceptions, but letting the kids sleep in a bit sure helps avoid this kind of thing.


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Padraig


Trailboss
Can only think of regular breaks for the lifeguard, eg if there is only one present. They need a chance to drink something or visit the toilet without violating their duties.

Anyway, I agree, it's time for talking, not spanking.

David M. Katz


Marshall
He had finally arrived at a point where he could talk about his feelings and realized that he was not "fine."  We spent about an hour and a half talking through his emotions and feelings and it covered a whole laundry list of issues.  

He was also tired.  The sleepovers are a bit non stop over the summer with the Three Musketeers as they are ALL usually at someone's house every night but all of us parents are OK with that and we do let them "sleep in" in the mornings.  Normally the boys do a good job of policing themselves on Saturday night/Sunday morning as they do enjoy church.  Little sleep happened this time because Nathaniel already had a lot on his mind.

I should have kept him home from church and possibly the Y but the meltdown was brewing and so that would have probably only have kept it from being public.  We did talk about when to realize you needed to rest and take a break from things.

As soon as I walked in the room he looked at me and said, "How bad's my whipping gonna be?" I was a bit sad that he expected that would be my response but, truthfully, I have been over reactive with him as far as spanking goes before.  I think it also shows he was feeling guilty and assumed some sort of punishment was coming. I immediately reassured him that there was not going to be any sort of whipping and that seemed to help him want to talk.

It was a combination of overly tired kid mixed with some heavy emotions and stress.

As far as consequences.  He obviously lost the day of swimming - a thing he totally loves.  I also kept him around the house for the rest of the day.  He wasn't grounded and I made it clear that he wasn't having to stay home as a punishment but I wanted to have him close so as to not provide any more triggers and to be there should he meltdown again.  He was fine with it.  Jentzen and Issac came over that evening and the boys all talked about the issue.  I think Lynn was expecting to find his "brother" dead but seemed pleasantly pleased to find him doing well.

We had no guests that night as the sleepover moved to Isaac's house and Nathaniel elected not to go and, on his own, put himself to bed early - he was out by a little before 9:00.  He slept until 11:30 on Monday morning and had a much better day on Monday.

We were supposed to go to the Y today but we may not because it looks like storms.  Nathaniel has said he wants to apologize to the lifeguards when he is able to make it back.

As far as the ten minute rest period - I have no idea why it is done.  They have always done it and I guess they always will.


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LLALVA


Trailboss
I am glad that you two were able to talk. Maybe Nat needs to let off some steam before a meltdown, he should learn to know the signs, but meanwhile it is great that he has a dad that listens.

Hugs and hugs I love you

Leti

Jack


Admin
LLALVA wrote:I am glad that you two were able to talk. Maybe Nat needs to let off some steam before a meltdown, he should learn to know the signs,

That much is true, especially since he's nearly 14. However, it's also true that the last two (?) years have been incredibly hard on him.

Remember that Van and I used to go through similar problems. A very important thing for you to do is to watch for his tells. If you feel like he's getting too tense, just take him aside and talk to him. With Van, I can tell when a tantrum is about to be coming, and he's reached the point now where he can usually control himself when it's brought to his attention. As he gets older, I expect/hope that he'll come to recognize and watch for the signs himself, and no longer need me to police him.

Talk to Nate while things are good. Let him know that, if you tell him he seems really tense, you're not doing it to humiliate him or give him a hard time, but so that he can deal with it before he explodes. Don't be afraid to make a mistake occasionally, because it will still be good for him to run a self-diagnostic when he's not about to explode, so he can learn to judge things on his own.

It sounds like the two of you have a good relationship, so it can be hoped he'll be willing to accept that this is to help him and that he needs it.


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Stone Man


Marshall
A very good resolution, DMK. The fact that Nathaniel wishes to apologize to the lifeguards is icing on the cake. Good luck to both of you (all of you really).

1strappedboy


Sherrif
Ditto Stoney on this! I think you have a great kid in Nathaniel and I hope he continues in as he's been. That he wants to apologize to the Y folks just goes to show that he's developed a sense of genuine empathy and that says a lot particularly with today's "me first/only" kids.

It says a lot about his parenting as well!!

Guest


Guest
I've read through this thread so there's not a lot I can say. I'm pleased everything worked out in the end, and it was good to see Nathaniel offering to apologize to the lifeguards. Sorry I can't ad anymore.

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