Meltdowns vs Tantrums: Understanding the difference

My goal with this post is to educate.  I want people to understand what we go through and that can help you understand what others go through as well. 

The video included is not easy to watch but it’s a key to helping you understand the struggles that families like mine often face.

There is a world of difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.

The most significant difference is that a tantrum is a willful act, with the goal being to manipulate or change the behavior of the people around them. A tantrum can be defused and the person having the tantrum can hear you and may be able to talk back or respond to your voice.



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A meltdown is essentially the body purging because it simply can’t cope any longer. This is completely outside the control of the person experiencing this phenomenon. A meltdown is not something that can be defused.  It simply has to run its course. In most cases, the person experiencing the meltdown  won’t even hear you when you try to talk to them.

The video included with this post is of a massive tantrum that Gavin had the other day. 

This video may be difficult to watch for some and yet others may be able to relate. One thing that I ask you to keep in mind is the fact that this is not a meltdown.  This is a tantrum.

I handled this situation the way it needed to be handled.  Gavin is basically angry at us for holding him accountable for the choices he made.  I don’t sweet talk or coddle him because this is a willful act and he’s choosing to do be disruptive to the entire house. 

He will self-injure, call himself stupid and even ask for a hug.  He’s also looking right at me most of the time. He does this to gauge my reaction.

These are all manipulative acts, meant to change my behavior. While I try to remain as calm as possible, I don’t pull any punches and at times have to take an aggressive stance.

This is simply how Gavin needs to be handled and while I may seem mean, that’s not the intent.  I have to control the situation so Gavin understands who’s in charge and that his behaviors will not influence the decision to hold him accountable. This is how to best handle these situations. Our mental health support team has worked with us to cone up with a non-violent way of handling his tantrums.

Physically intervening is an absolute last resort.

If Gavin were having a meltdown, this situation would be handled much differently and with compassion because the meltdown would be outside of his control.

Warning: This video is loud and may be disturbing to some viewers.  Viewer Discretion is advised.

This site is managed almost exclusively via WordPress for Android. Please forgive any typos as autocorrect HATES me. 😉


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About Rob Gorski

Father to 3 with Autism and husband to my best friend. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)

  

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MeaghanGood
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MeaghanGood

When I have meltdowns I can hear people and understand them, I just can’t usually do what they want me to do. It’s incredibly embarrassing to me when I act the way I do when I melt down; I just can’t stop it. It’s like I wake up every day with a certain number of points, and things happen that make me lose points, or gain them, and if I run out completely I melt down. The most recent bad one was a little over a week ago. My car had just died — as in, the mechanic took one… Read more »

dotdash
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dotdash

MeaghanGood What an awful experience.  I am so sorry.  So interesting, though, that you were both out of control, and also aware of the social problem (others looking at you).

amoma
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amoma

Rob, You wrote the explanation, as if you are an expert on metdowns vs. tantrums. You want us to read your directions and then pretty much think what you want us to think. Have you ever considered a possibility, that you are not 100% correct here. What will that scenario will look like then? Even expert cannot state the situations, like you do here, without any ifs and but’s. To me, with all the honesty, this doesnot look like Gavin is under total control of all the actions. He is definitely  make a brave effort and succeeded in calming himself… Read more »

MeaghanGood
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MeaghanGood

amoma “You want us to read your directions and then pretty much think what you want us to think. Have you ever considered a possibility, that you are not 100% correct here. What will that scenario will look like then? Even expert cannot state the situations, like you do here, without any ifs and but’s.” Well, this is Rob’s personal blog, and therefore he is entitled to state his opinions as to what’s going on in his life without including a bunch of “ifs” and “buts.” As far as I know he’s never claimed to be an expert, he just writes… Read more »

lostandtired
Guest

amoma please don’t put words in my mouth.  I’m not claiming to be an expert on anyone’s child but my own. As @MeaghanGood stated, all I’m doing is sharing my personal experience.  
You don’t understand my son.  He has reactive attachment disorder as well as Autism. What was shown in the video was a tantrum and not a meltdown.  I never said I was giving you instructions.  I simply explained my actions and if what you learn can be applied to your child, that’s great.

concernedmom
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concernedmom

amoma  The way it usually goes is; If Gavin does it,Rob says it is a manipulative tantrum meant to control Rob. If one of the younger boys does it, it is an innocent meltdown that can’t be helped.  Gavin’s meltdowns get recorded and put on blast for the world to see.  I feel so sorry for the poor kid.

lostandtired
Guest

concernedmom that’s not the way it works.  You spin everything and twist it to make it something else entirely. Feel bad for Gavin all you want.  I appreciate your concern for my son.  However, you do him no favors when you pretend to know more about it than we do.  
I’ve made it very clear that this was a tantrum.  If it were a meltdown, it wouldn’t be handled this way.  The other boys have tantrums and meltdowns.  However, Gavin’s are documented for a reason.

lostandtired
Guest

momfromcanada concernedmom amoma please educate yourself before leaving comments like this.  We’ve been investigated my CPS and Gavin’s  dangerous and manipulative behavior is very well documented. He been admitted to the psych unit . I was never happy that he was gone.  It killed me to have to do that. 
Everyone involved knew that and I wrote about it often. 
He was simply to dangerous at the time and we had no choice.  He has RAD and so we are not dealing with just an Autistic child.  
I welcome your opinion but please read before you make comments that can be very misleading to others.

KillianMIck
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KillianMIck

concernedmom amoma So wait. You guys don’t know Rob or Gavin, but you’re giving him flack for parenting his kid?  Gavin is at an age and size where his tantrums could cause physical harm if he starts flailing around his siblings, or even his parents. I watched the video. Rob calmly told Gavin to use a standard self-calming technique used with many autistic kids in having him sit with his legs crossed and his hands under his legs. It’s a self-propelled method that parallels a straight jacket in that the flailing can actually make the person feel more out of control.… Read more »

Jharrigan
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Jharrigan

where is concernedmom’s comment? Did you delete it?

lostandtired
Guest

Jharrigan I don’t know.  I didn’t delete anything.  Let me look into it.

lostandtired
Guest

Jharrigan I may have been the one to delete it cause I’m using my phone and the reply button and delete are very close.  Let me restore it.  I apologize.

lostandtired
Guest

Jharrigan all fixed

lostandtired
Guest

Jharrigan I restored the only comment that I deleted.  If a user deletes their own comment I can’t see it in the livefyre dashboard.  I restored @concernedmom