10/5/09

Post 101 at long last! Competition tantrum

I reached my 100th post last month and then just abandoned my blog. Really bad mommy blogger! My only excuse is that I got a little bored with Orangeboy. Yeah, I said it. Bored - with my son. No, actually it's not so much that I'm bored with him, it's just that his behavior hasn't been very entertaining lately. He's pretty much stuck in a rut. He continues to be soothed and entertained by numbers and math, he continues to take the same daily dose of medication for ADHD, he continues to do well in school and avoid being bullied (somehow), his IEP is the same, he hasn't learned any spectacular new skills, and he continues to have the periodic temper tantrums.
The temper tantrums are getting to me though. They frustrate me. His brother and sister find them both amusing and annoying because of the predictability of the circumstances and patterns of his tantrums. His father finds the tantrums excessively irritating. Orangeboy himself seemingly cannot see the pattern well enough to help himself avoid them, and I can see them coming but cannot stop them.
It typically begins with a competitive game or situation in which Orangeboy either starts off thinking he CAN win or he SHOULD win. This could be a Wii battle to reach a higher skill level or it could be a scholastic battle for top score or first to achieve something... it doesn't matter, Orangeboy has an odd way of turning almost every interaction with another person into a contest of some sort that he is more likely to lose than win. I refer to this as his tendency to "play the victim".
For example, he will spend a couple of hours playing a sword fighting game on the Wii, trying to improve his skills and move up the levels. Physical dexterity is not his strongest talent area. He is quite energetic and gets all sweaty jumping and flailing around with the Wii remote. He does memorize the characters and characteristics of each game and level very quickly and this helps him to advance when he's playing on his own. After he's made it pretty far in a game, he will then be extremely excited and will begin jabbering to the rest of the family all about the game, it's levels, characters, weapons, color schemes, bonuses, etc, etc.
It's here where he usually ends up talking himself into a challenge. Someone gets tired of hearing him chattering about the game and decides to play him. Almost inevitably, Orangeboy will not be as triumphant against another player as he would prefer. He becomes disappointed. But he's not a quitter, so he keeps playing even though he is complaining and blaming his remote or the game by now for his lack of astonishing success. He becomes more disappointed and frustrated if things don't start going in his direction. He starts to yell and flops and rolls on the floor between turns. His opponent (a sibling or paternal figure) tells him to stop it and be quiet. He growls in response. For some reason they keep playing and Orangeboy keeps yelling and keeps getting shushed and keeps growling, rolling, and even stomping in response. And then he loses again.
And HERE IT COMES! He starts with a high pitched keening wail that slowly builds in volume. Then the fluids start to pour from his eyes and nose and his face reddens and he opens his mouth wide and squalls. He then stomp-runs to his room and slams the door where he will wail, scream, sob and throw himself around for varying lengths of time that are always too long.
Now, when I see this happening, I often try to intervene by reminding Orangeboy that he must be a good sport whether he wins or loses, or by periodically telling him to calm down and try to have fun - "It's only a game!"
Stopping him in mid game while he's losing would only bring the tantrum on sooner, so that's not an option. Forbidding him to play these games is obviously not an option because he loves, loves, loves- almost to obsession - to play any type of video game and most board and card games.
Talking it over afterwards doesn't seem to go anywhere either.
He's ten years old. He should begin to be able to control himself a little better at some point, right? Or maybe not. I'm thinking about how grown men often act at sporting events and when they or their team lose. At least Orangeboy doesn't punch people or curse them out or throw a sofa out the front door as one of our former neighbors once did. But as he gets older, it might be better for his peer relationships to learn to express his frustration in a slightly more manly fashion. You don't often see men keening and weeping with snot and tears flowing down their faces at football or hockey games. My husband from Texas only pouts a little when the Cowboys lose.

4 comments:

  1. Real men cry when they win. :-) Or when their team wins.

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  2. I recently found out I had Asperger's syndrome, and that one of the problems I have is recognizing my emotions, mostly stress or frustration, before it becomes extreme. As an example I may be stressed about finals week but not really feel the stress building until I have an all out melt down because of something simple like people talking to me or distracting me while I am trying to study. It sounds like Orangeboy's frustrations begin to mount from the beginning of the game and just keep mounting. I understand why he wouldn't want to quit the game, but maybe he could take a time out half way through and eat a snack, or something like that, and just give him a minute to unwind, maybe he wouldn't get to the point of an all out meltdown. For me the most helpful thing has been realizing I have this problem, because it has helped me to learn to watch for the signs that mean I need to just take a step back and work on calming down. Hope this helps.

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  3. Helpful, thanks. I do hope that eventually maturity will give him more insight that will allow him to help himself. In the meantime, I can give him my insights and suggestions and hope he listens.

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  4. Anonymous11/10/09

    You might have already tried this but I find it helps...Try to discuss his behavior before he plays the game and if he displays any of these emotions the game must go off. If he plays and controls his behavior he is to be rewarded.

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If you get the facetious, sarcastic, or humorous quality in this post, please comment! At least LOL.