9 Yr Old Having Crying Meltdowns

Updated on October 21, 2009
L.M. asks from West Haven, CT
15 answers

Recently my 9 year old son is quite dramatic when he doesn't get his way. He will often cry very loud and uncontrollable. It lasts about 10 to 20 minutes. His younger brother that barely cries or has tantrum tell him your okay. My husband and I are afraid the little one is obsorbing it, well he is obsorbing. Joey has alway been very sensitive but not like this.
When he has a meltdown we punish him by taking computer time away, which can start another melt down. Also, at times he is very aguementative, more so with my husband. They alway seem to end up yelling at each other. (We have totally tried not to yell by walking away or speaking softly, it doesn't help!)I no this is not the correct thing to do, but we are so frustrated! Joey is a great boy trying to show and be independent. He's very good at school, great at Tae Kwon DO, creative, alway is helpful with his brother and loves him unconditionally! I need some suggestions to help stop the crying and shouting matches. Getting upset and showing a little anger not getting his way is one thing, but this is crazy. His father and I argue now constantly about displine. He thinks were not hard enough on him. What more can we do? He feels if he doesn't stop now what will he be like at 16. It does make me wonder! We love him so much and really need some advice.


L. M.

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answers from Rochester on

Is there something that is CAUSING these? Most kids don't just melt down on their own. Did he just receive another vaccination recently? Could there be something going on at school? In an afternoon school program? At the sitter?

Try hugging him (when he's done if he's violent toward you or himself). Ask him what is going on Give him time to answer.

Good luck,

PS: Time outs don't work, in my opinion. Most kids don't connect the action with the time out and reasoning things out until they are considered 'too old' for time outs. Talking with them when they have calmed down ( or been hugged) works for me.

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answers from New York on

Hi L.,

It must be so frustrating to endure the crying and not knowing what to do. I know that the crying probably doesn't make sense and that you want to stop it, but I have found that one of the fastest ways to stop a meltdown is to take a deep breath and then try to put words to the feelings your child is having. If he is mad over not being able to do something, mirroring that emotion in an empathic tone,"You are REALLY frustrated that you can't do this!" and letting him know it's okay that he is mad, frustrated, sad, hurt, etc. The feelings are all just fine. Sometimes just knowing that they are heard and that their feelings are okay makes them settle. I think punishment can work to stop the crying, but it sends the message that the feelings he is feeling are not okay. Maybe tell him that he can cry and scream in his room, and you will sit with him if he needs you, but he can't do that in public (because it might bother others). I would try to stay with him instead of walking away. Just let him cry and scream and try to empathize as hard as it may be. I've often been surprised by how empathizing with the underlying complaint (no matter how trivial it may seem), can turn a child from a screaming fit to calm. For example, "I know you are mad at mom for not letting you go to your friends house, it makes sense that you are angry, it is okay to be angry." And then a few moments later, "It's okay to be angry, but you can't [hit, yell, etc at mommy]. And, you still can't go."

Good luck!




answers from New York on

It could easily be his hormones beginning to emerge and he does not know how to handle his emotions as well. My dtrs went through that. We found taking things away did not help. So one day when they were acting "normal" we talked about it and agreed that if they were having a meltdown we would tell them to go to their room for a half hour. If they didn't go when we asked, time got extended. Then we would go on with whatever we were doing and if they missed part or all of it, it was just the natural consequence. So they have missed parts of games, movies, even the start of supper. But it has really helped them learn how to manage themselves without being punished.


answers from New York on

It sounds like your son is figuring out how to get his way and hit on a method that is getting on your nerves (it's that what children always do?). I always made it a point to never argue with my kids. After all I was the adult and my rules were pretty much law.

See if you can figure out if there's a certain time of day these tamtrums are most likely to occure. Right after school? Before school? During dinner? Before bed? I found that a certain times of the day the kids were overly tired or were compressing after a day of sitting at the desk in school. If you can switch up the routine to make that time of day a little different it may end the blow ups.

As far as when they are actually happening I think your best bet might be to remove him from the room until he settles down. If you aren't there as an audience to his tantrum then he will probably stop. Send him to sit on his bed and after 5 minutes pop your head in the door and ask if he's calmed down enough to talk about the situation. If not go back in another 5 minutes.

Make sure you and your hubby are on the same page. Ruling with an iron fist isn't the answer and being the parent who caves in ever time isn't either. There's a huge middle ground and that's where the best parenting happens.



answers from New York on

It is obvious that this behavior is working for him and that is why he is doing it. Try not to pay any attention to him when he does it just walk away. When he realizes this is not how to get attention from you then he will stop. I would let him know that you will not be a part of this behavior and when he is calm and would like to talk to you you will be glad to listen. Until then just walk away. Even if it is fear he needs to learn a better way to communicate that to you and your husband. Good luck



answers from New York on

My advice would be the "catch him being good" strategy. Make sure you pay attention to him when he's being good. When he needs discipline, give it to him, if he has a melt down, put him in his room and tell him he can come out when he's calm. Yelling and fighting with him just highlights and gives attention to bad behavior. Its GOOD behavior that should get the most attention.



answers from New York on


Your son sounds spoiled and now that you have a two year old you want to nip it in the bud, so that the two year old does not act that way as well. He needs to be retrain and it is so hard to do especial at this age. Things he should have learned alaready. And if he is not retrain you will see him at thirteen having melt downs? No, temper tanturms is the offical word. You can't talk him out of a tanturm or hug him out of it. It is about control and boundries. Everything has to be (NO) and he can not get his way until he can again. And when will that be?

1. Reestablish yourself as authority figures - not friends.

2. No means No.

3. Consquences for every action.

4. It always gets worse before it gets better.

5. Don't give up.



answers from New York on

Ignoring the meltdowns is the best way to stop them as others have posted. Do not allow the 2 y/o to comfort him either. Simply tell the baby that Joey is behaving badly and to ignore him, then take the baby into another part of the house.
As far as arguments go, stop asking him leading questions that can result in a debate. Instead of asking him if he did his homework, tell him it is time and to sit down and do it. Think about recent arguments and think about how they might have been avoided or ignored. Arguing is a terrific way for kids to learn to interact with others and have conversations, but not heated arguments. Engage him in debates over whether he thinks it will rain or what team will win the game. If he says it will rain, disagree and ask him why he thinks it will. If his reasoning is sound wind up agreeing with him. This teaches him to think and use reasoning, so he learns to use reasoning when it comes time to clean his room, instead of screaming he doesnt want to. "Mom, I want to finish playing with my game and then I will clean it."



answers from New York on

tell him to sit on a chair or go to his room.. until he is ready to talk things over... then walk away... tell him when he is calm you will talk to him but not until then.. make him go to a chair or his room to calm down. good luck



answers from Rochester on

Hi L.
i have a 9 year old boy too - and i noticed that he was breaking down and crying lately as well as having an explosive temper too. And if i hadn't had a girl two years older i would have been more worried than i am. I believe that boys as well as girls begin puberty and the imbalance of hormones that lead to swinging emotions. Being sensitive to it and gentle with them when they cry and firm when they talk back and yell - i believe is the answer. When i say firm i don't mean yell and scream and all that goes with that. When you feel yourself loosing your temper, take a breath and tell him to go to his room and don't come out until he can talk calmly. Always do it when he reacts with anger and raising his voice - never give in to the yelling match - by you ALWAYS reacting the same way - that is what he will learn from . he will learn that yelling will get him nowhere - a persuasive argument handled calmly might get listened to though. Don't worry too much - just try to remember what it was like when you went through the changing hormone thing and remember even though he is a boy - things are changing for him. Keep up with the TaeKwonDo that is awesome - both my kids are Black Belts and i was so pleased with what they learned from their Masters. Perhaps they can help - i am certain your son respects his Master. The only other thing i would say and you probalby already know this - try not to argue in front of your son ESPECIALLY about how to discipline him. Your younger one will learn from watching the way you handle and overcome this problem with him. Good luck



answers from New York on

If you haven't already, try to make a time when you & your husband can sit down & have private time with just him. Hae the younger son occupied elsewhere (playing, TV, etc). See if he thinks you are ignoring him, giving his brother more attention, or anything else that might be bothering him.

Also, any kind of martial arts contains methods of focus & control. Maybe his instructors can offer some help in controlling any anger issues. I have a brother in law that had anger issues to the point of sometimes becoming violent. Then he started taking karate, or some similar form of martial arts. He learned to control his anger, and has become a much better person & good father of 2 girls & 2 boys.



answers from New York on

Hi L.,
Have you tried to just give him a hug when one of these meltdowns start?

This usually calms my 8 yo boy down quickly (it worked well with my girls too, now 18 and 16). He has started this stuff about a year ago, but it doesn't last long. It usually starts with homework issues. He doesn't want to do his homework, he can get it done in just a couple minutes, but he just doesnt feel like doing it, so he tries to occupy me in conversation. When I have to raise my voice or start counting, he gets his feelings hurt because I won't listen to him. Or he'll try to argue with me that he doesn't know how to do the work. Then the tears start. Then I pretend I'm mad at him and tell him to come to me, then I count when he doesn't. He gets worried, but he comes to me, then I give him a big hug. He smiles and stops crying, then walks away, sometimes a little embarrassed, and does his homework like I know he can.

Sometimes its about cleaning his room, helping his little sister, taking a shower, wanting to see his dad. I never know what the issue will be next. When it's about his dad, I just hand him the phone and tell him to call him. I know he'd feel better to just hear his voice: he has weekend visits with him every other weekend. (he lives almost 4 hours away).

Arguing with dads is why I stayed single! I don't like to argue and refuse to argue about how to raise my children or to argue with my children; I am the adult in the house, I set rules for them to follow, chores for them to do, and I set punishments. I am a strict mother, but my kids do have freedom of speech as long as its done respectfully and without raising their voices. They get warnings when they get out of control, when I count to 3, they get something taken away.

good luck



answers from Binghamton on

Kids have phases, and at nine one of these can kick in when they suddenly realise that the world outside of them is larger than they previously understood and their place in it smaller and more uncertain. Your son is exhibiting the fear this can cause in tantrums, and challenging authority to try and work out where his real place is. All I can advise is patience. So he screams, as long as you don't give in, that is his problem. As to yelling matches, if one doesn't play, they can't happen either. Nothing nips an arguement in the bud as fast as non-participation. Maybe your husband can find a mantra to chant inside his head: "This is not personal, I will stay calm" or whatever works for him.



answers from Tallahassee on

My 7 yo son sometimes has "meltdowns" that are (when I take the time to analyze it) triggered by circumstance (hungry, certain foods, tired, sick, feeling ignored) and can easily escalate unless I keep my cool which isn't always easy. They do usually occur at certain times of day so you start to recognize a pattern and pro-actively avoid letting those things happen (make after-school snack, limit sugary foods, have some "down-time", spend some quality time.

I've found that the feeling ignored is usually the biggest trigger in our household. We try to do daily/nightly activities with our son, but sometimes we're busy or tired or hungry or sick. Quality time is key. And a meltdown is a good way to get your attention.

The important and hardest thing to remember is to keep your cool. If you yell, he's going to yell. You and your husband need to decide on an appropriate way to deal and discipline. If you guys are arguing, then your son is in control -- and he's getting the attention he may be craving, even if it's negative. This is what we do. It's usually successful, but sometimes needs to be adapted or updated. Do not argue or yell. Speak slowly and in a low, tone. Although he's too old for time-out, sitting out (I usually make my son sit in a certain place, not his room) until he can get hold of himself is crucial. Do not pay attention to any of the crying/yelling. Tell him why he is sitting out and you will come talk to him when he calms down. Walk away and keep yourself busy. When he calms down, explain to him why he had to sit out and that his behavior is unacceptable. Have him apologize and then let it go. Distract him with a snack or an activity. If he's argumentative, tell him you'll be back when he can calm down and listen without talking back, walk away again. Keep it up until he gives, which he will.

Trying to impose heavy discipline when a child is out of control just seems to make it worse. If he's done something that absolutely demands discipline afterwards (not just a tantrum, but an unacceptable action as well), after he's controlled and has apologized, calmly explain to him that he's lost whatever privilege works best on him and then let it go. Do not harp on the tantrum after. Do not let him argue about it either! Then you're just back to square one and have to start all over again! Be patient, firm and calm -- even when you want to scream and run.



answers from New York on

Two things I would like to raise.

1. blood sugar - pay attention to when thise meltdowns happen. What has he eaten, how long since he has eaten etc. Start logging things to see if there is any type of pattern. At any rate, keep his blood sugar level with good snacks and supplements. Remove toxins. There is a FREE E-book available on my blog - www.nosickvisits.com that will give you some tips. These things can effect how we deal with stress.

2. At 2, your younger son is probably getting attention for the new skills he is acquiring. although your 9 year old loves him unconditionally, could he be seeking attention from you and your husband? Look for the littlest things to give him positive attention and try to ignore what you can of the negatives. Praise him for how he handles himself when he gets upset, read books for tips. Negative behavior tends to snowball. If he gets the attention positively, that behavior will snowball. Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated. ( by rewards I mean positive attention ) . I am sure you and your husband are attentive to your 9 year old, he may just be in a place in his life we he needs more.

You can do it!

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