Loving an Explosive Child | When Things Go Really Wrong

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes from perfect to awful in the blink of an eye. Your family is laughing and smiling and then everything seems to change in an instance? Loving an explosive child can mean that things go really wrong in the blink of an eye. I tell my story so you know you are not alone and it is not your fault!

Loving The Explosive Child

The following story was the first story I ever told about my family. Years later I can still picture it like it was yesterday! The emotion floods back and its like I am right there again. I have learned in the last few years that I am not alone and neither are you! I tell my story so that maybe, just maybe, you can find comfort in the fact that others are going through what you are going through!  This is a great example of a struggle we face in our family… lit dynamite waiting to go off.

The day started so simple; the boys were dancing to their favorite music video playlist:

While this might be a normal thing for most children, for a child with sensory processing disorder, it can be just enough to light the fuse.

Picture a soda can being shaken, and then imagine what happens when you poke a hole in the can and let it go…

Sensory Seeking Children
Simple experiences can turn your calm. loving child into a mess of emotions.

This is what happens to Legoman.

Touching, grabbing, and running into anything in sight.

We have learned that removing him from a dangerous situation is one of the most useful tools in defusing the dynamite. However, some days that just isn’t enough.

After sending Legoman to another space to calm down, he realized he was missing out on things in the other room, and instead of  simmering to a slow boil, the rate of escalation only increased.Exploding Children


Calm and retreated became shouts of anger, tears of frustration, clenched fists, and pursed lips. Sentiments could be heard through the house, such as:

  • “You just want me to miss everything in life”
  • “What’s so funny? The fact that I’ll never come back again? Yeah,  that’s hilarious!”
  • “You’re Mean”
  • “You don’t care if I ever come back”
  • “You don’t love me”
  • “You’re a liar”

I kept calm. Explained why he was separated, that we loved him, and we knew he needed space to calm down before he did or said something he didn’t mean. That didn’t help. So we retreated to his bedroom, another method that ALMOST always works. Not today.

I must mention, that today is a transition day (the boys go to Mr. X) which almost always sends Legoman into a spiraling mess. Once he gets going, it is so hard to defuse him. I thought I would try something new since Mr. X was at my door to pick up the boys. I invited him in and asked him if we could parent Legoman together. Boy was this a mistake…

Loving an Explosive Child

Legoman only felt more validated at his frustrations with me:

  • “She did this”
  • “She made me get mad”
  • “This is all her fault”
  • A few tongue stick-outs and spits my way as well

Mr. X was so overwhelmed by “being uncomfortable” in my house that mid-sentence he looked at his son, and said… “I’ll be in the car.” Thank you, kind sir for your help.

After this, Papa Bear stepped in and calmly went through the steps of what happened. His conversation with Legoman was so lovely and inspiring. Both emerged from the bedroom, Legoman immediately hugged me with a tear rolling down his cheek and said “Mom, I love you. I am so sorry for being mean to you.”

And you know what my response was?

I love you no matter what.

I love you when you Roar.

I love you when you Explode.

I know you love me too,

I know you don’t want to be mean to me, and you get mad at yourself when you are.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for your actions, but it doesn’t change that…

I love you. So, hon, I LOVE YOU!”

loving explosive children

And off he went with Mr. X.

Do you have an explosive child? How do you diffuse him/her? How do you show love and support while still setting limits? How do you share parenting? I would love to know!

You can follow me on FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestInstagram orsubscribe by email. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

More Adventures in Parenting An Angry Child

The best ways for how to help an angry child. Really helpful!

Top Parenting Tips for Parenting an Angry Child
How to Stay Married when Parenting an Angry Child
15 Sure-fire Tips for Calming and Angry Child 

Sensory Hacks to Calm and Angry Child
Why You Can’t Discipline the Angry Out of Your Child
Simple Tips for Calming an Anxious Child

Remember, parenting is not a perfect picture. It isn’t a solid road map that looks the same for everyone. You are doing taking the first steps just by reading this and trying to get help for your child! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you just need an ear to hear!

photo credit: mith17 via photopin cc
photo credit: vissago via photopin cc

53 thoughts on “Loving an Explosive Child | When Things Go Really Wrong”

  1. I’m stopping by from SITS Sharefest so I’m new here. Since I’m new I don’t know all your details but I want to say that we struggled w/ SPD when my son was in the pre-school years. My heart breaks for you reading this and I TOTALLY get your response of how much you love your son.
    We went through a lot of OT and Listening Therapy. I just recently saw a time out devise that is a bottle filled w/ water, glue and glitter. You shake it up and it takes about 5 minutes for the glitter to settle. You give the bottle to the child who needs to be off by himself and tell him that he can come back when all the glittered is settled. I’ve never used this so I don’t know if it would would on a really explosive SPD kiddo. But it has a visual stimulation element that a traditional “time out” doesn’t.
    I’m so glad you are blogging about your experience. So many parents don’t understand what is going on w/ their kid. They need to know there are other parents out there struggling too.

    1. Thank you so much for your reply. I too am new here. I love the resource you shared. When I shared the idea with the boys, they both said they want to make the jars next week for craft. Thank you for the support and encouragement.

  2. I can relate to your little boy because I have Aspergers and I still go through this, even as an adult, where I just feel so tightly wound up and get very upset, I can hardly breathe! I think it was a good idea that you reminded him you love him no matter what, and that you know he loves you no matter what too.

    1. Thank you so much for the words of encouragement. I would love to hear more strategies that seem to help you when you have these moments. I do feel so lost and don’t know how to help him and get us through the meltdown.

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  4. i can totally relate to this post. My son doesn’t have SDP but he can still get explosive given the right triggers (and they are pretty easy to find). It does really help that Hublet and I are on the same page and can be consistent – but when I am too angry to deal he can step in calmly and take Goblin through calming down (sounds a bit like what Pappa Bear did for your son).
    It is lovely that despite all the emotion your son can come out and immediately recognise his love for you and yours for him. Sounds like a great loving bind you have. Thanks for sharing your experience on the Sunday Parenting Party. I’m pinning this so other parents going through similar can feel some support.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as well. My goal is to share more of what I go through with Legoman, because I want to open communication between parents that need to the support. Parenting isn’t easy. They make lots of books, and lots of us write blogs… but the truth is none of know what we are doing! Thank you for pinning. I look forward to reading more on your blog. If this is the sort of article I can post on Sunday Parenting Party I will challenge myself to post for it weekly. Let me know.

      1. this is definitely the sort of post that Sunday Parenting Party readers are looking for. Posts that talk about how other parents are feeling, and coping (or not coping) help us all feel that little bit less alone as we muddle through, so please do come back and link up again.

    2. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I look forward to writing more post like there and reading more from your blog.

  5. My little guy is 2. He doesn’t have any actual diagnosis, but has speech and sensory issues. He is hypersensitive to everything, so I never know how he is going to react to anything. One day or even one minute he might get hyper, another he might get hysterical or mad. It’s a constant battle for both of us trying to figure everything out and work on it all with him. What might calm and sooth him one day, won’t work the next. It’s going to be a long uphill battle. And though it’s hard on both of us. I love him with every inch of my being and wouldn’t change him for anything.

    1. I completely understand. Learning about Sensory Processing has definitely helped me cope with the struggles. Even without a diagnosis, we used many of the heavy work and sensory diet activities. These immediately helped.

      1. Amanda

        My two year old has never been formally diagnosed and quite honestly I don’t want or need one. He does have delayed speech and sensory issues one of which is related to food he only likes crunchy foods. What resources did you use to learn as your son was growing?

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  7. My daughter is dyslexic and dysgraphic. We also homeschool. When she encountered things she didn’t get she snapped. I have had pencils thrown at me and I have been told that I am the worst person alive. Learning that she was dyslexic/dysgraphic changed how I approached it. I started to see that she was genuinely overwhelmed. I started to teach her to tell me she is overwhelmed before throwing something. It hasn’t fixed everything but knowing that she can tell me she is overwhelmed and we will find a new approach has definitely helped. =)

    1. I am interested in learning more about how you teach your daughter and what it means to be dysgraphic. My son has a super high vocabulary and verbal/nonverbal IQ but his working memory and processing speed are extremely low. Sometimes I wonder if he might have something that needs more attention.

      1. Another SPD mom

        My son has SPD and is 2E like your son. Very high vocab, spatial, etc and lower working memory/processing speed. He’s also dyspraxic, and that might be the difference between our scenarios, not sure. Just wanted to let you know my son does not get explosive, so I don’t think it’s the 2e component. My daughter, on the other hand, is the explosive queen. Have not had formal testing done for her yet. I’ve read ADHD can cause the explosiveness, and I’d bet the house thst she’s ADHD although her teachers tell me she’s not…anyway, not sure if any of thos helps, but thought I’d throw it out there.

        1. Thank you. I hope this post didn’t Come across like I am attributing his explosions to being ZE , I do think every child is different . My son’s SPD and anxiety make it very hard for him to process his frustrations and emotions . Then his emotions tend to be extreme!

  8. My son has SPD and is dysgraphic and possibly dyslexic as well. I think its all related. He’s very easily overwhelmed and loves to touch and cuddle most of the time. Sending him off to his room sometimes works but its better if I go with him so he doesn’t feel abandoned. He wants to be with others often but it creates anxiety so has to be in short doses. Sometimes I wonder if he may even be on the tip of the autism spectrum. Sigh. its hard because others can’t see it the way I can.

    1. That is such a difficult place to be in. If you ever need another person that understands the melt downs I am here. My son does not like to be hugged or touched. It is a fine line for us in sending him to his room. We have since learned to explain ahead of time that he is not in trouble but that we are trying to help him calm down. What is hard for us, is that many times he is so close to typical and then he snaps. It breaks our hearts.

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  11. Oh yeah.. I’m familiar with that shaken can. Some days we just learned to wear rain gear and to hunker down. We still live with it and he’s a teen. He’s more silent and honestly. …I miss the explosion. At least I knew he was venting. I’ve found that heavy works do so much. It works for non spd kids too as the transition just builds and tenses them up. For the longest time my son thought I was loosing my mind as I was cleaning the garage or basement to out over and over. (He was moving bins and boxes back and forth for me.) Up and down steps….and sometimes I needed something could he bring that bin back. Oh..no it was the 2 before that one. No…you were right it was the one before. He had heavy work and I appreciated all his help cause I could NOT have done it all on my own.

    Perhaps your back needs to be sore on transition day. Have him carry the laundry basket of dirty clothes and clean clothes and carry it from room to room to put stuff away. Also…The burrito game. Add extra toppings and pack ‘Em tight. Hope that helps.


    1. I love this. Thank you so much. Heavy work is vital in our house as are visual schedules and sensory breaks. Sometimes those just don’t work and we all have to breathe deeper.
      Thank you for connecting and sharing your story.

      1. Confused Mel

        Wow – I am very new to this, and am in Sydney, Australia. My 8y/o son is going through assessing and disagnosis now, however I am completely lost on even where to start with him. The way he behaves when that shaken can finally explodes is very hard to deal with. I like the idea of the glitter bottle to assist with his calming! Onwards and Upwards I guess?!?

        1. It has been a very long road in learning how to handle our sons triggers and outbursts. Some days are better than others and I find that we need someone to talk to. Do you know about the group for sensory needs? It is a support group I have set up for parents and educators to talk about what is going on and find support.

          1. Confused Mel

            No – what is the group? Where do I locate this? Without jinxing, it is 1930 Sydney, Australia, and we haven’t had a meltdown today – this is record breaking!
            Appreciate the assistance greatly!!

          2. Kristin

            I would love more information about the group as well. My son is 4 and we have constant battles. I know he’s crying out for help, but the help we give doesn’t seem to work. Ever.

    2. anita

      Please tell me about heavy work? Our 4 year old is explosive and combative be nature. He’s never been diagnosed with anything but a strong personality. It’s very hard because his explosions, tantrums, and general difficult nature, trips all my triggers. I am working with a therapist on my own anger, rage issues. But sadly I have not subdued them completely. It makes me so sad and guilty because I know I am transferring my poor patterns to all my kids. I hate knowing how it affects them. It’s just really hard to teach a child to manage their emotions when I can barely manage my own. Perhaps this heavy work idea will help both of us. Thx

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    1. Alissa, Thank you so much for everything you write! I feel less alone every time you post! So thank you! I loved your post about parenting an angry child and have been following along ever since!

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  15. That sounds exactly like Boo! He also has trouble with transitions, especially between ex and my house. thank you for sharing this, helps me know I’m not the only parent dealing with this. I have not figured out a secret to get him to calm down yet, just have to hold on and ride the storm without losing my temper (which can be tricky!).

    1. So glad this helped! We have found some things that help . We are at our one year mark of therapy which has been extremely helpful .

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  21. Thank you for this post! It gives me heart. I’m a Sunday school teacher and have a child in class who I realized goes into sensory overload mostly because of sound, sometimes movement. At first I thought it was ADHD, but knew that wasn’t quite it. It’s great to know that there are ways of working with him and that the problem is a real thing. (He’s also brilliant and charming and I make sure he knows I value his thoughts and presence in the class. ) Now maybe I can find some tools that will help in the class setting. Thank you again.

  22. We deal with a very explosive child. So often it is always mine or my husband’s fault. We often “do things that make it worse.” My son is now 6, 7 in April. He is able to communicate more like tell us before hand if we are doing something to make him upset and we back off. No point in trying to communicate when they are at their boiling point. To diffuse my son, what I have found that works best is to remove him from the situation (put in his room) for a few minutes and then come in and tackle/tickle him. Anything to take him by surprise. He hasn’t learned how to calm himself down yet and talking when he is upset does not work. Once he is calm, I try talking to him, but chances are we will go through the same thing for the same reason again.

  23. This sounds like my son “KaBoom!”. It really amazes me how when we really get to know our kids, then SPD becomes more “manageable”, but not any easier if this makes sense. My son is my “four seasons in a day” – I never know what to expect when I get home from work. I wrote about our experience at this link http://chevslife.com/2014/11/22/fight-or-flight/. I’m so glad I came across your blog! Thank you for sharing.

  24. Hi there, friend,

    I re-read this post. Now that I am “in it” with my own four year old, your words gave me chills. Wow, can I so relate to your circumstances. Thank you for being so open with your story. I think many parents feel so alone in this – what often feels like – battle.

    Lots of love,

  25. Marie

    Thank you for sharing. I felt like you were quoting my daughter. Every day is an adventure, with strategies to try or try again.

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  27. Becky Thomas

    What has really, really worked for us: 1. Take something child loves, but tends to quick start their temper. 2. Tell said child that they can indulge in activity today, but if child gets upset during/after activity they cannot have the activity tomorrow. They can only have activity the next day IF they are calm both during/after activity today.

    For us, it was video games or Minecraft videos. It can be anything the child adores, but tends to upset him or her. It took a couple of weeks for my child to figure out how to control his emotions, but boy he was motivated!!! There WILL be tantrums until they learn though. It is part of the process. But once they learn, it’s a matter of time until they learn to apply their method in other areas of their life.

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