Before Mightier, the word that Stephanie heard most often from her son, Miles, was “no.” Even if she asked him to do something he enjoyed, he refused. When he wasn’t getting his way, when he felt like he wasn’t being listened to, or when he felt like others were laughing at him, he would quickly become enraged. Stephanie and her husband knew that sending Miles to his room during a meltdown could lead to his putting holes in the wall, but they figured that was better than hitting a sibling. Given Miles’ tendency to ignore Stephanie’s requests, she knew she had to be strategic about how she introduced Mightier to him.
After purchasing Mightier just before the kids started summer break, Stephanie told Miles that she had a new video game she wanted to show him. Because the kids aren’t allowed to use technology during the week when they’re in school, Miles’ ears perked up. Within a few weeks, Miles and his siblings were hooked. They played Mightier on a near-daily basis throughout the summer. As a goal-directed child, Miles set out to unlock all the games and collect as many acorns as possible. Stephanie could sense Miles’ interest in Mightier waning once he achieved these goals. This concerned her because he had not played long enough to experience any real behavior change. Unsure of how to reengage him, she turned to her Mightier coach Jessie for advice.
“As my coach, Jessie was invested enough in what my family was doing with Mightier to understand that we use the game a bit differently from other families,” Stephanie said. “Together, she and I came up with a plan to get him interested again. We decided to challenge him over the next 30 days to cut his ‘red zone’ visits in half and also cut in half the amount of time it took him to fall out of the red zone.”
“Knowing that Jessie was there helped him feel like what he was working on was valid and made him feel like he was important…”
Initially, Miles acted as if he was already “too good” at Mightier. Appealing to that “I have to have control” aspect of her son’s ODD, Stephanie offered a simple response: “Prove it.” Challenge accepted.
Just as Stephanie and Jessie had hoped, Miles began playing Mightier with the same intensity and devotion as before. And he not only surpassed the goals they had set for him, but also did so during a time that could have been triggering and destabilizing for him. The 30 days of the challenge happened to be the month before he was set to move from 6th grade to 7th grade and transfer to a campus where he had yet to make friends. Stephanie credits Jessie’s support for keeping Miles on track.
“Knowing that Jessie was there helped him feel like what he was working on was valid and made him feel like he was important,” Stephanie said. “A lot of time kids with ODD feel like they’ve been brushed aside because they can’t control themselves. Having Jessie give us those specific numbers made Miles feel seen and heard.”
Jessie also emphasizes the collaborative nature of the intervention.
“My role is to partner with parents to figure out how to make sure Mightier is working successfully for their children,” Jessie said. “Stephanie’s children all need something slightly different from Mightier. The overall goal of emotional regulation is the same, but there’s something unique that drives and motivates each of them through that process.”
“When I saw the numbers, I thought, ‘That’s what’s happening! He’s calming down so much faster and we’re not having those meltdowns’”
It wasn’t until Stephanie talked to Jessie about Miles’ progress and looked at the data that she fully appreciated how much her son’s behavior had improved.
“When I saw the numbers, I thought, ‘That’s what’s happening! He’s calming down so much faster and we’re not having those meltdowns’” she said.
Miles is no longer prone to hitting his siblings or pulling their hair. In the mornings and late evenings, times when he was most susceptible to extreme mood swings, he’s able to utilize strategies from Mightier such as deep breathing to soothe himself.
“He does it automatically and can articulate what’s going on,” Stephanie said. “It takes two minutes for him to settle down instead of two hours.”
Once a child who would only just barely qualify for promotion to the next grade, Miles is excelling so far in the current school year, despite having to juggle eight courses and one elective.
“He was just skimming by,” Stephanie explained. “We would have to sit down with him at the end of each year and say, ‘OK, here are all your missing assignments. Let’s sit here until you get them done.’ I don’t know if it’s Mightier or what, but he doesn’t have any missing assignments right now. The curriculum is much more difficult and the school is bigger, which usually triggers his anxiety, but he’s got all A’s and B’s.”