Jack is a 10-year-old boy who lives on the west coast of the United States with his mother, Anne. Anne describes Jack as funny and easy to get along with. She says that Jack loves animals and overall is a very social child who has many friends. Jack is incredibly smart and does well in school. When Jack was 9, he and Anne decided to try Mightier to see if it would help him gain some control over tantrums that were wearing them both down.
Anne recalls that Jack, like many other children, began having tantrums at a young age. While this is a common experience for many young kids, Jack’s meltdowns seemed more intense to Anne, and they got worse as the years went on. When Jack would lose control, “It was like he was possessed,” Anne says. Meltdowns would include screaming, throwing things, kicking and hitting. Anne remembers talking to other parents about meltdowns, and just knew that what Jack was experiencing was much more severe.
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Tantrums and Meltdowns
Around age 8, Jack was getting angrier, more violent, and having more frequent outbursts that would last up to two hours. He once overturned a table in the midst of his rage. Another time he ripped up a carpet and rolled it into a pile. Occasionally, he would follow Anne around, trying to provoke her. She would sometimes have to shut herself in her room, which usually distracted Jack and calmed him to a point where she could come out and they could talk. Jack would feel terrible- so remorseful about his behavior, motivated to change but helpless as to how.
Meanwhile, Jack had always done well in school, social situations and other settings outside the home. His meltdowns would only happen with Anne and in the home setting. While Anne celebrated his success in other areas of life, at home Anne would anxiously anticipate the next tantrum. Jack’s outbursts were almost always triggered by him not getting something that he wanted or being left out of an experience his peers were involved in.
Over the years, Jack and Anne tried many different paths to get things under control. They saw a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a social worker over the years with not as much improvement as they had hoped for. Jack was never given a formal diagnosis or medication, though professionals wondered about symptoms of depression or anxiety. The therapy sessions offered some skills to manage anger, but Jack did not seem to get much out of them and could not access the skills in the heat of the moment. Anne found out that one of Jack’s friends was using a biofeedback tool to help with similar issues, and she was intrigued. After some research on affordable biofeedback tools for kids, Anne found Mightier.
“I noticed subtle changes almost right away, and things continued to improve even with the added stress of going back to school. His last full-blown outburst was 3 months after beginning Mightier.”
Jack and Mightier
Anne and Jack talked about Mightier ahead of time, and Jack was excited to try it. “He really did not like the person he was, and he really wanted to get better.” When Jack first started playing, Anne let him play freely. After some time Anne found that he was not playing as much as recommended, so she helped to provide a bit of structure. They agreed that Jack would play 3 days per week for about 20 minutes. Jack got to choose which days. Other than that, Anne has let Jack be independent with his Mightier practice. Jack was excited to unlock all of the calming strategies and test them out. He learned that crossing the midline was his favorite calming skill to utilize in the game.
Anne says that she always felt like Mightier was helping. Even in the beginning, when Jack continued to have meltdowns, the quality changed and, notably, the aggression started to go down. Anne noticed subtle changes almost right away, and things continued to improve even with the added stress of going back to school. Jack’s last full-blown outburst was 3 months after beginning Mightier.
Progress felt gradual. There were times when Anne would notice little meltdowns starting to creep up if Jack had not played for a few days. She would point this out to Jack, and he had enough awareness to see that Mightier had an impact and he needed to get back on track with playing regularly again. This was motivating. Anne has never seen Jack using calming skills in real life, yet now cooling down “has become instinctual” for him.
Jack still has emotions, of course. He has moments where he gets upset and wants his way, but he expresses himself appropriately. Now if he gets upset, aggression is not a part of his response. He often can remain calm, and if he can’t, he goes to his room and is able to come back out calmly within 10-20 minutes. Anne states that Mightier has most helped Jack to be able to identify his emotions and to be able to know how to control his behavior.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Jack knows he has more control and ability to remain calm. Anne and Jack recently compared things now to how they were a year ago. Anne states that “spring break last year was a disaster…full blown meltdowns almost every single day.” This year, even in the midst of a global pandemic, there was not one meltdown. Jack is so proud of how far he has come and is able to acknowledge how much he has grown.
Anne says that her own anxiety has decreased because things are so much better in their home. Anne says “he is a totally different person,” and Jack has more confidence in his own ability to get through hard things. Mightier “changed who he was and how he responds to stress.” Jack continues to play Mightier because he truly believes it has helped him, and he is motivated to keep that progress going.