All Tantrums Are Not Bad!
Tantrums are a necessary part of a child’s learning and interacting with his/her environment. As parents we need to learn how to cope and accept that they are going to happen. We as adults, tend to work too hard to try and avoid and/or deal with them in an emotionally detached way. This unintentionally makes tantrums more likely in the future. Take for example: You and your child are at a store and he is demanding a new car, you hesitate and then say “No, you have all the cars you need.” Your child proceeds to tell you numerous reasons why he just has to have it, not once but over and over with his volume of speech increasing while creating a reinforcing audience. You begin to wear down and your child senses his power while continuing the onslaught of reasons for needing the toy. You as an adult “give in” because you want the tantrum to stop, you’re embarrassed, tired, have guilt feelings or don’t have the time to deal with it, thus reinforcing tantrum-like behaviors without realizing what you have just done.
In ABA therapy we regularly analyze behaviors using the ABC formula.
A = Antecedent: What happens before the behavior (seeing a toy)
B= Behavior: Concise behavior noted (escalation from asking to tantrum)
C= Consequence: What happens to the child (child gets the toy, consequence for parent the tantrum stops at that moment and why parents continue to treat similar, future behaviors in the same way)
Professional therapy suggests if possible “think ahead” and prepare yourself and child for such situations before they happen. It is understood that you cannot avoid all unwanted behaviors so arm yourself with appropriate means of extinguishing such behaviors. In the above situation remain calm, use a low-keyed but firm voice and remove your child from the store. Give little attention to your child until he is calm and can listen, proceed to working together on a plan for how he can earn the toy in the future.
Denise Hubble MA, BCBA
Karen Lake MA, ABA Therapist