In my 25+ years as a Juvenile Probation Officer, Corrections Officer,
mentor to mentally challenged youth and adults and Behavioral Health Professional I've seen my share of clients throwing
Adults throw temper tantrums as well and it can be especially unnerving when that adult happens to be a six foot tall inmate of
a corrections facility who is armed with a pick ax. I've been there and I've dealt with that exact situation.
I've also dealt with inmates who were rioting in a barracks. A riot is like having multiple people throwing temper tantrums all at the same time!
The time to eliminate temper tantrums is the very first time they occur!
In this report I'll share with you some of the techniques I've found have
worked for me. For the most part, I believe your success or failure in eliminating temper tantrums is greatly influenced by your attitude and demeanor when dealing
with the behavior. You'll learn what to say, how to hold yourself and exactly how
I'll also tell you how professionals handle situations that have escalated
out of control. You'll learn what to expect, what not to do and how to keep
everyone, yourself included, safe.
How Temper Tantrums Begin
All behavior has a purpose. Behavior is a learned response to meet some need. Infants learn that crying often brings some
form of relief. An infant cries for many reasons including:
1. Being hungry
2. Being over-tired and irritable
3. Having a diaper that is wet or chaffing
4. Being thwarted from doing something like grabbing your $350 pair of glasses.
5. Being made to go to bed while others are active
You can add your own causes for children crying. But, this report is not about
crying in infants. It is about behavior in children that escalates crying to
the level of a "melt-down". In a temper tantrum you may see any or all of these
2. Uncontrollable crying, sobbing and difficulty getting a breath
5. Smashing things
6. Child throws himself on the floor
7. Child runs uncontrollably bumping into people and furniture without regard
My First Rule:
At the first sign of an impending temper tantrum EVERYTHING STOPS!
Children unconsciously use temper tantrums and the threat of throwing a temper tantrum in public to extort an action from the parent.
The child throws a temper tantrum to gain attention and to cause a parent
or other person to give them what they want.
Most parents are self-conscious about being seen as a "good" parent by the public. Children intuitively know this. Children also quickly pick
up on the current taboo about spankings or physical touch of any kind.
I've heard children tell their parents "Don't you dare touch me or I'll
report you for child abuse".
Few parents have a tough enough skin to face the embarrassment of having one of their children throw a full out temper tantrum in a store, for example.
An effective method to put a stop to a temper tantrum is to stop what you are
doing and remove the child from the situation. For example, if your are home
and a child begins to throw a temper tantrum you can simply withdraw.
I worked with a smart but totally spoiled child with Asbergers Syndrome.
The kid had an extensive repertoire to gain the attention and compliance
of his parents. Among his behaviors was throwing a violent temper tantrum.
When he attempted to use a temper tantrum to compel me to give him access to his
Game Boy after he lost the privilege to play it I looked at him and calmly said:
"I don't have to listen to this racket. I'll see you later when you are
calm." Then, I simply walked out the door.
In this case the client's behavior was easily observed through a one-way mirror.
He was dumbfounded. He really didn't know what to do next since without my attention all of his temper tantrum antics were totally wasted.
He'd lost his audience. Pretty soon he settled down and found something else to do.
Parental Loss of Authority
In its concern to keep children safe from abuse the state authorities have
dis-empowered parents. Parents have lost whatever authority they had in the past.
I can tell you right now that I do not condone verbal or physical violence
of any kind towards anyone, child or adult. I also don't condone abusive,
threatening and disrespectful behavior in children towards anyone else
including towards their own parents or other adults.
VERBAL OR PHYSICAL ABUSE FROM YOUR CHILD IS NEVER JUSTIFIED
AND SHOULD ALWAYS RESULT IN A CONSEQUENCE.
You will be happy to know that the state is especially vigilant about protecting
children from physical abuse by counselors, teachers, social workers and
anyone else in a professional position vis-a-vis working with children.
You can learn the very same techniques that experts in behavior use to maintain control and respect without resorting to verbal or physical abuse
of any kind.
Here's My Number One Recommendation:
The first time a child attempts to use any of the behaviors I've listed for
a temper tantrum you must stop at once and deal with the behavior.
If you are driving your car and a child throws a temper tantrum -
Pull over. Stop the car.
Anecdote: I mentored a 200 pound non-verbal man
who was diagnosed with mild MR and autism. When I was hired the
supervisor told me that the client was prone to signing that he wanted a
soda when traveling with counselors. If the client wasn't assured that
he would get a soda his signing behavior escalated to hitting the
Needless to say, being hit and grabbed by a 200 pound
man while driving a vehicle was extremely dangerous. Sure enough, the
first time I drove the client to his job he decided he wanted a soda. I
told him, (he could hear perfectly), that we would stop for a
soda after he completed his work. The client persisted with signing so I
stopped the car and said :
"what about NO don't you understand? You will
get a soda after work. If you ask me again we won't go to work and you
won't get a soda at all. Do you understand?"
The client signed yes, he understood and signed let's
go. So, I started the car and began driving the client to his job. He
then began signing for a soda. I stopped the car again and said "You
need to stop. Decide now to stop otherwise no soda and no work. Are you
ready to go to work? Because, if you ask for a soda we are returning to
We continued driving to work in complete silence.
If you are shopping and your child wants a treat that you've denied and escalates their behavior to an impending temper tantrum -
Stop shopping. If necessary leave the cart in the aisle and escort the
child out of the store. If my verbal techniques fail to stop the behavior
you may have to cancel the shopping and drive home.
Whatever you do you must not give in to the child's demands.
If you are at the movies or even just watching television and your child
asks for a $6.50 box of popcorn and then throws a temper tantrum in the theatre when you say
"No", take the child out of the seating area and into the lobby.
Use the phrases that have worked for me in the past. If the child continues to escalate their temper tantrum take the child home.
As I said, at the first sign of an impending temper tantrum
Here's My Number Two Recommendation:
EXPECT RESPECT - EXPECT COMPLIANCE!
You do not have to defend your decisions as a parent.
Make no excuses and accept no excuses. Excuses are not solutions.
That means do not yell or argue with your kids.
Yes, I know you may not have finished shopping and that is an inconvenience.
In fact, you may have very little in the cupboard to feed your children supper.
That is OK. Feed them a meager supper. If your child complains simply say:
"You are responsible, (child's name). We were unable to shop for supper today because you misbehaved
in the store and I had to take you home."
There is a song with the refrain "It's cruel to be kind". It is true with child rearing as well as romantic relationships.
Misapplied kindness and a lax approach to parenting is cruel to yourself and to your children.
It leads them to believe that they can misbehave with no consequences.
This is learned behavior and your kids learn it from your actions.
The good news is that you will not have to miss too many dinners before your children "get it".
Arguing or defending your decisions only weakens your position as the parent.
When you permit your child to complain, plead, argue, criticize, re-negotiate consequences or
place blame on others you are sending a message that places your child on an equal plane with you.
You are giving your child all the power in the relationship.
Always remember: you are the parent. It is OK to say "because I said so".
About The Author
David Davies is a Behavioral Health Professional who has worked with
children and adults with behavior issues since he was 21. At age 25
Dave was a Probation and Corrections Officer leading inmate fire
fighting crews to fight forest fires in California. The safety of
himself and his crew depended on his ability to establish good
Recently, Dave wrote and recorded The
Total Makeover Parenting System. Dave teaches parents
"professional strength" parenting tools and strategies.
© 2008 David Davies. This article may be reprinted
with permission of the author when published intact including the
About the author info.
Parenting is not a position of equality with your child. Family life is not and should not be conducted
as a democracy except in inconsequential decisions like whether family members prefer KFC or pizza
for Saturday night supper.
You are the responsible person. You are in charge. You set the rules. You know more than your child
and it is your job to coach and instruct your child to take responsibility so that your child matures
with wisdom and grace.
Arguing with your child, complaining, blaming, whining, pleading, criticizing or justifying your actions when communicating with your child only weakens your role as the parent.
You can tell when you are becoming defensive when your tone of voice rises and you are beginning to
feel angry or "triggered". Your first instinct is to defend yourself.
Don't bother. Simply provide direction to your child and, if necessary WALK AWAY!
Maintaining your "cool" despite lots of provocation is vital. When you lose your "cool", when you argue,
yell and scream you send a message that you are out of control and that gives all the power to the child.
I've written a follow up report called: "Temper Tantrums - What To Do When Nothing Else Works"
You can read more at http://www.TransformKidsNow.com