Why does my child tantrum ?

Which is what many of us wonder when looking at the screaming child in a store. Then immediately the next thoughts, “how do I stop it?”

To understand how to stop, decrease or shape (change the physical aspect) of a behavior is to understand why. Why does my child tantrum?

Scientists in behavior analysis and BCBAs have categorized behavior into four main functions:

  1. Sensory- the behavior itself is reinforcing and feels good.
  2. Escape- engages in this behavior because it gets them out of something.
  3. Attention- to produce a reaction (both posative, negative or non-verbal) from the environment around them.
  4. Tangible- to obtain access to something.

Each behavior has a function or purpose. For example, someone goes through a drive through to obtain food (tangible). A student calls out of turn in class and is sent to the principals office to avoid/escape a pop quiz. Others twirl their hair, twist their hands or sway back and forth to calm down or feels good (sensory). This child screams in a grocery store line to get his mother off the phone to get a response (attention). Each behavior has a purpose.

What your child, your student or client and see what happens before the behavior, what happens during and what is the end result? What happens due to the behavior?

If there is a behavior in question and you like to learn further, please contact the BCBA or contact a BCBA to obtain support.

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