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First Step: Understanding Why Your Child’s Tantruming

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First Step: Understanding Why Your Child’s Tantruming

The first step to addressing any challenging behavior is to figure out the “why

What do I mean by the “why”?

The “why” is what your child is trying to communicate by engaging in challenging behavior. 

You’ve probably heard me say it before – and I’m going to say it again – behavior is a form of communication. 

So the first step you need to take to figure out what they’re communicating is to figure out what happened right before (aka “the trigger” or “antecedent”) and what happened right after (the consequence).  In the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) we refer to this as the three-term contingency or the ABCs of Behavior:

A = Antecedent

B = Behavior

C = Consequence

From this information, we can determine the “functions” of the behaviors, which is the “why”. Check out the post titled ‘2nd Step to Understanding Why Your Child is Tantruming’ for more info.

So what are the ABCs of Behavior?

A – Antecedent is anything that happens right before the tantruming behavior occurred. Some common examples are:

  • a non-preferred person (even if it’s temporary) walking into the room (ex. sibling who takes your toy)
  • being asked to do a non-preferred activity (ex. homework)
  • a non-preferred item being presented (ex. lima beans, uncomfortable shoes).
  • a non-preferred direction being given (ex. clean up your room)
  • being denied access to a preferred item (ex. candy in the grocery isle)

B – Behavior is any behavior that is observable and measurable. The example we are using is tantruming and for this particular kiddo, it includes screaming, crying, falling to the ground, flaring his arms, etc.). Some common examples:

  • Hitting
  • Biting
  • Self-Injurious behaviors (ex. hitting ones head against a hard surface)
  • Grabbing
  • Property Destruction (ex. breaking toys)
  • Throwing (ex. throwing toys at or away from others)
  • Non-Compliance/Not Following Directions
  • Inattention
  • Task Avoidance

C – Consequence is anything that proceeds the occurrence of the behavior. The consequence is neither “bad” nor “good”…it’s just whatever happens afterward. In the ABA world, we go a step further to say it’s whatever happens after the occurrence of the behavior that either increase, or decreases, the likelihood of the behavior happening again in the future. Common examples (remember none of these are recommendations…just examples of common consequences I see):

  • Telling the child to “stop”
  • Putting the child in time out
  • Taking away a preferred item (ex. Ipad)
  • Ignoring
  • Reprimanding, yelling, scolding, etc.
  • Directing one’s body language towards the child
  • Giving the child a preferred item (ex. candy)

What are the ABC’s of your child’s tantruming behavior? Need some help figuring it out? Check out the attached ABC form.

When you’re finished, feel free to make a comment, or send me a private message with your results.

Want to learn more? Check out the post on ‘2nd Step to Understanding Why Your Child is Tantruming’.