Temper Tantrum Behavior
Temper tantrums have been defined as noxious behavior demonstrated by students when their demands are not met or when they are tired (Sasso et al., 1990). Blechman (1985) defines temper tantrums as taking place "when a student, who has not been mistreated, is out-of-control for at least 1 minute, screaming, crying, throwing things, or hitting" (p. 89). Tantrum behavior is characterized by a variety of acting-out behaviors including crying, stamping, throwing self, screaming, kicking, clinging, jumping up and down, shouting, pounding, and other annoying behaviors.
Temper tantrums are among the most common challenging behaviors of young students (Blechman, 1985), and they need to be eliminated before developing into more serious oppositional behaviors (Ostrander, 2004). Although tantrum behavior is exhibited by persons of all ages, it is usually affiliated with toddlers and young students, and is frequently associated in the literature with aggressive and noncompliant behavior (e.g., Kerr & Nelson, 1989; Kuczynski et al., 1987; McMahon & Wells, 1989; Sasso et al., 1990).
Common Causes and Antecedents of Tantrum Behavior
Students have temper tantrums for one primary reason: The behavior works! Temper tantrum behavior can be traced directly to an adult's pattern of giving in to the student's wishes as soon as he or she begins to tantrum. The most common funcction of tantrum behavior is to gain attention or demand something. For example, when Tyler wants to go to the grocery store with his mother, tantrum behavior is used to get what he wants. Tyler's mother does not like the tantrum behavior, so she lets Tyler accompany her to the store. Then, Tyler promptly stops his tantrum, gets his coat, and smilingly goes to the store with his mother. By giving in to Tyler's behavior, his mother is reinforcing his behavior. In the future, Tyler will be more likely to engage in tantrum behavior when he is told "No" as a result of the positive consequences he experienced for his tantrum behavior.
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