Temper Tantrum Behavior (page 2)
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.
Interventions for Tantrum Behavior
If students have temper tantrums because they know tantrum behavior will get them what they want, then the best intervention to prevent tantrum behavior is to teach students that this behavior no longer works. Tantrum behavior can be significantly decreased through the use of extinction. When reinforcement for tantrum behavior is withdrawn, and the student's behavior is ignored, the tantrum behavior will probably be greatly reduced or eliminated.
It is also important for teachers of young children to follow routines (e.g., "First we put on our coat; then we go outside") so that students learn what the rules are and what is expected of them. Warnings and transition periods for young children are also recommended (e.g., "Children, in 5 minutes you will have to put away your toys and prepare for story time").
Lastly, it is difficult for young children to function when they are tired or overwhelmed with stimuli. The preschool curriculum must be developmentally appropriate for the age of the students. Structure, order, and routine are important elements for teachers when working with young children.
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