Susan Humphries
Son-Rise Program® Teacher 
Autism Treatment Center of America®

Children are so beautiful at expressing themselves in so many ways. One common way children express themselves when they do not get what they want is to tantrum. Even if there is just an inkling of a “no” coming from us. Your child’s protest can have many versions – whining, crying, screaming, wailing, throwing themselves to the floor, slapping or biting, head banging, etc. Why does your child communicate in this way? Because it works! 

Understanding why your child’s crying works:

  • It gets them what they want: Our children use this form of communication because at some point it has gotten them what they wanted. To avoid a full blown tantrum many parents react quickly to avoid it. For example, if your child wants one more cookie, you may say, “No more, you’ve had enough”… until they whine, frown, and you begin to see the tears welling up in their eyes. In quick response you offer a handful of cookies to head off a potential disaster!
    · It moves people: That scream in the grocery store can make any mommy or daddy finish their shopping in record time. This may be your child’s way of saying “no” to the place you have taken him/her to or their way of reacting to people they want to get away from.
    · It gives them a sense of control: Our children need a lot of control in order to cope with a world that they may feel is out of control. By tantruming, not only do they get what they want faster, but they also gain a sense of control over other people. Watch how people respond the next time your child tantrums … they get right out of the way as if there were a swarm of stinging bees in the living room. WOW! People are the most unpredictable factors in our children’s lives. It must give our children a real sense of relief to know that they can make people move away or make people  deliver their wants more quickly.

    Why do we “feed” the tantrum?
    It is all in our attitude:
    We make ourselves uncomfortable — sad, angry, anxious, guilty, nervous, and more. We torture ourselves with these uncomfortable feeling because of what we believes when we experience our child’s tantrum.

    Here are some common gut wrenching beliefs that parents hold before they complete the training and learn the tools of The Son-Rise Program® :
    · It is my responsibility as a parent to make my child happy.
    · I feel sorry for my child because she/he has special needs.
    · Others will judge me as a bad parent if my child is crying.
    · I don’t want my child to think I don’t love them.
    · It is a problem and I must fix it.
    · The assumption that your child is intensely unhappy when they tantrum and that there is something terribly wrong.

    The new you will know what to do!
    Abandon your old way of thinking and try something new:
    · There is always a reason to reply “no”. Think about it – you say “no” because you care for your child. It is not beneficial for them to eat cookies instead of dinner, watch too much television, run out into the street without clothes, eat the paint off the wall, draw all over their baby sister’s face, (these are all true stories), etc. Limits are acts of love. We all needed limits as children and we all learned from them.

    · Remember tantruming is a form of communication not a statement of great suffering. I have seen a child go from a full drama tantrum to a smile in a split second. NO child has the emotional burdens that we create for ourselves as adults.

    · It’s not a problem it’s an opportunity. Teaching your child how to calmly and easily handle the “no” now will benefit them for the rest of their life. Ultimately, you can teach your child to be calm even if they don’t get what they want. You are supporting a lifetime of happiness for your child when you teach them this belief.

    · Your child’s diagnosis is not a weakness! Feeling sorry for your child will only put your child in the dictator position and they will be ruling your house in no time. View your child as strong and capable of doing the best they can to get what they want. Viewing your child as capable of moving through his/her challenges actually empowers everyone.

    · Loving your child through this time will help you stay calm and be clear with the following actions to take. Believing that there is nothing wrong with you, with your child, or the circumstance will feed your love and comfort.

    Let’s get REAL with it instead of refusing to deal with it !
    Relax- think to yourself one of the thoughts above to support your comfort!

    Explain- Sweetly tell your child the truth as to why you are setting the limit. For example, say, “I love you, sweetie and having another cookie is not good for your body. It’s ok if you want to cry but it will not get you another cookie.

    Act slowly, quietly and be mellow – No need to keep explaining, no need to offer something to stop the crying. Don’t let the tantrum affect your reaction. One sweet explanation is enough and ZERO reaction is the most tangible lesson for your child. Doing this will help your child hear and see that his/her dramatic protest will not move you to change your reply.

    Love your child through the tantrum they have created and brewed for themselves. NOT giving in is the act of love. Be the calm in their storm. If you’re in The Son-Rise Program playroom you can simply play on your own in the corner, blowing bubbles until your child calms themselves down. If you are washing the dishes, hold a feeling of love in your silence. You will be empowered and you will empower your child in the long run.

Facebook Comments

  • Anonymous

    I believe your comments, but I feel judged when I do "nothing". In public or at home with friends and family. They feel I let my son "get away" with misbehaving (having a tantrum) if I don't react. What do I do?

  • The fist thought to have for yourself in both of those situations is that you are truly doing the best that you can with what you know and with what is happening. You love your child and you want the best for him. Obviously, in public, people will hold what thoughts or judgments they have and there is nothing you can do about that but practice your own comfort in the moment by believing in what you are doing is an act of love for your child. At home, you can explain how you want to help your child by using these techniques. When you explain to your child that you love them, that you are saying no for the reason that you have, and that it is ok if they cry but it will not get them what they want then most observers will understand what is happening. In the end it is up to them how they feel about. Actually, you are always doing something vs. nothing. Look at it as if you are doing something different so that you move away from teaching your child cry to get what they want. With your ease and comfort when taking your energy off your child you are modeling that you are calm in the face of his crying. Over time your child will learn to be more flexible and open to limits in their life. The idea that you can still be happy if you do not get what you want or that you can be easy to get what you want at a different time is life changing for your child and for you.

  • Anonymous

    What if the child is big and tries to hit and bite if he does'nt get what he wants? How to stay calm and protect ourselves and stop his hitting habit?

  • To me, the most important sentence is: "It’s ok if you want to cry…" – I'll love you all the same!

    My daughter didn't do tantrums until lately. She recently watched other children get what they wanted from their parents by crying.
    So, from time to time, she experiments with this new technique. Which is so exciting – she is finally copying peers!!!

    My daughter didn't do tantrums until lately. She recently watched other children get what they wanted from their parents by crying.
    So, from time to time, she experiments with this new technique. Once, I just told her: "That is a fantastic imitation of your friend! You really watched him carefully and you're a great actress!" She turned around and said: "I'm not imitating! I'm trying to tell you something!" 😀
    Another time, I really didn't get the reason for her crying, so I said: "Oh this must be so terrible! Let's have a good cry together!" She stopped immediately, laughed and said: "Mommy, you are so silly!"

  • To me, the most important sentence is: "It’s ok if you want to cry…" – I'll love you all the same!

    My daughter didn't do tantrums until lately. She recently watched other children get what they wanted from their parents by crying.
    So, from time to time, she experiments with this new technique. Which is so exciting – she is finally copying peers!!!

    My daughter didn't do tantrums until lately. She recently watched other children get what they wanted from their parents by crying.
    So, from time to time, she experiments with this new technique. Once, I just told her: "That is a fantastic imitation of your friend! You really watched him carefully and you're a great actress!" She turned around and said: "I'm not imitating! I'm trying to tell you something!" 😀
    Another time, I really didn't get the reason for her crying, so I said: "Oh this must be so terrible! Let's have a good cry together!" She stopped immediately, laughed and said: "Mommy, you are so silly!"

  • Gil Perez

    Thanks Susan! Very true!