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.