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Remove The Reinforcer
Is there something that is encouraging your child to have a tantrum (otherwise known as a “reinforcer”)? Reinforcer’s can be anything the child gains, or anything the child “gets out of” as a result of having a tantrum.
For example, imagine each time you go to the shops, your child asks for a treat. You say no, and then your child has a tantrum. In order to stop the tantrum, you give your child a treat.
The treat acts as a “reinforcer”, teaching your child that if they really want a treat, then they need to have a tantrum.
Another example is doing chores at home. Imagine each time you ask your child to put their toys away, they have a tantrum. Imagine this then leads to “time out” during which you pack away the child’s toys.
The child learns that if they don’t want to pack away their toys, they need to have a tantrum. Although the child isn’t “gaining” anything in this scenario, they are learning that they can “get out of” doing a chore they don’t like by having a tantrum.
The reinforcer might not always be obvious (like in the chores example above).
Try observing what happens directly before and after a tantrum to work out if there is a reinforcer in place.
Slavin, R. (2005). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice 8th Edition. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
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