Have a Plan

Dealing with a kid that throws fits when they don’t get their way?  Have a plan for the next time.

I was speaking with a parent of an autistic child the other day. Her son is a teenager and is addicted to video games. He insists his mom buy him a new game every week and when she doesn’t he throws a fit and throws things, so she gives in. Her son doesn’t care if the game is new, as long as it’s new to him. But still, it’s expensive and the mom doesn't want to do it, but she doesn't know how to stop, because whenever she says no, her son throws a fit that is pretty violent.

My response. Have a plan!!!!  You know he’s going to throw a fit, so plan for it in advance. When he is out of the house – remove everything that is breakable. Everything.  Is it an inconvenience?  Yes. Of course it is.  But what you are doing isn't working – so it’s time to try something else.

What this woman was hoping for was a magic solution. Something she could do that would make her son suddenly not throw a fit when she said no. But it doesn't work that way. To extinguish behaviors you don’t want and replace them with behaviors you do takes work.  Real work. Difficult work.

Why? Because whenever any habitual behavior is not rewarded, the animal in question will have an extinction burst. Meaning, they will try harder to get their reward.  Stopping any behavior pattern takes time and you will experience and extinction burst. And extinction bursts can be nasty. Extinction bursts are also known as blowouts because it can seem like an explosion is happening when a kid throws a fit to get their way.

So, instead of spending your time wishing you could say no and have your child accept it. Plan for the fit. You know it’s going to happen. It’s a pattern. You say no, your child throws a violent fit.  So, plan for it.  Make sure they can’t break anything when they throw their fit so that you can say no, and they can throw their fit and so that you aren't put in a position to give in to their demands.

The first time you do this is the worst. But it gets easier every time you do this. So stop wishing for a magic solution to your temper tantrum problem.  Make a plan based on what you know your child does so that they can do it and you won’t feel pressured to give in and let them throw their fit. Once it’s over, they and you will be happier if you do.

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