Why is My Child Throwing Tantrums?

by | May 17, 2021 | ABA

Why is My Child Throwing Tantrums? What could be causing your child’s tantrum? (ABC Data)

Tantrums are common for children with autism. Tantrums can come in many different forms such as refusing or avoiding tasks, crying, engaging in physical aggression, yelling, screaming, and attention seeking tantrums. It can sometimes be a struggle to determine what or who is causing these behaviors in your children. A common tool that aba therapists use is ABC data. This type of data can be used by parents, teachers, aba therapists, other types of therapists, or anyone who wants to watch a specific behavior over time. With this tool, you will be able to analyze what is actually happening within the environment that could be affecting your child’s behavior. 

The A stands for antecedent. When collecting this data, you would focus on what exactly happens directly BEFORE the tantrum or behavior. For example, when a child asks for candy before dinner and you as the parent respond with “no” and the child engages in a tantrum, the antecedent would be being told no and being denied access to the candy. The B stands for Behavior. This would be what the child engages in such as the crying or any of the behaviors listed above. The C stands for Consequence. This is what happens directly after the tantrum occurs. For example, if you as the parent provide a cookie or preferred item to the child to get them to stop the behavior, the consequence would be giving the child a cookie. You can collect this type of data through an ABC chart to clearly state the antecedent, behavior, and the consequence.

After collecting the data for several days and occasions, it can help you determine what is the root cause of your child’s behavior. Keep in mind that this tool is best done through direct observations so that important details are not missed. It is also important to understand that frustration throughout the process is normal and it is never too late to help stop or change the behavior of the child. 

We explain how to collect data using the ABC method further in our YouTube video “Therapy Tip of the Week – The ABC’s of ABA“.


Teeonna Coldcleugh, RBT