There is no one thing that works for all children, and there is no one quick fix, however, there are many techniques that will help children whether or not they have autism. Here are our top 5 tips parents can use daily that help reduce tantrums, increase understanding, direction following and family happiness!

1. Use Time to Decrease Transitional Tantrums

Many children have trouble leaving preferred places and activities. One thing that can be life-changing is using Minute Warnings/Timers! Your child may need a 5-minute, 2-minute, or 1-minute warning before there is a change of activity. These warnings help prepare your child for the transition, and they will begin to learn that the warning comes and then the change comes. Eventually, the minute warnings become routine, even if the next task is not! This helps your child feel more in control without having a negative engagement.

2. FIRST and THEN Statements

Sometimes tantrums are due to wanting something they can’t have at that moment. A toy, a snack, a trip somewhere RIGHT NOW. Or there is something they DON’T want to do. For these situations we use first…then….  “First___, then____” statements are used to help a child finish a task before getting something motivating.

“First we finish our lunch, then we can go outside.”
“First we will clean up, then we can go to the park.”

Depending on your needs and your child’s skill set, you can either do this verbally, use pictures, or write items on a dry erase board. Many children with autism think in pictures, so that is often an easy way to get them to understand the concept. 

The best part is that this simple phrase provides structure in a child’s mind and helps them follow the directions at hand. It can help decrease a child’s frustration because they can understand exactly what is expected of them.

3. Reward positive behavior

Reinforcing language identifies and affirms children’s specific positive actions and encourages them to continue their appropriate behavior. If your child shared their swing at the park you might say, “I really like how you shared and played nicely with that little boy at the park.” It’s especially important to recognize behaviors that children usually struggle with, like sharing, being quiet or following directions. With these words, you can let your child know that their positive behaviors were noticed!  The more we pay attention to the positive the more likely the behavior is to occur again.

4. Focus on what you want the child To Do, not what you want them to Stop doing.

Minimize using “don’t” and “stop.” For example, “Walk on the sidewalk” can be much more effective than “Don’t walk on the grass.” This lets your child know exactly what you want them to do. Similarly, “Stop screaming” becomes, “I like it when you use an inside voice,” and “Don’t color on the table” becomes “I like it when you color on the paper.” It’s counter-intuitive to the way most people parent but it works!

5. Always Remain Calm

This can be hard to learn and remember to use! It can be especially hard because what usually happens is your child misbehaves and you feel compelled to discipline them. It’s exhausting, draining and frustrating. Try taking deep breaths and make sure your words sound calm, even if you aren’t. Children don’t always have the language to explain what they want and need, and that can be extremely frustrating for them.

Remember, parenting is an adventure, and for the most part, everything hard you experience with them is only a phase—it will end!


Contact Greater Learning LP to start working with a passionate speech-language pathologist and discover ways to involve the whole family in fun, educational activities!

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