A unique method to reduce temper tantrums in your child or client (on or off the spectrum)

I am an ABA therapist who specializes in working with autistic children and their families. Years ago I came up with a simple tool to help children deal with frustration and avoid tantrums. The tool is the familiar phrase, “No biggie!” I have used this phrase with verbal-autistic and Asperger’s children, as well as children who are not on the spectrum.

For example, I was working with an autistic girl in a daycare/preschool setting. She entered a stage when became very upset and had a temper tantrum when she had to wait for a turn on a swing. She didn’t really seem angry so much as very SAD. She was also very verbal, and thus a prime candidate for this strategy even at her young age of almost-three-years old.

I introduced the phrase, “No biggie!” in a humorous way. She thought the term was humorous, but she decided the term, “No piggie!” was way funnier! So of course, we used the term, “No piggy!”

The easiest way to implement this strategy is to follow a few simple steps.

1. Introduce the term when the child is NOT upset –

Try to introduce the term in a humorous manner. Use a funny voice, while you are giving tickles, or whatever else you do to make this child laugh. Once a temper tantrum starts, it is very hard to get a child’s attention.

2. Practice using the term when you have a few minutes and the child is calm –

In this case, I waited until we were sitting on a bench with the child on my lap. Our conversation went something like this,

“When we go outside, you may have to wait for a turn on the swing. What can say if this happens?”

“No piggy!” (This is a good time to tickle the child, make a funny face, or do anything else the child associates with fun.)

“That’s right…. Can you say it again in a funny voice?” And so on.

3. Help the child visualize an alternative course of action –

For example, I asked the child, “What can you do while you are waiting for your turn on the swing? Can you go down the slide?”

4. Explain to other adults what you are doing

In this case, I explained to the rest of the staff what the strategy was. It worked so well with my client hat they actually gave her a small toy pig to hold when she went outside.

5. In some cases, other children may also be helpful

The other children caught on to the phrase right away. Soon, they were all saying, “No piggy” to the girl, other children, and themselves!

6. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Review the strategy during the day, for example when changing a diaper, or waiting for an activity. This does not need to be a long, drawn-out discussion. A 15-second reminder of what might happen, what the child is going to say, and a simple course of action will suffice.

7. If this doesn’t work… try again in a little while.

And remember, not all strategies work for all children.