The Tantrum Tool: Telehealth Treatment for Tantrums

While childhood tantrums are not uncommon, some children’s outbursts can reach a level of clinical significance. Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center have developed a unique method for treating disruptive behavior and irritability in young children, aptly named the “Tantrum Tool.” The method focuses on parent management of the child. There are online modules that provide animations of a range of parent-child interactions as well as a more personalized aspect—three video conference sessions with a clinician. The researchers hope this will become a first-line treatment for disruptive behaviors, particularly at the less acute stages as a means for curbing progression.  

A study published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology earlier this year found a clinically meaningful reduction in the targeted symptoms in children after the use of the “Tantrum Tool.” First author Andrea Diaz-Stransky, a medical instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, said she saw children improve after just a few weeks. Out of the 12 children in the study who completed treatment, the study found that ten of them showed a reduction of over thirty-five percent in their Disruptive Behavior Rating Scale (DBRS) scores. 

Although in recent months we have seen nearly all mental health treatments move online, the pandemic was not the inspiration for the “Tantrum Tool.” Diaz-Stransky explained, “It started because of the barriers to care a lot of families have with children with disruptive behaviors.” These barriers range from hectic work schedules to living in a rural community. The eight-week training is highly efficient and flexible as parents complete modules at their own pace, spending fewer hours in the clinical setting. Due to its high accessibility and unique model for teaching parenting strategies, the “Tantrum Tool” serves as an efficient and effective resource for managing a child’s disruptive behaviors, particularly in a world in which many families are staying within the comfort of their own home.