You are perusing the aisles at Target (or insert the name of your favorite store) and you hear a child screaming for a candy bar at the checkout counter.
Now, what if the above-described child is YOUR child? This is when we need to consider intervention strategies. How can we avoid that embarrassing supermarket meltdown from happening in the first place?
Grocery stores, shopping malls, super stores, and any outing requiring some sort of shopping list can be a great source of stress for families. This is especially true if your child refuses to sit in a cart, hold your hand, or tolerate being told “no” when she/he cannot have that candy bar.
Depending on the specific behavior we need to target, therapists will begin an intervention plan by determining what the goal will be, as well as the reasons why the desired behavior might be a challenge for the child.
Tips to Help Prevent Tantrums
Here are some small changes we can make that might be a start to preventing tantrums during shopping:
– Praise the positive behavior! If your child knows what he/she is supposed to do (and will get praised for it), then they might feel encouraged to behave that way more frequently.
– Consider what you could do BEFORE going to the store. Some suggestions that are often brainstormed involve preparing your child for the shopping events, taking favorite toys and snacks with you, or planning the route in advance within the store. Also consider organizing coupons or discount codes ahead of time to speed up your check out time.
– Try to determine if the store has any level of entertainment or interest for the child in order to choose which stores will be more likely to prevent meltdowns. Sometimes, the nature of the store adds to the potential for disaster when it comes to behaviors or responses to the setting (small gift shops or huge spaces to run around in can spell disaster).
– Determine the rules ahead of time. Will the child sit in the cart? Will you use your stroller? Does the child hold your hand? If you establish a grocery store routine which requires riding in the cart, a stroller or hand holding from infancy, this will become the normal routine for your child. Sometimes, even having the child walk, but hold onto the cart or your pocket or belt loop can be a way to adjust expectations for success when your child wants to be more independent!
– Make the trip as short and sweet as possible. Things happen (waiting in lines, waiting for an item, or just waiting for someone to move over to clear the aisle). Do your best to be as efficient as you can. A child’s attention span, even on a good day, can be very short.
– End on a high note! Just because your child has done well in store #1 and store #2 should not be a reason to risk heading to shop #3 while you’re out. We want our children to be as successful as possible and to have more successes than meltdowns.
There are plenty more troubleshooting techniques that we can brainstorm for specific instances. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents or your early intervention team! You and your child CAN be successful!