For Steve, going to the store with his two daughters, Sarah, 9, and Ali, 8, could be challenging. “It would be typical for them to be disruptive, and overall, I wanted them to be more receptive to listening,” he says.
For Ali, who is diagnosed with ASD, making it through the store could be tough. At times, the family had to cut their shopping trip short. Since the family was part of SARRC’s Comprehensive Behavioral Program, they reached out for some help.
“We did parent training, where we learned a few tricks so we could set some rules and expectations,” Steve says. “One of them was a quiet voice and another was a quiet body, so not just playing all over the place. The other rule was staying an arm’s length from mom and dad. The last rule was giving other people personal space.” For their family, if the girls followed the rules, they were allowed to pick out gum or mints while in the checkout line.
Steve, Sarah and Ali practiced trips to the grocery store weekly, and within a couple of sessions saw positive results.
“I’m more confident that they’ll listen better than before now and behave,” Steve says. “We can have a peaceful shopping experience and there are no tantrums at this time.”
Five User-Friendly Tips For Your Next Grocery Trip
Has your family experienced challenges while at the grocery store or running an errand? We know every family’s experience is different, so here are some tips from our team to help you make your trip an easier experience, too!
1. Choose a reward. Identify what your child wants to earn before beginning the errand. For example, stickers, or the reward could be something more involved, like points throughout the errand that earn a bigger prize like a balloon or a special treat.
2. Make the expectations clear before starting the errand. These could include staying within arm’s reach of you or only putting items in the cart that are approved. If you have more than one child with you, make it a team effort. If all of the kids have to follow the rules for anyone to get a prize, you may find that they’ll be cheering each other on and helping each other follow the rules.
3. Involve your child. Providing opportunities for desired behavior is an easy way to reduce opportunities for less desirable behavior to occur. Ask your child to help you find certain items, put the items in the cart, or check items off your list. With a few small changes to the clues you give about the item you’re looking for or using a picture list instead of a written list, these activities can keep kids of any age busy.
4. Provide social reinforcement throughout the errand. Identify all the things they are doing that are helpful or kind and praise them for it. Start with the small things, like walking next to you for 10 feet or finding one item. Over time, these small things will become part of the expectations and you can focus on praising other actions.
5. Engage them when there’s a wait. A few rounds of 'I Spy' are perfect when you have to wait in line. The game can be adjusted for any age and skill level, and also works when you have more than one child with you. A visual scavenger hunt for things belonging to a category (things that are red or things that start with the letter “B”) or a hand game (Rock, Paper, Scissors anyone?) are two more great examples of easy games to keep kids engaged when there’s a wait.