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The Rigour around Triggers

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

We've all been there, that moment when you choose to go through the supermarket checkout with all the chocolate and lollies. Noooo!! Your child begins a tantrum and the tug of war between the two of you begins. You know that if you just buy that Kinder Surprise all will be good in the world. It's so easy, just get the Kinder Surprise and she will stop engaging in this embarrassing performance. Kinder Surprise delivered and the performance ends.

Oh lordy!!! It does seem so much easier to just hand over that Kinder Surprise, but in that moment we're not thinking about the long-term consequence of what we're doing. Your child is learning the way to get a Kinder Surprise is to just scream at the checkout and it will be delivered. Then further down the road, they realise - "hey, this works for the Kinder Surprise, what about getting my way when I want something at home? Woohoo, I'm onto something here!!!". One smart cookie who is learning the most efficient means to get what they want.

If we take a few steps back in the checkout scenario we can identify where this all fell apart. It was at that moment we decided to choose to go through the checkout with the chocolates and lollies. That was our trigger! Damn those supermarkets!!! They need to have a separate windowless locked room where all tempting treats are kept! As a side note, I have noticed there are some designated lolly, chocolate, treat free checkouts now, however, in this scenario, you didn't have a choice - there were 6 people waiting at the lolly-free checkout and you needed to get home for the washing machine repair man. So what can you do?? 'Antecedent control strategies' are a prevention tool we can utilise prior to a problem behaviour occurring. Here are a few tips:

  • Firstly, think out your response plan well before you reach the supermarket. It is in those moments when we're not prepared that we tend to cave in to the demand.

  • Go after mealtimes - ensure your child has a full tummy. I know when I'm at the supermarket with a rumbling tummy, I want AND buy a lot of junk I don't need!

  • Role-play the appropriate behaviours with your child. Play supermarkets at home together and model what you expect from them. It's fun reversing the roles.

  • Before you get out of the car, begin the chat. I call it 'planting the seed'. You could also have a chat prior to leaving home. Explain calmly what you will be doing and the expected behaviours. Use the 'First and Then' procedure - "First we'll go into the supermarket and buy a few things and then we'll have ice cream next door/walk across to the park. It's a great idea to have your child involved in the process of choosing a reinforcer for the appropriate behaviours you want to see.

  • Ignore the nagging behaviours that lead to giving in. I know, I know, that's sometimes easier said than done!

  • As soon as the nagging starts - redirect to something else. For example: "I need you to get me....", "Hand me the.....".

  • Praise all the appropriate behaviours as your child is doing them. When delivering positive praise always name the behaviour. Examples of linking praising and naming are: "I love how well you're walking next to me/holding my hand", "thank you so much for all your help", and "fantastic job pushing the trolley for me". Deliver praise immediately, on the spot, right there. It's important to not leave praise until you get home or hours afterwards.

  • Finally, when you initially try behaviour strategies out, don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go according to plan. Behaviour change doesn't happen overnight. Taking smaller steps is just as, or sometimes more effective at changing behaviours. The intention is to achieve Brighter Outcomes and build a more successful and harmonious relationship between you and your child.

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