Question: My three-year-old pitches a big fit whenever he doesn’t get what he wants in the grocery store. How can I stop these fits?
Everyone talks about the terrible twos, but I have always thought that three is a more difficult age. At two, a child throws tantrums because she’s frustrated about something and can’t communicate her needs effectively. But at three, a child knows what she wants and is just figuring out how to assert her will to get it.
Social Stories – A Powerful Tool For Little Ones
A social story is a homemade book that helps your child navigate a difficult situation. Typically, your child is the main character, and the plot revolves around the situation or behavior you are trying to address.
In the case of our Grocery Store Rascal, a social story can be a fun and creative way to prevent future tantrums.
Start by writing a short story about a successful trip at the store. It could look something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Johnny. One day, Johnny and his mom went to the grocery store. They had to buy many different things. First they picked a cart, and Johnny got to sit in the cart. Then they began their journey through the store. They had to get milk and apples and toilet paper and other things. Mommy had a big list. Johnny had his own list too. Together, they found the things they needed and put them in the cart. In one aisle, Johnny saw a really cool race car, and he wanted his mommy to buy it for him. “Not today, Johnny. A race car is not on my list. Is it on yours?” Johnny looked at his list and answered, “No.” He felt sad. He even felt a little mad. But then he remembered that some days he gets special treats, like on his birthday, and other days he doesn’t. Johnny looked up and saw toilet paper. Toilet paper is on his list! His mommy helped him out of the cart so he could get the toilet paper off the shelf and put it in the cart. Then he checked it off his list. When it was time to check out, Johnny helped his mommy put some of the things in bags. At the car, he helped put the bags in the trunk. When they got home, Johnny’s mom gave him big hugs and kisses for doing such a good job at the grocery store that day. She even gave him a sticker for a job well done, and when all the groceries were put away, Johnny and his mom made a snack and cuddled on the couch to read a story. The End.
Once the story is written, plan a fun photo shoot day. Tell your son you’re making a new book with him as the main character, and you need pictures for your book.
Type or write out the story lines and attach some pictures to go along with it. Then have the book laminated at a local Kinkos or office supply store. Plan a special time to read the book with your child, and then let him look through it on his own. Read the book together often to help condition him with the idea of a successful grocery story trip.
Grocery Store Day
When you go shopping, give him a list with a few items (use pictures instead of words) just as he had in the book. As you go through each aisle, ask him if he sees anything on his list in the aisle. When you get to one of his items, have him take it off the shelf and put it in the cart and then cross it off his list, just as in the story.
Narrate what you’re doing and create conversation throughout the trip: “Now we need to get bananas? What color are bananas? Can you count them with me? Now we’re going to pay for our food and put it all in bags so we can take it home.” Whenever possible, allow him to help and be a part of the process.
At the end of a successful trip, shower him with affection and praise for a great day at the store, and say, “You are an excellent shopper!” The more you set him up for success and remind him that he is an excellent shopper, the more he will identify with that description and realize that excellent shoppers don’t pitch a fit when they don’t get what they want!
When you get home, have him help put things away, and offer him a special treat for being so well behaved at the store (perhaps a snack and story time with mom, just as he did in the story, or maybe a special playtime at the park).
What other ways can you use social stories to set your child up for success?
And don’t forget to submit questions for next week’s Q & A Wednesday. You can leave your questions in the comments below.