How to Apply Time-out Outside Your Home (continued)
Parents often complain about their children’s challenging behaviors while they are shopping in supermarkets or other large stores, counting it among their most frustrating experiences with their children.
Set the stage for a constructive outing by anticipating possible complications. For example, expecting to shop for a week’s groceries during the same shopping trip when you first try time-out away from home might well make it difficult to be as patient and effective as you need to be. Similarly, avoiding filling your shopping cart with perishables will lessen your potential stress should you have to leave your cart to tend to your child.
Accentuate the Positive
I delayed my entire discussion of time-out until after talking about the reward side of the program because time-out makes the most sense and is most effective and powerful as a support when children also have learned the benefits associated with behaving appropriately. In keeping with this, follow these steps:
1. Think about the behaviors that typically trouble you when you take your child to the supermarket with you.
2. Identify behaviors that you consider appropriate and which are directly incompatible with those that concerned you during recent shopping trips with your child.
3. Write a few specific items to guide your child to behave appropriately, using the familiar format, “ , you are successful when . . .” Here are some examples:
. . . you sit calmly in the cart for five minutes (or . . . for one aisle).
. . . you help Mommy spot five items on the shopping list.
4. Make sure that each item is realistically reachable, that it specifies what the child is to do (i.e., is positive), and that it is very clear.
5. Base the target length of time that your child must carry out a specified task on past experiences to assure that the child will succeed more than a third of the time. For some children, it may be necessary to set a very short standard, even just a minute or so. Some children may even require praise for sitting still in the cart ten steps into the store. If so you might say “It sure is nice shopping with you when you stay so calm.” A useful motto here is “Catch them being good.”
6. Make and bring with you a simple chart for use just for this trip, listing the target behaviors and whatever number of tokens or credits you assigned to each. If your child is young enough for tokens, bring some with you and provide the child with a small bag to carry those earned.
Carry out Your Plan
Reinforce the child when the first and each additional standard is reached. For example:
Melba, it is really nice shopping with you today. You’ve been calm for five minutes and already you’ve earned a token you can use for some special prize if you want to.
For each success by a young child, hand the earned token to the child but also mark it on your chart. For each success for an older child, mark the chart appropriately and tell the child what you have done. Continue to praise your child for being cooperative as soon and as regularly as necessary to promote continued appropriate behavior.