So, as we all know, it’s wisest to avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry.  That’s a helpful thing to remember for both your budget and your waistline.  Yet I used to find myself going to the grocery store with my son despite the fact that he may not have eaten a decent snack.  Chalk it up to the rushing I used to do from school, to an outpatient therapy appointment, and then home for another appointment.  I have learned better, but not just about eating before grocery shopping.
Not too long ago, my son and I were coming back from a Speech therapy appointment.  My son was going through a growth spurt and had exhausted all of the extra snacks I packed.  When the whining in the back seat turned to fidgeting and stimming, I quickly went through the A-B-Cs of behavior in my mind.
Was he hot?  No.  Did he need a bathroom break?  He just went.  Was he hungry already?!?  Yep, that was probably the Antecedent to the whining Behavior.  So I figured that a snack attack was about to ensue.  But there was no way was I going all the way back home. So off to the nearest grocery we went.
Once inside I found a hidden treasure, as I had the insight to pack away a small healthy snack in my bag.  With a mental pat on the back, I gave him the freeze dried snap peas and I thought I was saved.  As he munched away, I felt so proud for having anticipated what his behavior might be saying.
Well, as we meandered down the aisles, the smile on my face froze when he said, “Snack, please.”  What was going on with my little guy and why had his stomach become a bottomless pit all of a sudden?  My response of “all done” was almost automatic.
But he persisted and began to perseverate with a repeated request for “snack.”  Now, you should know that he has been limited verbally so any requesting is a milestone.  We were definitely making progress with getting better nutrients to his developing brain and therapy was very productive.  We were getting requests for “snack” in general but he was also asking for “pop,” “chips,” and “grapes.”
But I really knew better than to get another snack in the store and allow him to have it.  It sounds pretty innocuous but I knew it wasn’t a good idea at the time.  Limiting grazing so he could eat a decent meal when we got home was the main issue.  Plus I didnt want to see the grocer’s floor redecorated with the bag of chips my little guy was eyeing.
Ultimately there were two things that were my downfall.  I had been running from appontment to appointmwnt was getting a bit tired.  And his final request before I gave in was asked with the sweetest little face and those magic words “please.”  The please was my complete undoing.
He got the chips.  And so did his shirt, his jacket, and yes, the grocer’s floor.  There was a nice tell-tale trail of crumbs when I looked back in the cashier’s lane (yes, we did stop and clean up our mess).   We were heading back out to the car when he spied a stand of apples, his all time favorite snack.  “Apple, please, I want apple, please!”
This time I stood firm especially because the requests and that trail of crumbs was eerily similar to a page from the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  My firm “No,” was soon followed by sad face and tears.  I was not moved (okay, maybe I was moved a little but not enough to yield).  I got down on his level, made sure we had good eye contact, and said “No” in a firm authoritative voice.
Like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, his face gradually went from tearful to neutral and the tantrum ceased. It may sound like a small miracle, but it’s really the result of practice and setting good boundaries over time.  Every child is different and results may vary (lol) but I do believe that consistency in behavior is key.
Because we are practicing dynamic intelligence I took a picture, chips and all.  I reserved the moment in picture form and in my mind.  If pretty big brown eyes try to deter me, I will remember those pictures…and may bring a copy of a Laura Numeroff book with us.  If he asks mama for a cookie, he’s going to get a book instead.

Next Steps:

  • When you have gone against your better judgment, how has that turned out?  Where you still able to find humor in it? 
  • Boundaries a healthy.  What are some boundaries you use with your loved ones that help them to refulate themselves?


Want to Learn More?

Bergina Isbell, MD is a wife of a physician, mom of two kids who happen to have special needs, and an advocate for healthy boundaries.  She says “no” a whole lot (so now she uses alternatives like “not available” and “all done”).

To sign up for the Autism Alignment Movement, including the FREE interview series, head to https://bit.ly/autismstrategist

Learn more about Dr. Bergina at https://bit.ly/drberginahome.



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