Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is most notably used in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. But in truth, ALL children experience problem behaviors at some point in their lives - from the “terrible twos” to the rebellious teen years. This blog is designed to provide an overview of ABA and how it can be a useful tool for typically developing children, teenagers, and even your husband;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We've All Been There - The Public Meltdown

Have you ever found yourself in the cookie aisle with a screaming child looking around at all the other normal people (you know, the ones without kids) and think to yourself "What? That's not my kid!"  For a second you think about actually saying that phrase and walking away (c'mon, we've all been there).  But, of course, you can't walk away so you stand there, embarrased, pleading with your child and inevitably you give in just so the tantrum will STOP!  I see it happen at the grocery store ALL THE TIME!  It makes me cringe because I know that the same scenario will just happen again the next time.  I feel bad for the mom (or dad) and do my best to pretend like I didn't see anything so I don't add to their embarrassment.  So what are you supposed to do if you find yourself in this situation?  To spare yourself the embarrassment and nasty looks from those "normal people" I suggest you scoop up your child and walk right out of the store.  Will the tantrum continue?  OF COURSE because your child has not gotten what they wanted - those darn cookies!  What now?  This insomnia induced mini-post is about antecedent manipulations (i.e. what happens before the behavior) to avoid those tantrums in the future.

You are the walking, talking, breathing functional behavior assessor now and you need to assess the situation.  Review the data in your head:
Antecedent - You went down the cookie aisle, your child asked for oreos, you said "Not today."
Behavior - Your child screams "But I want cookies," and falls to the floor in an all out tantrum (screaming, kicking, crying)
Consequence - You left the store, or maybe you didn't but PLEASE tell me you didn't get him the cookies!       

The data tells us that the cookie aisle and you saying "no cookies" are the source of the problem.  So, you have some options:
A) Avoid the cookie aisle like the plague
B) Prepare your child by saying "We're going to go on the cookie aisle but we're not buying any today.  But if you are a good boy then when we get to the check-out line I'll get you a candy bar - or a soda, gum, tic tacs, whatever (reinforcement people!)
C) Why the heck did you bring that kid back to the grocery store?!  Oh sorry, I mean endure a tantrum (and the embarrassment) while you continue to shop
D) Go down the cookie aisle, throw some oreos at your child, and finish your shopping in peace

I hope you chose option B.  It was the only serious option.  And maybe next time you could bring some cookies in your purse.  'Cause sometimes a kid just needs a cookie:)


  1. Glad you enjoyed it! I'm sure you were able to relate;)