Start Each New Task or Event with a Reminder

“I just want to be able to go to the store and pick up a few things without it turning into a huge battle.”

You have a plan, it’s not unreasonable. A few errands, get a few things at the store on the way home and then maybe even have time for a quick treat. But five minutes later, or maybe even on the way from the car to the store, the kids are fighting, no one wants to stay close, or worse, they are too close and keep asking for things. Maybe you make it through or maybe not, but one thing for sure, no one is happy, and you might feel like totally losing it if you weren’t already by the checkout line.
Listen, you might have a plan, or you might not, but either way, unless you are able to start off with a reminder, set the expectations of this task, event or this shopping experience, it is very likely going to go sideways. Your plan is NOT the same as the kids’ plan and so it is up to you to take the lead and direct the day. It doesn’t matter that the plan is the same every day or that they have heard you say all the things every time they misbehave at the store. You are in charge, and it requires you to guide them–and that comes with lots of teaching and training.
I call this “coming around” each task or event with a reminder. And it is quite simple especially if you set it up BEFORE there is a problem. It should be concise and clear, with good clear direction. Such as:
“Kids, we are going to the grocery store. I expect that you will stay in the cart, holding the cart or within 3 feet (depends on the ages and some may need a reminder about what 3 feet looks like–an arm’s length), do not ask for anything extra, I have a list and I know what I need to get for us today. When we are done and there are no issues, we will stop for a little treat on the way home (this is all or nothing, not only for the one who behaved and leaving out the ones who did not). If we cannot handle this today as a team, we will leave immediately and go home and try again another time.”
Things to keep in mind:
You must follow through. No need to yell or count or give multiple chances. You can give one warning but then you must follow through.
Do not bribe, even in the warning.
A warning is: “Remember our agreement. Stay by the cart/no asking/no fighting, or we will need to leave the store.”
Do not threaten. “If you don’t stop it right now…!” is a lot different than, “Remember we have a deal, if we need to leave, we will.”
Set up expectations before the problem arises, without bringing up past negative experiences. Say clearly and concisely what you want THIS event or task to consist of.

Other examples:
You can start off each day with these as well. Set the expectations works well with having a schedule and directing the day. Some reminders are as simple as “We have some things to get done today and some fun things planned too. I hope we will work together and we will have a great day.”
Practice at home. Set the expectations prior to an activity. “We are going to do this activity for 30 minutes (set a timer) and then when there is a minute left, I let you know it is time to clean up. If you are not able to move away from this activity, we might not be able to do this activity next time. Show me how well you can follow these directions.”
Battles are exhausting. Avoid them by setting expectations up front, each time. And imagine how much easier shopping, tasks or events can become.

Dr. Michelle Williams-Alden, LPC, is the founder and owner of Healthy Foundations where she believes if every parent with a challenging child had brain-based skills and in-home support, they can positively influence their family for generations. Her more than 20 years of working with at-risk and adoptive kids, with the last 8 years working in the homes with families, uniquely qualifies her as the go-to expert for parents with very challenging kids. For more information about Dr. Williams-Alden, LPC, Healthy Foundations, or to sign up for their Parent Tip emails, visit (not .com)

Share this article!

Leave a Comment

16 − 9 =