How to Train Your Child to Behave at the Grocery Store: Sample Training Session

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Note: Be sure to read the blogs The Secret to Good Behavior? Training! and How to Train Your Children with Training Sessions to learn the basics and specifics of training.

Do you dread taking your children to the grocery store?  Train them how to behave correctly with Training Sessions!  By spending the time training your children in good behavior, you’ll prevent the majority of bad behavior.  Read on to learn what a sample grocery store Training Session might look like.

Remember, the first rule of a Training Session is to schedule it at a neutral time, not when the poor behavior is taking place.  Plan it when you’ve got lots of time and everyone is calm and in a good mood.  For the initial Training Session at the grocery store, don’t plan on buying groceries.  Take your children there for the sole purpose of training them how to behave.

For grocery store training, you’ll want to do most of the instructing and practicing at home first.  Only go to the store after they know exactly what to do and they are just practicing their polished behavior.

To review briefly, the 8 parts of a Training Session are:

  1. Instruct and demonstrate.

  2. Inform of the consequence.

  3. Ask questions.

  4. Praise right behavior.

  5. Practice, practice, practice.

  6. Supervise and inspect.

  7. Give consequence if needed.

  8. Review often.

Begin the Training Session at home. Sit down with your child and have a conversation something like this: “Sally, it seems like every time we go to the store, you run off, you touch things, and you whine and cry if I don’t buy you what you want. From now on, that is not allowed.

From now on, you’re going to walk directly beside the cart. Not in front of it, not behind it. You absolutely may not run away from the cart. Tell me: Where are you supposed to walk? Can you run away from me?

You are also not allowed to touch anything. So are you allowed to touch the food on the shelves?

Because Sally, the next time you walk away from the cart or if you touch anything on the shelves, I’m going to put you in the cart for the rest of the shopping time and you aren’t allowed out.

So Sally, what’s going to happen to you if you run off? What’s going to happen to you if you touch anything?

Finally, you absolutely, positively may not whine or throw a fit. From now on, when I tell you no to something you want, you’re going to say, ‘Okay Momma. Maybe next time,’ and you’re going to say it with a good attitude.

So what should you say when I tell you no? That’s right! Okay Momma, maybe next time.

Because if you whine or throw a fit, I’m going to immediately take you out to the car, and _________. (Fill in consequence here.)

Let’s practice it. Ask me if you can have some cookies. When I say no, what do you say?”

Continue practicing a few times and have your child ask for stuff like Pop Tarts, ice cream, Fruit Loops, etc. Each time, say, “No, not right now.” Have your child practice saying, “Okay Momma, maybe next time,” with a good attitude.

Now have a practice session in the living room. Get a baby stroller or something similar and pretend it’s a cart. Have your children practice walking right beside the cart, keeping their hands to themselves.

Then, have your child practice asking for things. Make it fun! Each time you say no, have your child practice saying, “Okay Momma, maybe next time.” Be sure to give lots of praise when they behave correctly.

When they have the correct behavior down, go to the store. Before getting out of the car though, remind them of the rules. Then, go up and down the aisles and have your children ask for things. Each time you tell them no, have them happily say, “Okay Momma, maybe next time.” Be sure to give lots of praise and affirmation when your children exhibit the right behavior.

The most important part of training, however, is to ALWAYS follow through on consequences. The moment they misbehave, you absolutely MUST follow through with your pre-determined consequence. You must train them to know without a shadow of a doubt that they will receive a definite consequence.

Then, after the initial Training Session, all you have to do is remind them of the rules every time before going to the store. So, in the parking lot, before you get out of your car, you might have a conversation like this: “Sally, remember how you are supposed to behave at the store. I want you to stay right beside the cart. Do not wander away from it. You may not touch anything. If you do, you'll have to ride in the cart until I'm finished shopping. Remember also, that if I tell you no when you ask for something, you’re supposed to say, that’s okay Momma, maybe next time. You are not allowed to whine or throw a fit. If you do, I will immediately take you out to the car and ______. (Name a specific consequence of your choice.)

Now, let's review. Are you going to run down the aisle away from the cart? Are you allowed to touch anything? What will happen if you do? What are you supposed to say when I tell you no to something you want? What's going to happen if you throw a tantrum in the store?"

Review the rules and consequences every single time you go to the store for the next several weeks. Enforce all incurred consequences and soon you’ll be turning a dreaded activity into a pleasure!

To learn more about raising well-behaved children, get my book Proactive Discipline: A Parent’s Guide.

Learn how to get your children to clean their rooms and help around the house with Rubric Rules: A Cleaning System for Kids.A

“ Train up a child in the way he should go, 

and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 22:6​

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