Bringing Your Children to the Store and Staying Sane


After a friend of mine had her second child, she told me she was afraid to take both children out by herself, especially to go to the grocery store. I can understand the feeling. Avoiding the store may help our budget and force us to eat from our pantry, but eventually, we will have to drag our feet out the door. But in order to make the most of a seemingly mundane activity, we need to see it, not merely as something to survive through, but a ripe opportunity for some training in proper store etiquette. But, brace yourself. When I say “training”, there will be bumps on the road. Nonetheless, the destination in the end is well worth it.

20140429-054551.jpgTeach your children a few brief rules for shopping trips. Especially for young children, repetition is important. A few years ago, we made rules and safety books as a summer project. The book is divided into different activities that we usually partake in (one of which is going to the store), and each section lists 3-4 simple rules. Cutting out or drawing pictures for each rule made this an easy hands-on activity, which really helped my kids to remember.

One of the main frustrations of parents is their children’s disobedience. But sometimes, our inconsistency in implementing those rules and following through on the consequences to breaking the rules do not help our children at all. If your rules and consequences keep changing, how will your child know where the boundaries are?

Do not go without a shopping list in your hand. If you have coupons, have them ready before you leave the house. Get to know the layout of your store, and make your list according to where each item is located. When your child is having a fit, the last thing you want to do is walk all the way to the other side of the store to get that one item you misssed.

You do your best to prepare yourself and your children. But once you walk through the automatic doors, it still happens. Your child is in full-blown meltdown in the middle of the produce aisle, and it takes all your strength to peel them off the floor. What do you do now? As much as you just want to let them have it right then and there, don’t.

Don’t embarrass yourself or your child. Talk to them privately. If you have to, leave your shopping cart there and finish your shopping trip another day. What I’ve done after telling my child to stop the forbidden behavior, is to calmly say into his ear, “We will talk about this when we get home.” Sometimes I have to say this repeatedly until we get home. The temptation is for us to raise our voice to match the stubbornness of our child. Resist this. Believe me because I have been there. If you react with an outburst of anger or even a “controlled” display of frustration, this can provoke your child more and you will lose that opportunity to train them.

You can meet this challenge by being proactive instead of reactive. Shopping with young children is not for the faint of heart. But don’t despair. There is hope.

How do you handle trips to the store with your children?


8 thoughts on “Bringing Your Children to the Store and Staying Sane

  1. Good advise! I have a 1 and 2 year old and shopping trips can be some of the most stressful of experiences. One thing I do is go on the weekend by myself or with just one of them (and leave the other with my husband) to get what I need for the rest of the week. Then, if I need just a few things during the week it is a quick shop. Plus, I always let them have a special treat while we shop. 🙂

  2. I usually go shopping with my three kids (three and under!) in tow. While at times it can be difficult, I agree that having consistent expectations is so helpful. Another thing that I have learned that has made one of the most significant impacts is to give us ample time to get our shopping done. Most of the time we need to visit 2 or 3 stores to get what we need. I have found that not trying to rush through the stores helps all of our stress levels. We take our time, talk to people, look at all the merchandise/food, etc and just have a good time being together. Then when we’ve completed our shopping, we go have a picnic lunch at a park before heading home.
    Thanks for sharing this post. It’s full of great tips and I’m glad to see someone else who knows it can be done 🙂

    1. I love your outlook on it. I think that sometimes moms (including me) look at the task of shopping with children with the expectation that things will go sour, and so it does. When it’s done with the intention of making it a fun and leisurely time together, it will be easier on everyone. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Your mother set a great example. I’ve seen children act up in stores. I feel for those parents because I know it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s my own children creating a scene in public. Times like these that I’m reminded how much I need to keep teaching and training them. And, much of that really happens before you actually step into the store. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. I have one in school now so I just have my son with me. I get in and out as quickly as possible. I agree that you have to know exactly what you want. Sometimes I go to the store late at night after the kids have gone to bed.

    1. Yeah, I try to make those shopping trips short too. I save the bigger trips for the weekend when I can go by myself or just with one of the kids, while my husband stays with the other kids.

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