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.
BE CLEAR IN YOUR DIRECTIONS
Teach 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.
BE CONSISTENT IN YOUR ACTIONS
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?
BE READY BEFORE ENTERING THE STORE
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.
BE CALM WHEN THERE IS CONFLICT
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.