When I see parents in the store with their little ones, I feel so nostalgic for the days when I made an occasion of going for groceries with my four little boys. If you plan ahead, don’t shop when you or your child is tired or hungry, and agree on simple rewards for good behavior (stopping at the park, playing a game when you get home, reading an extra bedtime story), grocery shopping with kids can transform a necessary chore into a fun and educational adventure,
We have all been at the grocery store when a child is throwing a temper tantrum for want of a toy or candy that has caught his (or her) eye. Once you give in to a child’s tantrum, he knows that you can be manipulated to do his will. Children quickly learn that certain behaviors pay off, even if only occasionally.
This is where being consistent in expectations and consequences becomes critical.
Ignore inappropriate behavior unless it is dangerous, destructive, embarrassing or annoying to others. If we refuse to reward a screaming fit even for the sake of peace, then it quickly becomes an embarrassment to the child, and is removed from the repertoire of behaviors called upon to manipulate parents and other adults.
Early on, my favorite child care author was Penelope Leach. She gave me one of the best bits of advice I ever received. In response to a fervent plea for the object of a child’s desire, this works like magic: it’s called wishful thinking. When one cookie isn’t enough and a little one insists on another , try this: “I know! I wish I could have six cookies. I wish I could eat the whole bag of cookies!” or, “I wish I could get the red car and the green car!” It works.
Remember that kids are not perfect. Children are impulsive. They need your help to learn how to behave at the store. Talking with the kids about behavioral expectations (manners, not touching things or being wild, staying close to the cart), before you go to the store makes all the difference in the world.
Understanding that most rules are for safety gives them legitimacy. “If you run around you might break something or run into someone’s Grandma or Grandpa, and someone could get hurt. ”
As long as I remembered to lay out my expectations in advance, we were able to get in and out of the store without incident. But I found that if I forgot to remind them, we often paid the price. There were times that I had to abandon my cart and take the kids right out of the store to calm down.
Kids don’t like being out of control any more than we do. If things have escalated to this point, take your distraught child aside, look him in the eye and tell him quietly but firmly that his behavior is unacceptable. Wait, saying nothing, for your child to calm down. When he or she is calm, ask if he is ready to try again. If he cannot calm down, leave, and return to the store later.
At these times we tend to feel so embarrassed that we want to flee from other shoppers as well. We need to remind ourselves that many people in the store have been in the same situation and understand that this behavior is not necessarily a reflection of our parenting.
Setting limits is good for everyone. A child who has no restrictions, lives in chaos. Children will test the limits we set, but if we remain consistent, then there is no need for a huge struggle. You both know what the boundaries are, and if they are significantly crossed, there are consequences. It’s just the way things are.- RDW (10-25-09)