Seven Secrets to Shopping with Children

by Candi Wingate

toddler examining the shopping cart handleYou are at the grocery store with Johnny and Janie. Johnny sees a snack that he feels that he just has to have. You disagree. He wails for all the store to hear. Later, at the mall, Janie repeats the scenario over a brightly colored necklace. 

Is there anything you could have done to prevent these meltdowns?

• Try to plan shopping trips to occur when you and your kids are well rested and have recently eaten. Also, the shopping trip will ideally occur when the stores you are going to will not be busy. Crowds of people can create impatience and distractions.

• Encourage everyone to use the restroom right before you go shopping.

• Establish and communicate your expectations for your children's constructive shopping behaviors. What behaviors are the children allowed to exhibit? What behaviors do you not want the children to exhibit? Model as many of the constructive behaviors as possible. The children are watching what you do. For example, if being calm is one of your expectations, then you yourself must remain calm, even when you are surrounded by chaos.

• Bring things to occupy the children. Does Janie need her teddy bear to occupy and comfort her during a long shopping trip? Can you put Johnny in the shopping cart with a good book so he can read or look at pictures while you shop?

• Promise rewards for good behavior. For example, "If you behave constructively throughout the shopping trip we are about to have, I will let you each have a pudding cup when we get back home." (note: if the children do not behave constructively throughout the shopping trip, then you must deny your children the pudding cups when you get home).

• Smaller children can ride in your shopping cart. If the children are older and more responsible, ask them to help you shop. "Johnny, while I'm getting oranges and bananas, would you get a flat of strawberries for me, please?"

• Turn the shopping experience into a game and an educational field trip. For example, you might say to Johnny and Janie, "What is the difference between an orange and a tangerine?" If the correct answer is given, then you can say, "Good job!" If an incorrect answer is given, you can praise the effort at attempting a response and then provide the correct answer.

By following these seven tips, you can minimize the likelihood that your kids will have difficulties on shopping trips. You may still have an occasional rough shopping trips, as there is no way to eliminate all difficult shopping trips, but you can minimize their frequency and severity.

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