Monday, September 24, 2012

The Grocery Store

Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say!
(Reposted from 9/3/11)  

I know grocery shopping with little ones can be a challenge, but here's a quick tip: start with clear rules and enforce them. Ooohhh....mean mommy? No, it will help both you and your children.

A couple days ago I was in the grocery store and couldn't help but overhear a mom scolding her kids. Within minutes it became yelling at her screaming & crying kids. By this time they were at the end of my
 aisle and I glanced over at the scene.

I was so surprised to see two kids about 6 and 9 years old behaving
in this way in the grocery store. Temper tantrums & toddlers I can understand, but fighting and screaming in public at 6 and 9 is unnecessary. By this age it's quite reasonable to expect kids to know how to behave in public, to be able to accompany you on errands without a scene, and to have some self control. What happened next
gave a clear indication of why this mom was having so much trouble in the grocery store.

She told them to sit down on the floor right there and take a 5 second time out. What? Did she really expect them to do this? Did she expect 5 seconds to make a difference? A desperate attempt but not a useful method for the situation. They didn't obey and kept screaming & crying about some fight they had had over some object the little boy was waving in his hand. Mom was really getting frustrated now.

Next came the threat, "If you don't stop fighting & fussing we're going to leave the store...". Well that's progress, I thought, but I doubted she would follow through. Kid's don't become this way by accident. It's lack of clear expectations form the beginning, and failure to follow through with consequences that produces this kind of result. Just as I expected, the crying, fighting, fussing, yelling & threats continued for the next 20 minutes all the way to the check out line and out of the store. I don't want to know what happened in the car or at home.

For 3 to 6 year old's we can make our expectations clear ahead of time like this: "Mommy has to buy food at the store so we can make dinner. You can come with me and help with the shopping as long as there's no fighting or fussing." It's good to involve the kids at a young age and make it a learning experience by giving them small tasks like holding a box of crackers or helping to choose the cereal. 
It might feel like this takes too much time, but it will save you a lot of time & frustration in the long run. As they get older teach them all your shopping tips.

Other Prevention Methods

  • Don't take your kid's to the store when they are tired, cranky or hungry. 
  • Plan a weekly menu to decrease shopping decisions and time.
  • Bring toys, drinks & snacks to avoid bribing your kids with treats.
  • Have a joyful conversation with your kids while shopping, make it fun & entertaining. 


When you're at the store and trouble starts restate your expectation and give a consequence. "Remember, Mommy said there's no fussing or fighting, you need to stop arguing and whining or we will leave the store. If we have to leave there will be no food for dinner. Do you want mommy to cook dinner tonight?" Say this in a matter of fact way without any emotional overload. Then continue to involve them in the shopping process.

If the situation persists you must drop everything and leave the store. Believe me, the store manager & shoppers will understand, and you will only have to do this once. Take your children by the hand or in arms and exit quickly, strap them in their car seats and then calmly but firmly tell them, "Mommy is not happy with your behavior. We are going home without any food for dinner. You will have to eat crackers for dinner." Then drive home and let them experience the consequence.

I have done it, once. Many other parents have done it and no one was harmed. Children don't grow up thinking their parents are mean for doing this. On the contrary, children who experience repeated shopping disasters and frustrated parents who may resort to overly punishing them when they get home, will be more likely to experience their parents as mean. Children need to learn what is expected of them in a calm and controlled way. If they never experience the consequences of misbehavior they will not learn to control themselves. So, say what you mean & mean what you say!

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