I’ve heard from many parents about the nightmare they have when taking their children shopping with them. It seems that every aisle has something that kids want. And face it, it’s hard to distract kids in a store when they know full well that there are things to be had in there! I know some parents who either ask their spouse to watch their children when they have to shop, or they will actually hire a babysitter. Some children will cry and scream for something that they have set their eyes on. So what’s the answer? Here’s an easy solution when shopping with children that works every time.
- Decide if a reward has been earned. Is there something your children have done that is worthy of a reward? Or have they saved up enough of their own money that it’s time to let them spend a little of it? If so, decide ahead of time how much they can spend. If you want to allow them to spend $3.00, then anything labeled $3.00 - $3.99 is allowable. When children are small, it’s difficult to figure out exactly how much is $3.00 - so anything in that range is acceptable. On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine that they may have no money to spend - so there will not be anything they will get this trip. This was often the case with my kids.
- Explain the rules BEFORE you walk in the store. Once I parked the car, I would have a talk with my kids before we all got out. They weren’t always allowed to buy something. On those occasions when we were shopping for a birthday present for a friend, I would remind them that we were shopping for their friend, not for them. But I understood they were probably going to see something they wanted. So I told them that if they saw something they really wanted (and only ONE thing), they could bring it to me and I would write it down on their Christmas or birthday list. Then they would have to put it back. If they got upset and wanted it right then, I not only would not write it down, but they would most likely not get that particular gift. With the smart phone technology we have these days, it’s easy to pull up the note page and create a Christmas list where the child can see that we are actually writing it down.
- Help them decide. When given choices, kids usually always are able to make the right choice. If this is a trip where they do get to spend money, and they can’t decide from one toy to the next, let them know this is their decision and they can choose one. Give them about a minute to choose. If they get upset because they can’t have both, remind them that they can either have one or none. And in the cases where the kids aren’t allowed to get anything that day, remind them that if they show you their choice and allow you to write it down, they will have it on their Christmas list. If they decide to get upset and cry, then they are choosing to not have that gift at all. Kids are smart. They will test this new rule to see if you will follow it. And when teaching this rule to your kids, always be willing to leave the store if a temper tantrum ensues. This will show your kids that you are serious. If they do have a tantrum, no need to punish them or get upset. Simply tell them, “You’re really upset with the choice you made this time. Maybe next time, you’ll make a better choice.”
It may take some work at first. But eventually your kids will understand these boundaries and begin to show respect inside a store. And imagine their surprise when something they asked for earlier shows up for Christmas.