I recently stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work as apparently so many other locals decided to do as well. The warnings of a polar vortex coming our way sent the masses to “hunt and gather” for the remaining cartons of milk, loaves of bread and toilet paper. For me, just coffee and dog treats. Nevertheless, this grocery store chaos seemed to bring out the worst in some families with young children, likely due to being tired at the end of a long day or perhaps being used to getting what they want. There was screaming, crying, demanding, begging, and full-on tantrums in many of the aisles. It clearly was an unpleasant and challenging experience for everyone.
There are a few ways to try and minimize problems when you take your children to the grocery store. If possible, try to go early in the day when the stores are less crowded and both you and your child are well-rested. We all know that doing anything when we are tired makes it just that much harder!
Go to the store organized and prepared with a list of items needed, coupons pre-sorted, and after having discussed the trip with your child before you go. If you are not prepared to buy your child anything, let him know this ahead of time to reduce expectations. If you are willing to purchase something for your child, be very clear about what that will be, how many items it will be, and how much it can cost. Be specific and stick to your plan. Keep in mind that the shorter the trip with your child, the more likelihood of its success.
If your child is younger and rides in the shopping cart, bring along a favorite toy, stuffed animal or music to help keep him calm and entertained. A comfortable cart insert or blanket may keep the seat from getting too hard. If your child is comfortable, your shopping trip will be much more manageable.
If your child is older or likes to participate, consider allowing her to push one of the child-sized carts available in some stores. This allows her to mimic your behavior, feel a sense of responsibility and share in the experience. Allow her to put a few items in her cart. You can also begin teaching your child to find things by herself and bring them to you. If she is not old enough to read, make her a list with pictures or use coupons so she can use them to match the item. This teaches your child to recognize like items and take the time to look carefully. If she is older, write out the list and allow her to begin to compare brands, weight, and cost to assure value. This is a great math learning tool! Later on, she can become more involved in planning and budgeting which will help her learn independent living skills.
If, for whatever reason, taking your child shopping is simply a problem, make arrangements ahead of time for your spouse, neighbor or family friend to watch him. Bring back a small gift of thanks for that person and offer to do the same for them. It is OK to take time for yourself and if grocery shopping is something you enjoy, don’t feel guilty about going alone. Sometimes parents simply need a break!
There will probably always be those occasions when you have to make a stop at the store after work or in an emergency and you will have your child with you. Life happens! But if your child becomes accustomed to there being rules and expectations when going to the store, overall your trips will become easier and more manageable.