When I had little children I heard a mum asked, “How do you deal with little children at the grocery store?”  I must admit I got very annoyed at her answer – she said, “In this day and age there is no reason to have to take your children grocery shopping.  The shops are open 24/7 and you can wait till hubby comes home, he can have the kids and you can do the shopping.”  Sounds reasonable except if you live in a town where the shops aren’t open 24/7 and hubby works away from home!!   I decided there had to be other ways to help my children behave appropriately at the grocery store.

Here are some of the thoughts I remember about having little children at the grocery store

  • Weekly grocery shop.  Nowadays I can do fortnightly or monthly but when the kids were little and I was doing it all myself (or they thought they were being helpful!) I needed a short list in order to get in and out as quickly as I could.
  • Teach the children to either sit in the trolley or hold onto the side – and don’t let go.  This of course wasn’t taught in isolation, they held my hand, they held the pram, they sat in the highchair, or in the car seat and so forth in other situations throughout the day.
  • Teach the children that there are times when there are no words.  Since I wanted grocery shopping time to be as relational as I could manage this wasn’t something I did all the time, but there were moments of stress and I did not want to talk about why broccoli looked like trees and cauliflower looked like clouds!!  I wanted to think.  So we had quiet times.  Once again this wasn’t done in isolation – we did training at home or in the car when there were times of no talking.  If they forgot they had to hold their hand over their mouth for a little time (something concrete to help them remember).
  • Deal with it.  I remember one of my children had a bad attitude though I would have said something like “You have a grumpy heart towards mummy and we are going to stand here till you are happy.”  So we stood there in the middle of the isle till they got themselves happy.  It took about 10minutes.  But, they never did it again.  I think we get intimidated by being in public.  No one could have had problems with what happened in the isle – we just waited it out there instead of in a bedroom or time out seat.
  • Be prepared to walk out.  I generally left this to a tantrum but if a child stepped over that line, way too far, then I would park my shopping trolley and tell the shop assistant,  “I’ll be back”.    In a small country town I actually asked once if they could push the trolley into their coldroom and I’d be back – Pete came back for it late in the day.  The thing with tantrums is that they generally fall into one of two categories: you have crossed their will or they are over tired/overwhelmed.  Knowing this helped me decide to push through and finish the shop or get to the car and give them time to get some self control and come back shopping.

But the biggest thing we can do if we want/need to take our children to the grocery store is train at home.  I’m not talking about pretending to walk down isles or sit in a trolley so they know what is going to happen, but rather train their hearts in the attitudes that they need to be successful in the store.

  • Obedience – you need to hold the trolley
  • Self control – you don’t ask mummy for stuff, you don’t touch etc
  • Respecting your authority – compliance, willing to follow, knowing who is the boss

And as a parent there are a few things you can work on at home too

  • say what you mean and mean what you say
  • be prepared with a shopping list so you can be as quick as possible
  • be organised so you can go shopping in a time slot that your children will do well
  • be fair to your child, be aware of the well being of your child so your decisions don’t push them over the limit of self control (shopping when they need a sleep, or stopping to talk to a friend for a long time are all things that will send your preschooler over the edge – you’ll then get frustrated with the child but should really be frustrated at yourself for not keeping focused on the important thing.)
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