I hear from so many parents how difficult it is shopping with children. Most often it is not the full day at a shopping mall, but the simple weekly supermarket expedition.
I see the evidence of this practically every visit I make to our local grocery store; with stressed parents, crying children, parents berating children for their so-called demanding behaviour etc. Sound familiar?
I have some simple tips that will hopefully bring a little peace and enjoyment back into your shopping experience.
1. Make sure your young children are well hydrated and are NOT hungry. Hunger and thirst can often be the cause of children feeling upset and less than willing to co operate. I always have water for my children, no matter where we go. It may also be wise to carry some nuts or fruit, so they are not likely to reach for something less healthy.
2. Make shopping fun! Little ones can ride in the trolley while older children can help find the grocery items you need. Allow each child to choose at least one item each that they would like. In our trolley it might be some honey macadamia nuts, or a bag of potato chips. If children feel like they are being respected they will be less likely cause a fuss and ask for all different kinds of junk food. Because we eat a mainly whole food diet this is not an issue for us.
3. We need to remember that children are naturally curious. This is how they learn about the world around them. So if they want to pick up and explore an item, allow them to and talk about what it is, so even if the item is not going to be purchased, we can share in our child's interest in it.
4. Use a sling or baby carrier for infants and make sure they have had boob before going shopping, so their little tummies are full. For the older baby, maybe a little toy or food will help them cope with the less attention from Mum or Dad. Being carried will provide more emotional security than a pram or trolley. Grocery stores can be really over stimulating for babies and young children, so they need to be kept close.
5. Shopping with toddlers seems to be challenging for a lot of parents. What if children are involved in the shopping decisions? Asking questions like which yoghurt do you want or shall we get your special juice this week? All children like to be included and to feel useful and respected. Again make sure children are well hydrated and fed. A small toy and a snack would also be very helpful.
6. Avoid the crowds. You know the scenario, late home nothing for dinner, rush the children in the car to the supermarket. Everyone cranky and hungry with crowds of people doing much the same as you. If you can avoid this, DO! If not, allow your children to choose a healthy snack to eat and do your shopping as quick as possible!
7. The all alluring snacks at the check out counter. Again bringing a snack from home will help alleviate hunger and cravings for less than healthy lollies and chocolate bars. But if your child does request something that you are not willing to purchase, they still need to know that you empathise with them on how enticing it looks. I say things like "I know you would love to eat that bag of lollies, they look really colourful, but I'm not willing to buy it today. Look you have got this muffin here that we bought from home'.
8. Sometimes we just need to say 'no'. I will often let my children check out the toy section of the supermarket or department store, with no intention of purchasing anything. Sometimes one of the boys will express an interest in buying something. I will always ackowledge their interest and say something like 'maybe that would be something you might like for your birthday' and if they are persist, I would say 'I can see you really love it, I 'm just not willing to buy it today, sorry love.' It is really about the way we convey the message. It needs to be done with kindness, love and understanding.
Sometimes none of the above will work and everyone is just too tired and have plain had enough of shopping!
When we respect this fact, we realise that the shopping can wait, but our children cannot. Our children constantly need our emotional support and when they have it, they are more likely to handle stressful situations such as long shopping trips.
Remember children behave as well as they are treated.