I’ve just spent most of the weekend at a busy shopping centre (luckily without my kids) observing the general weekend chaos of parents and kids doing the weekly shop. This is a stressful experience for most – both kids and parents alike, so here they are – the Golden Rules for a peaceful shopping experience…
- Shop without your kids. Too obvious? Really, if you can (and I know there are times when you can’t which is why there are another 9 rules) leave the kids behind. Do the shopping when they’re at school, or leave them with your partner, your mother, a friend or child-minder. Shopping is quicker and a whole lot easier without attachments!!
- Shop at quieter times. Shopping centres can be very overwhelming with all the lights, loud noises and people. Try to do your shopping at times when the centre will be quieter, like during the week or early in the morning on the weekend.
- Keep it short. I find that I am exhausted after an hour or two of shopping, so imagine what it is like for your kids. Keep your shopping trips short and focused.
- Make a list. And stick to it. This makes the shopping quicker, and you can also explain to the kids before you go that you are only buying what’s on your list. Then the answer to every “Can I have this?” is – “Well, is it on the list?”
- Make a wish list for your child. Have a little notebook and pen that you keep in your bag and every time they want something tell them it’ll be added to their wish list. In this way you don’t have to buy everything they want, but they know they have been heard and acknowledged and that it is normal to want things. And, when birthday times come, you already know what they would like!
- Make sure your kids are not hungry, thirsty or tired. Even adults get cranky when they haven’t eaten or slept well, so do your shopping after nap-time, feed them before you go, and take healthy snacks and water along on the trip.
- Take some entertainment along. Kids sitting in trolleys get bored. Take a book, toy or colouring-in materials along and let them entertain themselves.
- Give your child an important job to do. If they’re old enough you can get them to push the trolley (some shops have mini trolleys for kids so that they can have their own one), or they could be in charge of crossing things off on the list, or counting the items in the trolley, or spotting an important item that you mustn’t forget. Let them know how much they’re helping you.
- Have fun! How can you expect them to enjoy the shopping if you aren’t? Race the trolley, play “I spy”, chat to them, and find ways to make it an enjoyable shared experience.
- Expect cooperation. Children are naturally cooperative – they want to please their parents and do the right thing. So if they’re not doing this, know that something has gone awry and stay calm enough to figure out what it is. Are they tired, hungry, bored, frustrated, feeling ignored, not feeling needed, uncertain of what to expect or how long it will take…? Take a few deep breaths, slow down, and figure out what is going on before it escalates.
Shopping is a part of our lives, not something that must be rushed through so that we can get back to living. And it doesn’t have to be stressful. Slow down, and find ways to make it an enjoyable part of the time you spend with your children.