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7 Secrets to Shopping with Children

You, the nanny; are at the grocery store with your two charges, Johnny and Janie.  Johnny sees a snack that he feels that he just has to have.  You disagree.  He wails for all the store to hear.  Later, at the mall, Janie repeats the scenario over a brightly colored necklace. 

What could be done to minimize the likelihood of circumstances such as these?

  • Try to plan shopping trips to occur when you and your children are well rested, have recently eaten, and are not experiencing distress.  Also, the shopping trip will ideally occur when the stores will not be overcrowded, which can create impatience and distractions. Make plans to do holiday shopping on a weeknight or as soon as the store opens on the weekend.
  • Ensure that your children have the opportunity to use the restroom right before you go shopping.
  • Establish and communicate your expectations for your children’s shopping behaviors. What behaviors are your children allowed to exhibit?  What behaviors do you not want your children to exhibit?  Model as many of the constructive behaviors as possible . . . your children are watching what you do.  For example, if being calm is one of your expectations, then you yourself must remain calm, even if you are surrounded by chaos.
  • Bring things to occupy your children.  Does your daughter need her teddy bear to occupy and comfort her during a long shopping trip?  Can you put your son in the shopping cart with a good book so he can read or look at pictures while you shop?
  • Promise rewards for good behavior.  For example, “If you behave constructively throughout the shopping trip we are about to have, I will let you each have a pudding cup when we get back home.”  (Note: if your children do not behave constructively throughout the shopping trip, then you must deny your children the pudding cups upon your return home.)
  • If your children are small, place them in your shopping cart or stroller.  If your children are older and more responsible, ask them to help you shop for gifts. This will help teach them the spirit of the holidays and keep them entertained. Talk about the person you are shopping for, their likes/dislikes, and what’s appropriate for their age.
  • Turn the shopping experience into a game and a fun educational field trip.  For example, you might have them to take turns listing things they are grateful for, ask specific ‘trivia’ questions about the holidays or an upcoming/previous family vacation, or grab two items from the store and ask them to name differences and similarities. Be sure to praise their efforts in responding and provide the correct answers if needed. Interaction will help keep the children engaged while you do productive shopping.

By following these seven tips, you can minimize the likelihood that your charges will have difficulties on shopping trips.  You will still have difficult shopping trips on occasion, as there is no way to eliminate all difficult shopping trips, but you can minimize their frequency and severity.

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