Let me first add this disclaimer: I am a mom of 3 teenagers. From the oldest to the youngest they are 3 years apart. I had three kids in three years. I am not a mom of toddlers or young kids anymore. This is my story, my observations, my opinions, and my methods from when my kids were little. I think these are timeless and can enhance family time and/or your personal survival. I share these as my own ideas for surviving and enjoying multiple children.
Let's go to the grocery store! I hear so often from moms of little ones that they HATE taking their kids to the grocery store with them or a run to Target/Walmart, etc. When my kids were little there were a few times where a trip to the grocery store was without any little ones. Those times were heaven! I could stroll through the aisles, check out all the new end-caps, look for sales on things not on the list, etc. However, note that I said few, because that is all I got. Most often I had two or even three little ones tagging along with me. I survived, and you can too!!
Wherever we were going, I started preparing the kids on that way there. Telling them where we were going, why, what we would be looking for or purchasing, and how I expected them to behave. There were no rewards dangled if they were good, no prizes at the end of the rainbow (check out line), none of that. I didn't have the extra money to fork out prizes or treats if they were good. Goodness was expected and they would receive my praise when they behaved. That was all. So we would start out similar to this:
Me - "We are going to the grocery store and I will need everyone to listen to me and to pay attention to where we are going. I will need my good helpers to help me find the things on the list. We are only getting the things on the list but we will see lots of other things we might want but we can't get them today. Who would like to help me by holding my list for me today?" (that person would get the prize of sitting in the cart seat) Sometimes I would let them volunteer and other times I would select that person myself. Then I would move on. "The other two will have to help me find the things we are looking for on the shelves. Remember that your job is to help me by staying close to the cart with your hand on the cart while we are in the store." (this person or people had a rule that they had to keep their hand on the cart while we walked in the store and in the parking lot. I didn't have enough hands to hold them all so that was the rule, period. Even today with my teens I find them unconsciously putting their hand on the cart when we are in a parking lot - they still do it. :) ) Sometimes I would ask for a person to help organize the groceries - if we were only getting a few things and a kid could sit in the big part of the cart with the food while we rolled. That way only one was out of the cart. When I had a baby who couldn't walk with us (under 3 years old) then that person always got the cart seat. The others were relegated to the basket or walking. Sometimes we would "ride" and I would let the walkers "hop on" the front of the cart and hold on while we moved through the store. This was a fun treat for them.
When we arrived at the store, before we got out of the car, I reminded them again, "you all are such great listeners I know we will be so quick and can get home soon. If we don't behave in the store then we will have to go home right away and not have the things we need to make dinner (or breakfast or whatever we were there for). Don't forget to put your hand on the cart when we are walking in the parking lot. Cars can't see you but they can see me. You are short right now and they can't see you so well. They can see me because I am tall. Stick close and keep your hand on the cart." I always tried to park close to a cart corral so I could grab one before getting in the store. On the occasion when I couldn't grab a cart right away then they had to hold on to my purse or hold my arm or hold each other's hands. No one was ever walking freely. The threat was always the same. The people driving the cars can't see you and might run over you by accident. That would hurt badly and we don't want that to happen. The cars can see me because I am tall. Stick close to me and hold on to me and the cars won't hit you. This was said over and over again every time we were in a parking lot. Over time it all becomes habit; habit to say it, habit for the kids to hold on to me or hold the cart or hold someone who was holding me. It became their job to hold not my job to grab them. Usually I was carrying someone in my arm and someone else was holding a hand. The third would either grab my purse straps or hold my arm holding a kid or hold their sibling's other hand (as they were holding on to me).
As we moved through the store, the list keeper would help me by marking off the things we found, even if they couldn't read it was great practice for them to look for the first letter of the item and good practice for just marking things out. The other two "finders" would help me look for their brand of cereal or the bacon or the "blue topped milk" etc. I always praised them for finding it with their good eyes. They know what the box of cereal looks like and the brand of milk we use, etc. They are so observant even at a young age, say 3 or 4 years old. We would mark everything off the list and move to the check out where they would be able to watch the bagger bag up our groceries or help me by putting the items on the conveyor belt. It kept them busy and if they asked for things not on the list I would remind them that it wasn't on the list and we couldn't get it today, but when we got home we could put it on the list for next time. Usually they had forgotten all about whatever it was and never had to make a new list when we got home. They were too busy helping me put it all away at that point.
As the kids grew older and learning to read, the list keeper became more important as they had to read what was on the list to us. And even older (like 7, 8, 9 years old) we began looking for sales and comparing unit prices. Sometimes if we had time one would use my calculator in my purse to add things up or help compare prices and quantities in the package. Even at that age they can learn so much.
I know I have blogged about this before because I remember writing it, but when we were in the stores and saw a child who was misbehaving I would quietly point them out to my kids and tell them to look at how that child looked while he was screaming. I would ask them to look at the mom and see how frustrated and upset she is that her child is misbehaving. I would tell them that others see you when you misbehave just like we see this child. I would thank them for behaving well and how proud I am that they don't misbehave in the store.
Now, my kids were not perfect and there were a few (only a few) times when someone would pitch a fit that couldn't be quickly extinguished and we would have to leave. In those times, I would quickly try to find a worker who I could pass my partially filled cart to and tell them I was sorry but we had to leave right away. I would grab the kids and out to the car we would go. Buckle them all in and head straight home. This only happened a couple times. But enough that they remembered and didn't want that to happen again. No praise. The idea is that I say what I am going to do and do it when it happens.
The idea here is to prepare them for what behavior you expect. Kids are not mind-readers and they learn best when they know what is expected ahead of time. Kids will learn from punishment of when they do something wrong but many times we can prevent the "wrongs" when we teach them how to do it "right". The reminders in the car and telling them what they can expect helped so much. They knew what we were getting and they knew where we were going and they knew how I wanted them to behave because I told them.
In the store I gave them all important jobs. Everyone always had a job, even if sometimes it was to "stand there and look pretty" (yes, that was sometimes a job). They were praised when they did their job and told how much they helped. This made them feel good about themselves and they learned to function as a team. Jobs ranged from "hold on to the cart and make sure it doesn't roll away" to "find the ketchup" to "help me push the cart" to "mark the items off the list" to "help me put the items on the check out counter". It can be anything that will make them feel important. Praise comes during our trip as well as after.
Once in the car, I praise them again for doing such a great job in the store. For helping me find all that we were looking for and for behaving so nicely. If someone complimented my kids in the store I would remind them of that compliment and tell them that they should feel proud that they received a compliment, because I was!
I can't tell you how many times I was stopped by other people in the store after observing me with my kids. They would say, "you are doing a great jog with those kids" or "I see you are teaching them money management early" or "your kids are so well behaved, a rare thing these days". Ha ha. For me I was just trying to survive. I never thought about how it looked to others. I just needed to get through the store with my kids and my sanity. Ha ha ha. Seriously, I was sleep deprived, never without a kid or three, and had to shop when I could and that meant bringing my brood along. So in order to survive the trip we HAD to work together, help each other, behave the best we all could (including me) and return home with our groceries and everyone in one piece. I do appreciate those compliments and often needed them when they came to continue to encourage me.
Kids love a job. They love helping and they love feeling important. That is what I tapped into so that our grocery trip or Target trip or whatever shopping trip we took was successful.
So, what happens when your child does act up in the grocery store? Well, for me getting down on their level, eye to eye with them, holding their hands in mine and reminding them of their job during this trip and how important it was for us to work together to help each other and me usually straightened them up. As I said before, there were times when I abandoned my cart and out the door we went, to the car and home. This upset everyone but needed to be done so they learned that their poor choice in behavior hurt everyone including me, their siblings, and them. That fast response will teach them that you will do what you say. As a side note here, most often poor behavior for my kids meant that they were tired and most of the time this occured when I was trying to push nap time and they really just needed a rest. So when we got home to bed they went for a while. Usually they fell right to sleep.
1. Prepare them for the trip.
2. Give them jobs to focus on while shopping
3. Praise during the trip and at the end.
I hope this is helpful. Have a great day! :)