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Preventing Shopping Meltdowns
A Survival Guide for December and Beyond
If you're a parent, you've definitely been there. Due to a combination of circumstances, you're forced to run out of the house with the kids in tow. Your mission? Go to the store, get what you need, and get out before your beloved offspring perform their interpretation of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
We've all witnessed such scenes. Someone's child decides that he or she must have a certain sugar cereal or toy and won't take no for an answer. The whole store hears the exchange, complete with screaming, tears, and foot-stomping. Depending on who you talk to, this all-too-familiar situation can be chalked up to anything from wild kids to weak parenting. The one thing we can probably all agree upon is that it's not an easy issue. There is, however, one undisputable point – you are the parent, so it's your responsibility to take control.
Don't set your kids up for failure
Sure, it's nice to think that since we're the adults, our priorities should take precedent; but let's be realistic. This isn't about household chores or report cards. This is about little bodies and little minds which can't always wrap themselves around concepts like patience and manners. And that's exactly why you, as the parent, need to set your children up for success and not the opposite.
With this in mind, our first bit of unsolicited advice is to never, ever take your kids shopping if they are either hungry or tired. Doing otherwise will set them up to display bad behavior and set you up to make poor decisions.
Give your kids a purpose for being there
Something like, "Jimmy, you're a good reader. Please help mommy by reading the shopping list as we go through the store."
"And Sarah, mommy needs help with the coupons. Please keep track of those for me."
These are direct and clear instructions that your kids will likely follow. Assign one very specific task that they will not only own but can be proud of as well. Afterwards, praise them for a job well done, but don't feel the need to reward them in other ways. Kids should learn that accomplishing certain tasks and behaving properly carry their own rewards.
Teach your children the virtues of philanthropy, especially during the holidays
If you're shopping for the holidays and your kids are along for the ride, tell them that they each have five dollars to spend on a needy child. So, while you're looking throughout the store, they'll be shopping as well, and with a specific mission in mind. This gives them a purpose for being there.
It's important to see this action through to the end. Once the item is purchased, it needs to be donated. If no specific charity comes to mind, simply drop it off at any fire station. During the holidays, ALL fire stations accept unwrapped gifts and forward them on to families who need them. Allow your child to be the one who hands over the gift to the accepting fireman.
Let your child create his or her own wish list
For example, let's say that your child is determined to have the hot new video game. Make a deal with them. You'll pay for half of it if they save up their allowance to pay for the other half. What a wonderful lesson to teach your child! Life doesn't always hand you things; you need to work for them. A secondary benefit is that you may now enter the store with a verbal contract between you and your child regarding how and when the item will be purchased. They will have to stick to the terms of the agreement and so will you.
For starters, remain calm. Embarrassment over the situation frequently drives parents to do things they later regret. Your child is the one who's out of control. Therefore, you need to remain in complete control. Matching your child's explosion with another explosion only serves to reinforce their bad behavior.
Next, do what you can to shorten your time in the store without sacrificing your purpose for being there. A lot of parents believe that leaving the store during the first signs of a meltdown is the right thing to do. The flip side to this philosophy is that it teaches children to manipulate situations. If I don't feel like going to the store with mommy, I'll throw a fit because she'll leave. We all act on instinct during stressful times, and kids are no different. They're just doing what they need to do (in their minds) to survive.
Spanking your kids in public may not be the best choice for a couple of reasons. First of all, your purpose is not to embarrass them, rather it's to teach them. If you deliver a spanking, they will only react to the embarrassment and not learn from the situation. Also, by spanking your kids in public, you set yourself up for busybodies and do-gooders to intervene. You're trying to control your kids. Do you really need to deal with a verbal attack from someone who doesn't know how to mind their own business?
The moment you leave the store is the proper time to handle the situation. Time-wise, it's still close enough to the event so that they haven't forgotten why they're being punished, and that's the key – punish them. As a parent, you control your child's world. Don't be afraid to take away things like TV and video games. They are merely privileges that you've given them, not birthrights. Besides, punishments instill the following lesson: irresponsibility always leads to responsibility. If you don't teach this concept, it will be taught to them somewhere down the road and with much worse consequences.
Just remember, you do your children no favors by being a friend as opposed to a parent. You can be their friend once they move out of your house.
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