Diana Boggia: Keeping things calm in the grocery store
Shopping can be madness with a young child, if you’re not prepared. Stress levels of both children and parents seem to rise in stores. I see lots of crying children out and about. Many have learned that if they cry loud enough or long enough, they will get what they want — a toy or some candy to quiet them.
Parents handle their crying children in different ways. Some yell or threaten; some give in out of embarrassment and buy the candy. Some parents simply refuse to take their child to the store, and put off shopping until they can go alone.
That gives a child tremendous power. It also minimizes exposure to and exploration of the world around him.
It is easy to set your child up for success and provide experiences to increase interest, good behavior and self-esteem. Spend quality time and about $6 in materials to build a shopping list board with your child. You will need small cardboard (about 8 by 17 inches), a roll of clear contact paper, glue and tacky gum.
Divide the cardboard into five groups; dairy, produce, meat, grain and other (paper towels, shampoo, etc). Collect multiple food fliers, cutting out pictures of all the various types of foods you commonly use.
Choose one item to represent each category across the top of the cardboard to help your child visually identify each category. Help your child glue that picture under the category name.
For long-lasting protection, put clear contact paper over the board, as well as on all of the foods you have collected from various fliers. Sort the pictures with your child into the five groups. Store each group in its own plastic zip bag, placing the five small bags into one large plastic zip storage bag. Hole punch both the large plastic bag and the cardboard, connecting them with a ring to keep the pictures (and tacky gum) with the board.
When making your grocery list throughout the week, help your child stick the pictures of the items you need (with tacky gum) on his shopping board.
Make him aware of the things that are on the board, and the things that are not on the board for this shopping adventure. At the store, he can help identify the items you need, place them in the cart and remove the pictures from his board, placing them back in each plastic zip bag.
If you have more than one child, you can engage all of them by assigning jobs. A board holder is always necessary. The Item finder/shopper is clearly important, and the keeper of the pictures, the one who puts the pictures back into the plastic bags, is most important to keep the integrity of the board.
For a less involved shopping board, you can spend the same amount of money on a small dry erase board to engage your child at the store. Draw simple pictures (loaf of bread, milk, ice cream cone, etc.) to help identify the things you need. Your child can wipe off or mark items that have been placed in the cart. Just as simple and just as effective is a clipboard with your list and a colored pencil to check off the items as they are placed in the cart.
Engaging him in these ways will help him feel involved and important, minimizing the chance for undesirable behaviors. Providing lots of praise for great shopping and great listening will help to keep your child involved, happy and safe.
You can comfortably transition to other types of stores, providing the boundaries of what you will be buying and what you won’t be shopping for today (candy, toys, etc).
Don’t feel the need to bribe your child or pick up a little something each time you go to the store. If so, your child will learn to expect a little something each time you shop.
Remember, if you give in at the checkout, you are teaching your child to cry for what he wants until he gets it.
Providing praise every 10 minutes for keeping up, helping out and being the best shopper ever is better than a piece of candy.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio.