June 18, 2009

Mother's Survival Shopping Guide

Read this article on the "Value Guide" published by Westfield that came with my local newspapers. In it, is an article on how mothers can survive and manage when they bring their young children out to shop. I thought this came in really handy for me to share with one of my SG girl friends who just mentioned to me recently that it is a tiring and cumbersome process of bringing her 2 boys out to do shopping.

So far, I had most experiences with bringing my niece Belle (she was less than 2 years old then) out. But I must say that she is the best kid to shop with. Belle is the best and easiest-to-handle child that I have ever seen. Ages ago, hubby and I used to take her out to do our grocery shop after having dinner at my in-laws'. She loves going out or 'gai gai' (chinese dialect for being out shopping or walking on the streets). Once, Belle refused to sit in the trolley and insisted for me to carry her. She was probably about 8-10kg then and of course after a while, my arms got tired. When I tried to put her down, she refused to and when my arms were giving way and she was slipping down and off my body, her strong legs would clamp onto my waist so that she will not fall off (how smart right?). After a while, I told her something like "Belle, you are too heavy for 舅妈 to carry you. I have no strength anymore. Can you come down and walk with me? I will hold your hands". Belle was just being lazy to walk. But after she heard what I told her, she immediately was okay for me to let her down to walk. How good is that?

Of course she sometimes would be curious to pick up things on the shelves but after she is told not to or to put the things back, she would be really obedient to do so. One of her favourite is also when hubby 大舅 carries her and ask her the names of the fruits and veggies (she knows quite a number of them!). Hubby would also educate her on those that she does not know... During those times, I would quickly get to the shelves to pick up the items that I want without Belle tagging with me :p but of course when I shop with Belle alone, I will not be able to do that. If I bring her now, I will make sure she sits in the trolley and I will keep her entertained so that she will not be too bored.

Hopefully this article would help you, if you are a mother of young children :) I could not upload a nice copy for you to view so here are some of the points that I trust will be helpful...

Before you leave... prepare your survival kit (energy snack, a special toy, water, wet ones, a good book and patience). Explain to your child what is expected of them. Remember your shopping list!

Plan ahead
The first thing parents need is a plan, once parents have a plan it can be very effective to go shopping and practice implementing it, so its familiar to the child and you. This is best done when there is less on your "to do" list. Discipline takes time, allow for this when shopping otherwise you go for the "quick fix" which often means giving in to the child's demands, which creates long term problems. The planning process should include a shopping survival pack which no mum should leave home without. Parents should also prepare their child psychologically for a trip to the shops.

In the car on the way to the shops you might say "we have snacks and drinks so don't be asking for treats. If all goes well, you can go on a ride or something - but that will be when we have finished. And I need you to stay with me all the time". It is about setting boundaries before entering the shops. The child needs to know what the limits are and what is expected of them. They also need to know what consequences they will face if things don't go to plan - and then parents need to follow through with those too.

Have back up
These strategies need to be backed up with positive reinforcement when a child does the right thing and then you will be on your way to peaceful shopping expeditions. While it might take a number of trips before parents see the results, a child's behaviour will improve if parents persist.

The thing about shopping with children is that they get bored. So it is important to keep them engaged. You can do this by involving them in the shopping as well as the preparation. E.g. depending on their age, you can give them the shopping list which they can read out to you and tick off as you go, or they might help push the trolley. Younger children love helping so asking them to find things for you is a great way to keep them occupied. It can be turned into a game like I-spy and it can also be educational. A fun colour/number game involves asking your children to find produce like 2 yellow bananas and 3 red apples.

Be realistic
While it is important for children to learn to entertain themselves to a certain degree, parents also need to have realistic expectations. You cannot reasonably expect a child to sit quietly for 10 or 20 mins - particularly younger children.

Preparing your kids for shopping expeditions and involving them in the actual journey will go a long way to keeping them interested and entertained. If all else fails, or if you are in need of some serious shopping time, take turns with a friend to look after each other's kids while one of you enjoys blissful, uninterrupted browsing!

Extra ammunition
One good way to keep your child on side when shopping is to ask them what their favourite meal is and then get them to help you look out for the ingredients.

(advice by a child behavourial expert)
Children need to understand about accountability. If a child breaks something after you have told them not to touch it, take it to the counter and explain what happened. The child needs to witness this. Then follow through with the consequences. After that, give your child a fresh start.

Lost children
Report your lost child to the centre's concierge desk via a shop assistant. Before that situation arises teach them to go to a shop assistant and say they are lost. If they are old enough to know their name and phone number, that's a plus. Otherwise ensure those details are with them and they're primed to show them.

Remain clam - if you get upset and angry, the situation is likely to escalate. If you stay calm, there is a good chance your child will follow your lead and settle down. Stay close to them and listen to what they have to say but try not to talk too much yourself - this can irritate a child further. Explain what you are going to do then continue shopping. Try not to worry about what other people think!

I recall breaking something in the shops when I was a little child. I cannot exactly remember what my parents did but definitely there was some scolding or unhelpful words like "orh... you broke it and now you have to pay for it". This instilled fear in me as I know that I do not have money to pay for it. And sometimes, I may be threatened that the police will catch me if I cannot pay for the breakage.

Reading the above suggestion, I thought is really helpful. The child should witness how the parent handle the situation and so that he/she understands the consequences. I have seen how 1 parent would take the child away while the other parent settles the issue because they do not want the child to be exposed to the 'bad' discussion/settlement. What is worse, some parents pretend that the breakage did not happen and secretly assumed ignorance and sometimes try to cover up the breakage by hiding it away, and they do this in the presence of the child who is observing what his parent is doing. This is a negative example for the child, who will likely do the exact same thing when he breaks something again. It also teaches the child about being irresponsible for his deeds. Not an easy thing for parents to deal with but definitely something to learn here....

2 other thoughts:

macy said...

Great list of advice there. I'm surely going to try this with my kids. But I usually do grocery after shopping for nursing uniforms, and at that time they're already bored. I hope I can come up with another effective strategy to make them behave.

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