All parents know the frustration of taking a child shopping and then dealing with the endless requests for things they want. It makes you determined to leave them home next time. Problem is, next time will be the same because you can’t just leave your children home. So, you take them along, buckle them in and head for the store. You already know you will hear an endless stream of, “Mommy, can I have ...” They will pummel you with all the reasons in the world why they must have that one thing and pester you until you give in to keep them quiet. Not a good solution.
There is a remedy and it has everything to do with you, the parent. Here are a few ideas to help you solve this problem.
Discuss rules before going to the store
Take a few minutes and calmly let your child know your purpose for going to the store. Let’s say it’s to grocery shop. If your child is a preschooler, let him know you are not going to the store to buy candy, but you would like his help in putting the groceries into the cart. If you’ve made a list, which we recommend, read it, or at least some of it, to your child so he knows what to expect. He can help you look for these items. You might even decide on a few items that are his job to point out to you when he sees them.
Stick to the plan
When you’re in the store and your child sees something he wants, take a minute to validate his wishes. Here’s an experience we had that illustrates this point. During a visit to our local super market we observed two mothers, each with a small child, at separate times. The first mother’s young child ran to the candy aisle, shouted, “Mommy I want some candy!” and grabbed a bag of M&M’s. The mother snatched the bag and put it back, pulled the child away, angrily saying “We didn’t come to buy candy!” He was determined, ran back screaming, “M&M’s! M&M’s!” The mother, shouted back, “Stop it or you’ll never come to the store with me again!” He went into a full blown temper tantrum. It was not a pretty sight.
The second mother with a child about the same age had the same thing happen — her child saw the candy and immediately ran to it. This wise mother stopped, got down on the child’s level and said, “Mmmm. That does look good. We can’t buy any candy today but if we could what kind would you like?” He pointed to one and she said, “That’s a good choice. The next time I buy candy I’m going to remember that.” The child was satisfied and off they went to finish the shopping. What a difference a little validation can make.
It may be that you’re going to the store to buy a gift for your child to take to a friend’s birthday party. Be clear on your purpose before you enter the store so the child doesn’t think you’re going there to buy him something, too. Before going take a few minutes and talk about what his friend might like. Be sure he knows how much you intend to spend and stick to it. If he sees something more expensive that he really wants to buy for his friend, remember the validation principle and say something like, “Oh, wouldn’t that be fun if we could buy him that. I wish we could, but we can’t. Let’s see what fun thing we can find in our price range.”
If he sees something he would really like for himself you could have some fun looking at the item with him and say, “I’m going to remember that when it’s your birthday.” Or, “I’ll bet you could do some jobs and save up some money to buy that.” There’s nothing wrong with a child having a wish list. Anticipating it, even working for it, will make it far more appreciated than instant gratification.
Older children enjoy shopping for clothes. This can be a challenge for parents. Once again the saving key here is pre-planning. Before you ever enter the store you need to have the conversation about your purpose, what’s appropriate attire, and how much can be spent. If these things are clear in your child’s mind then the shopping can be much less stressful.
Again, do the validating when she wants something you can’t afford. Gush over it with her. Even let her try it on, then, if you approve of it, say, “Wouldn’t that be fun to have. If you really want it you can save for it. In the meantime let’s find something we can afford that you really like.” Make the shopping fun while sticking to the plan. This same thing applies when buying electronic goodies.
A valuable lesson
Teaching your children how to shop on a budget will be a great help for them throughout their lives. Children whose every whim is met never learn to truly enjoy life. Children who are not lovingly disciplined never learn the value of self-control. As you implement these ideas you will also be teaching them impulse control. These are some of the best gifts you can give your children. Teaching this with patience and understanding will go a long way toward guiding them and making shopping with them a whole lot more pleasant.