“I don’t know about you, but for me, weekly grocery shopping was a stomach-churning, headache-inducing task. Every grocery week I’d find myself with three active kids, two hours of chaotic shopping, one over-filled grocery cart, zero patience at the checkout and vowing not to buy candy for my kids at the register. But most trips I’d cave to the pressure. Until I discovered a great trick.”
It’s grocery day. You’ve done this countless times before.
You grab your list, your stack of coupons, the diaper bag and load the kids into their car seats. You’re optimistic. This time will be different. All you need to do is make it through the store without experiencing a tantrum or a meltdown. I mean you—not your kids!
As you grab a cart and approach the automatic doors, one kid breaks away and runs straight for the coin-operated gumball machines. You’re not even inside the store and already feeling defeated!
Then you know…grocery shopping with kids is nothing short of a “full-on” obstacle course.
FIRST: STRENGTH TEST— Negotiate with a screaming, fussy toddler while trying to manipulate their thrashing legs into the seat of the grocery cart. Quite honestly, wrestling a six-foot irritated octopus would be easier to bring under control!
THEN, SELF-CONTROL — Navigate the colorful, crazy cereal aisle where EVERY kid cereal is at a child’s eye level. Stopping every ten seconds to explain why they can’t have that kind of cereal and reminding them to stop touching and keep their hands to their sides.
All the while appearing as though you have everything under control when all you really want to do is scream “STOP TOUCHING! PUT THAT BACK—LET’S GO!”
NOW ON TO MULTITASKING — Try to stay focused on your grocery list while simultaneously match coupons to the items in your cart, monitor your two mobile kiddos and keep a running total in your head on how much you’re spending. But wait…
THEN COMES AGILITY — My personal favorite…the checkout lane! After an hour and a half of shopping, you now must, unload the groceries onto the conveyer belt, wrangle three hungry and tired kids away from the candy rack, unearth your coupons from the diaper bag and pray your total doesn’t go over what you have in your checking account.
All while uncomfortably flanked between a wall of sweet treats to your left and savory snacks and cold drinks to your right.
AND FINALLY, OBSERVATION — Do a headcount to make sure you have the same number of kids you came in with. Perform a quick scan of the register area to ensure all the groceries you purchased are actually in your cart.
Then check the hands of your little ones to make certain no one is clutching an unpaid candy bar.
“Once you’re done, you feel (No! You know!) you could easily pass any military-style boot camp obstacle course without breaking a sweat or a nail.”
Without question, the checkout lane is the most anxiety-producing part of the outing.
I have no doubt that whoever designed this area has some knowledge of a toddlers’ arm’s length. You see, it strikes me as a bit suspect that a buckled-in child can reach out and effortlessly snatch a packet of gum off the display rack.
“Coincidence? I think not!”
And if that’s not enough, those slick product placement designers know exactly how to market for that quick, last minute sale at the register when our resolve is fading and we’re at our weakest.
“For me, the pleading and whining would begin well before my cart entered the dreaded tunnel of forbidden sweet treats.”
So it’s no surprise that week after week, each trip ended the same way.
My boys relentlessly begged me to buy them candy at the register.
My first clue that things were out of control was when one of my guys lunged in front of the grocery cart as I was leaving the register, threw himself to the ground and screamed loud enough for the loading dock workers in the back of the store to hear his demand for me to stop and buy him candy.
In spite of this arduous weekly challenge, like any good mom, I’d stand my ground and resist their exhausting pleas and puppy dog eyes. Saying “no” was usually effective about 57% of the time. Now, even though I was proud of my stats, I have to admit, I was running low on effective and permanent solutions to get their harassing behavior under control.
Threats. Bribery. You name it! I tried everything. But there was no denying, I had to come up with a way to get my kids’ full cooperation without losing my mind and blowing my budget.
“And hey, I’m not opposed to sugary treats…”
I just have a problem with being intimidated into paying for it.
Now, call me hard-hearted or too tough for not caving in every time and just buying my kids candy, cause that would have been easier, but I’m kinda funny about being intimidated or held for ransom by little humans (a.k.a. my kids) at the cash register.
“Well, after some pondering, one thing became obvious.”
My kids wanted something — candy. I want something — compliant kids.
So…why not flip the script? Let the challenging part of the shopping trip be on my kids.
“Here’s how I figured it…”
Of the three boys, the two older boys were young…but not so young that they didn’t understand the basic concept of how money worked. For them, it was simple! — If you have money, you get to buy stuff.
Perfect! I could work with this.
So, rather than always saying “No” at the register, each child would be allowed to pick the candy they wanted at the end of the shopping trip.
However, there was only one catch — I wasn’t paying for it. They had to!
I started by developing a set of rules for each time we went shopping.
Then I would go over these rules with the boys before we set out on our weekly shopping trip.
Once I was sure they understood what was expected, each child would receive four quarters (or you can use 10 dimes if you want to give your child more chances) before entering the store.
Further reminding them, that this money was theirs to keep, as long as they followed these simple, non-negotiable rules:
- Listen to Mom and do as they are asked the first time or they forfeit one quarter (or dime).
- When spoken to or requested to do something, they are to quickly do as they are asked. No hesitation, fussing, grumbling, backtalk or arguing.
- When asked to forfeit a coin, there will be no whining, disagreeing or discussion with Mom or an additional coin will be forfeited.
- Finally, whatever amount of money they have in their possession at the end of the shopping trip could be used at the register to buy whatever they could afford.
It was entirely up to them to make the choice to be attentive, follow directions, and exhibit self-control and cooperation. Ultimately, they were in charge of their own behavior and the burden of responsibility was on them.
Each child had full control over their money. But more importantly, it was up to them to keep it.
The outcome was in their hands.
Understanding choices and consequences.
My oldest didn’t have a problem navigating the store, following direction and retaining all his quarters. Surprisingly, he opted to forgo the candy and put his money in his piggy bank at home.
Shopping was a bit more of a challenge for my son with ADHD. He preferred to push the envelope and made it his “mission” to test me to see if I really meant what I said. Consequently, the first time we tried these new rules, it was rough on him.
Arriving at the cash register with one quarter in his hand, he carefully looked over the candy selection and checked the prices. Sadly, for him, he didn’t have enough money to make a purchase.
A lesson learned.
On the way home, after the initial shock and disappointment wore off, we talked about his choices and the consequences of those choices. I reminded him that he would have other opportunities to try again. Even though he suffered a disappointing blow, he learned a valuable lesson that day.
With subsequent trips, he began to understand, that he was responsible for his own actions. And, that those actions dictated the outcome. With this in mind, he was then able to adjust his behavior, make better choices, work on self-control and reward himself at the checkout.
In addition, both boys began to learn the value of money, purchasing as a consumer, interacting with a cashier and counting back change.
Developing lifelong skills.
Teaching my children about self-control, responsibility, and consequences for their choices (good or bad) is important to me. This “game”, as simple as it is, does just that.
I could now enter a grocery store with children who were managing their emotions. As well as, practicing self-control and exhibiting valuable life skills through responsibility and cooperation.
I’d say that’s a win-win for everyone!