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Tips for going to the shops with children (including helping them accept 'no').

You know what it's like, you just need to quickly run into the shops at the end of a busy day. You get the kids out of the car (who are already moaning 'do we have to?'), you race in only to realise your child has already stopped at the enticing toy shop with so many wonderful things they absolutely need because (insert your child's favourite phrase) - 'everyone else has one', 'remember, mine broke', 'I don't have that one in my set yet!', 'it's only $5', 'you never get me anything I want!'.

Now, if you've managed to get past that hurdle and finally make it to the shop you went in for, then there are a couple more 'stress-points'. 1. They're out of the item you need so you go down a few other aisles just in case they've moved it and 2. The checkout queue. Now this one is a double whammy. First you've got the possibility of more waiting then there is the very deliberate positioning of all the things kids desire right at their eye-line.

So, the good news is, there are some things we can do to limit (not, eliminate) this happening.

Tip #1 - Give your child a 'heads up' before going in.

Let them know why you're at the shops and what you will and won't be doing. If you're happy to buy them something, let them know in the car what the limits are. Acknowledge their feeling that they don't want to be doing this. Perhaps ask them to brainstorm what will make the trip faster?

Remind them of your expectations of their behaviour, acknowledging that you understand there are things they might want, but today that's not what you're here for.

Even though you might be in a hurry, a little planning and preparation in the car with the children before going in can make things smoother in the long run.

Tip #2 - Brainstorm some things they can do while needing to wait.

Waiting might include 'waiting for you to find what you need', or waiting at the checkout. Some examples of things children can do whilst waiting include:

  • Asking your child to find some of the items on your shopping list.

  • Play a version of 'Eye-Spy' - eg: 'Can you see 10 different red things?', 'Can you see see something that starts with the same letter as your name?', 'I can see a blue umbrella, can you?' etc.

  • Ask some 'curious scientist' questions of your child - eg: 'I wonder how the scanner works when it sees a barcode?', 'I wonder how many bananas they sell everyday?', 'How high do you think you will be able to count until it is our turn at the checkout?'

"Know your child's limits, and your own."

Tip #3 - If you say no, stick to it.

Calmly let your child know prior that if they ask for something, you will be saying no once then not engaging any further. Children are very good at remembering the times when you said 'no' but with some persistency from them, you changed to a 'yes'.

Tip #4 - Listen to your body's warning clues (and your child's).

If you or your child are hungry, tired, hot or have had a stressful day, these are the ingredients that suggest things are unlikely to go well at the shops. How important is it that you go right now? Do you all need to eat a snack first?

Body clues / warning signs are different for everyone, but include things like increased heart rate, louder and faster breathing, eyes starting to tear up, upset tummy, feeling hot or sweaty, getting fidgety, rocking or moving around, staring, clenching fists, raising voice, silently saying mean or rude words, muscles tightening up, headache, etc. Help your child recognise their body clues by practicing lots everyday. Once a clue is noticed, put a plan into action such as 'stop, breathe, think about what to do next then do something that will not make things worse'.

"The more dysregulated the child, the more regulated the adult needs to be."

Tip #5 - Give specific praise

I'm sure you would agree it is very easy to notice a child when they are behaving inappropriately. It can be really beneficial though to also acknowledge them when they are behaving appropriately, both whilst at the shops then at the end. Eg: 'Thank you for being so helpful putting the bananas in the trolley.' or 'I know how hard that must of been for you to walk past the toy shop without going in so thank you.' or 'When you asked for the chips and I said no, you stopped asking. Good listening.'

At first, you might need to praise more frequently but as time goes on, this can be reduced.

Practice makes progress

All of the above takes practice and I'd be lying if I told you these tips were going to be successful 100% of the time because we're all human. Consistency and progress, (not perfection) is the key.

If you would like some further parent coaching conversations or are interested in counselling support for yourself or your child, I invite you to contact me:

Phone or message: 0468 853 749

Happy shopping


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