Parenting Advice: Grocery Shopping with Kids

I received the following email the other day, and after getting permission from the writer, I thought I would post it here and share it with all of you.

Dear Angie,
Lately every time I take my 3 year old to the grocery store, something goes terribly wrong. Either he screams the entire time, throws a fit, or he just won’t behave. Since you have 6 kids, and I know you take them to the grocery store with you most of the time, I was hoping you could give me some advice.
Hates Going to the Grocery Store

It is true, 99% of the time when I go to the grocery store, I have anywhere from 3 – 6 kids with me. Without fail, every time I go, someone makes a comment about shopping with six kids. Sometimes the comments are unnecessary: “Better you than me.” or “God Bless You.” or “You certainly have your hands full.” But most of the time, people are amazed at how well behaved my children are while we’re in the store.

Can I let you in on a little secret? It’s really a whole lot easier to go to the store with all 6 kids than it is to just take the 3 youngest. Really.

Let’s see what advice I can give to my reader – and to anyone who may be struggling whenever it comes to grocery shopping with kids.

First, at 3 years old, your child is old enough to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Does that mean he’s always going to do what’s acceptable? Absolutely not. He’s 3. He’s going to push every boundary he can find and see how long it takes for you to give into him.

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Before you even get out of the car, talk about what you expect while in the store. {I do this with my kids.} If I don’t have the extra money to get them anything, I let them know that they aren’t even to ask for it. We stick to our list, and that’s it. If it’s not on the list, I don’t get it.
  • Let your little one help you with the list. My 3 year old Parker loves to cross off the items as we put them in the cart. It keeps him quiet, entertained, and it keeps ME happy.
  • If your child starts acting out, nip it in the bud immediately… and not by giving him a toy or candy. My children get the look if they start acting up. Believe me, they know that I mean business when I give them the eye. If it continues, I say one word: Enough. If it continues past that, I make the older children walking behind me hold hands and start singing. Only once has it ever gotten that far, and it embarrassed them so much that I’ve never had to do it again. Try singing with your child. I’m not saying to do it to embarrass yourself, but rather to distract him. If you start singing “If you’re happy and you know it..” he may join right in and forget all about the fit he was throwing.
  • Take a snack into the store with you. Back when my oldest was a baby, I purchased a container at Babies R Us that snaps to the front handle of a shopping cart. I’ve used it for every child since then. Best investment I ever made. He can feed himself Cheerios, Raisins, or whatever you want to put into the container.
  • If your child still continues to misbehave, and you are at your wits end, LEAVE the store. Take your cart to the nearest employee, apologize that you have to leave, and walk out. I KNOW it’s a huge inconvenience to have to go back to the store later, but you need to decide which is worse: Making a scene or walking out. If your child no longer has an audience, he’s not going to act out anymore. And when he realizes how upset you are that you have to leave, he may not want to pull that stunt again.
  • Don’t ever go to the grocery store near a feeding time or a nap time… or if you know your child is already upset – unless you absolutely have to. I know it can’t always be avoided, but try to plan your day around his schedule.
  • Have everything ready for your trip ahead of time: Make a list of what you need, have coupons organized and ready, and do it. Going without a list can wreak the most havoc on a child. They don’t want to be there anymore than you do, but if you have a list and know what you need, it’s so much easier to get in and get out.
  • One last thing: Our local store has special car carts. If I don’t want my child to have a car cart, I don’t even go in the door where they are usually parked. I’ll start my shopping at the other end of the store. Out of sight, out of mind usually works.

I hope those tips help you out. I’m not saying that every trip to the grocery store if fun or even pleasant – but it doesn’t have to be an absolute nightmare.

What advice would you give to my reader?

If you have something you want parenting advice about, please use the contact me link and let me know.