goodManners: What’s in store? Four tips for stress-free shopping with children

Holiday time is here, and you know what that means. Yes, it means it’s shopping time. If you have small children the thought of bringing them with you shopping may leave you more stressed, instead of joyful.

Somewhere between the music, flashy lights, crowds of people, toys, gadgets, and holiday decorations small children seem to hit sensory overload. If you’ve seen this happen to a small child you know first hand that it’s not a pretty sight.

Of course, the easiest solution to this problem is avoidance. By that, I mean leaving your children home in the trusting hands of a good caregiver while you calmly and joyfully do your holiday shopping.

This thought was prominent in my mind while waiting in a long line to make a purchase the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I watched a 7 -year-old child scream and cry that she wanted a certain toy for over 15 minutes. The parents made a few attempts to calm the child, and then they chose to ignore her. The girl was having a sort of jumping tantrum and made the 15 or so minutes of waiting in line extremely stressful to all around her.

This leads me to my second, perhaps more controversial point – if possible, remove your child from the situation if he is uncontrollably upset and very disturbing to other shoppers.

I can vividly remember when one of my children had a complete meltdown in the mall. I tried to explain that this is not the way to behave, but she chose to continue. I immediately abandoned all shopping plans and calmly told her that we were going home. I scooped her up, walked out of the mall while she was wailing, “that’s not fair, I want to stay”.

Later we calmly talked about the situation.

This topic cannot be truly addressed without mentioning empathy. Empathy is a major tenet of good etiquette. We probably all have empathy for the parents of the screaming 7-year-old.

I did for the first three minutes. Then, I found their solution, completely ignoring their screaming child for over 15 minutes, to be rude and inconsiderate. In the grand scheme of things it’s not the most horrible thing, but it’s a situation that could have been resolved a little better.

Preventing such shopping nightmares is key to a fun shopping experience for everyone involved. Here are four simple tips that may be helpful.

  1. Manage your expectations

Most children will only be cooperative on a shopping trip for small periods of time. You know your children best.

  1. Prepare your children

Explain to your children that we all need to go shopping for a period of time and that you would appreciate excellent behavior. Praise them for behaving well. Also, be prepared with toys or food that may help make the experience more pleasant.

  1. Time your trips well

Make sure your children are well rested and fed before we go shopping.

  1. Enjoy

And don’t forget to enjoy watching your children marvel at the sparkle of the holiday season and how fortunate we are.