Have you ever walked in to a store and witnessed a parent in need of an intervention? There is a tired, worn out, uncooperative child and a mother or father doing everything they can to make the situation worse? Today, unfortunately, I was that parent.
My daughter woke up in an argumentative mood. Knowing that I had errands that simply could not wait put me in a foul mood as well. By the time we got to the store, neither one of us was making good choices.
In the shoe aisle my daughter began to insist that I buy her a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small. With flared nostrils and clenched teeth I told her that I would not be spending money on shoes that didn’t fit.
Enter kind stranger
With a big smile and a gentle voice, she leaned down and got on my child’s level and said, “Wow, those shoes sure look uncomfortable. I bet they would hurt your feet.” By the end of the exchange we were rolling down the aisle. My daughter had shoes that fit and I was filled with a pang of guilt. I know better! My daughter was feeding off my bad attitude. If I had approached the situation as this stranger had, we could have avoided making a spectacle of ourselves in the middle of Hobby Lobby.
As we made our last stop, I decided to make an effort to approach this trip differently. I made a mental Do’s and Don’ts of running errands with kids list in my head. Here is how it went.
DO keep a positive attitude! Children can feel your frustration, your anxiety, and your exasperation. They absorb these feelings. They make them their own. So instead of feeding your children these negative emotions, feed them positive ones.
DON’T forget they are children! Young children cannot go as long as we can without food, bathroom breaks or rest. If you don’t plan around these things, you will end up with hungry, soggy, grumpy children. Bring a snack. Allow time for potty breaks. Take a break to let them stretch their legs.
DO plan ahead. In a preschool classroom a teacher will often plan the schedule with calm and active activities spread throughout the day. This is because children aren’t usually able to sit down and be still for long periods of time. A preschool teacher might schedule circle time right before music and movement, or rest time right before outdoor recess. This up and down schedule allows children to jump up, run around and reboot. If you have a full day of activities planned, try to schedule regular times to stop and let your child just run and have fun.
DO involve them. Give your child a short list. Let them know what you are looking for and let them help find it. Ask for their opinions and ideas. Get down on their level. Talk with them, not at them. Your children will feel as though they are part of a team, and not in your way.
DON’T treat your child like you would your purse. Okay, this may seem like a no brainer, but we have all seen a child who has been yanked out of the car, dumped in a shopping basket and then promptly ignored for the remainder of the shopping trip. It is no wonder this child begins acting up. Children want to feel as though they have control over what happens to them. Yanking them from one place to another without word or warning will leave your child feeling very powerless. Chances are, they will attempt to regain control is some way.
As our trip wound to a close, we both left the store in a great mood. I had gotten everything on my list accomplished. Birdy was chattering away happily in the car seat, planning what she would play with when she got home and what she should have for lunch. I pulled my car out of the parking lot and said a quiet thank you to the stranger in Hobby Lobby for reminding me that MY choices could keep a whole day from ending in tears.