Thursday, September 9

The Way of the Peaceful Shopper

Most people have witnessed children having tantrums in a shopping centre. You may even have been related to the child having the tantrum, yes; I’ll admit that I’ve been there.

Its one thing that a lot of parents dread, I know mothers who will only shop when their children are at school or when their partner is looking after the children. And it’s one question that I’m asked with awe “How do you take your four kids shopping every week?”
So why is the Supermarket tantrum such a common behaviour and a thing so feared by parents?

When my oldest son was little he had a few tantrums before I worked out how to change my behaviour. Now, it’ a very occasional occurrence that one of the kids has a melt down, and it usually happens if I’m stressed or tired.
My first insight was probably the easier one to change. Don’t shop when you or your child/ren are tired or hungry or rushed. Being in the right frame of mind makes such a difference to the outcome of the shopping trip. As an unschooling parent I look at shopping (like everything) as a learning opportunity for my kids.

They can learn so much about food; the different food groups, quality of food, additives, where the foods come from etc. They learn about budgeting, both their own pocket money and the family budget, meal planning and using mathematics with money.
Little ones can learn to read in the supermarket. My six year old pre-reading son loves to play the alphabet game. Where you have to find an A on the signs or packaging, and then a B, and so on. My two year old loves spotting things. Can you see a picture of a dog? Can you see the toilet paper?

With the effort and a bit of imagination you can keep kids engaged with the process and prevent them becoming bored and irritable.

Another thing I recognised in my own behaviour was my misperception that everything my son pointed to he wanted to buy immediately. So often I see Mums smacking their kids hands for taking something off a shelf or berating them, “No! You can’t have that!”
Let me put it this way, imagine if you were shopping with your partner or a friend and every time you pointed to something pretty or interesting your partner/friend yelled at you, “No! You can’t have that! Don’t even look at it!”

As adults we call it window shopping and its ok for us to look at things, to browse, even if you can’t afford to buy something or probably won’t ever buy the object.
Encourage your kids to window shop. If my child picks up a Teddy bear and says “Look at this Mum!” I stop and look. I get down at their level and say how soft the teddy is, how cute it is and maybe even have a cuddle with it myself. Then we put it back and continue shopping. Sometimes I point out interesting things for my children to look at.

When a child is older and directly asks to buy something I think it’s important not to automatically say NO. This sets up a negative vibe. If I really can’t or don’t want to buy something I find that my kids understand logic, so I explain to them why I won’t buy it.
There are certain diffusion responses I use too. Especially if I can see that asking for the product is just a whim brought about by bright packaging or advertising.
Yes, we can save up to buy that.
Yes, that’s expensive though, I could buy that for your birthday or for Christmas.
Yes you can get that next time you have spare pocket money.
Sometimes they save up to buy something they have seen and other times they forget about it or decide that they don’t really want it.

My last observation about children having tantrums in shopping malls is that parents really seem to fear the judgement of others. And it is true that judgement is alive and well! Feelings like, Oh my god, everyone is looking at me, they all think I am a bad mother, Everyone’s thinks I should smack my child and make her stop, are some of the thoughts I’ve had.
But remember that these thoughts are about how you the parents feel; they may not even be true. Often people are sympathetic, most of them have been there themselves. And it’s really not about you. It’s the child that is distressed.
My best advice would be to take a deep breath and forget what others may be thinking and focus on your child. If you need to wait and sit it out so be it!

So if you happen to be shopping and you come across a child screaming on the floor and a mother sitting cross-legged in the aisle, hand lightly resting on the child’s leg, serenely smiling at passersby, don’t judge. Smile back and say “This too will pass.”, because it could be me.


Bianca said...

You're so right. I don't have kids yet myself, but I sometimes find myself grinding my teeth when a kid is having a tantrum in the middle of the shops and the parents seem to be ignoring it. (mostly when I am already in a bad mood myself) Who am I to judge?

I had a 'moment' yesterday when I was at an opp shop and there were kids running around screaming and for once I thought, they're not being destructive, they're not hurting each other (or their surrounds) they're only making noise. A little noise never hurt anyone. I didn't think much more on it until I was at the register and the woman behind it said to me 'I wish she'd take her feral kids and go home' I was astounded! and my heart went out to the woman that she should have to deal with those sorts of attitudes from people. Parenting used to be a community act. Now there is little support for parents in public, just judgment and it helps no one, least of all the child.

I’ll remember your post one day when I am that mother. And the next time I see another mother in the same situation, I’ll beam her a smile of support and understanding.

Ariad said...

Thanks Bianca:)

Kimmie said...

"This too will pass"

Love it!

Katy said...

You are brilliant - I have a daughter who can be a little 'trying' to shop with and this is such a great way of looking at it - we will definately be playing the alphabet game!

Anonymous said...

so true!!! Its funny to read this post because I just said much the same thing to my man today only a few hours ago lol I usually do the shopping alone, with the children, but today he was with me. He always wants to rush in and 'get it over and done with as quickly as possible' I advised him that I have far better outcomes when I expect that we could be shopping for a long a time so lets take the opportunity to focus on as many learning experinces that may arise, and there are so many!. I also agree with window shopping, my daughter at 5 1/2 is just starting to get that its ok to really admire something and enjoy its beauty without actually owning it. Its not always a perfect experience but hey, what is!!?

karen said...

Some great advice, not just for shopping but that I will use for other times whith Kids too!

karisma said...

LOL I totally avoid the shops in the months before xmas due to the cranky mamas who drag their poor babies out and then get mad at them! (seriously, they want to buy their little darlings all the crap out there and then punish them in the process?????)

(Back in day! Now Im showing my age..hehe) My first 2 darling girls loved shopping and I could shop to my hearts content, dd3 she was a bit different, there had to be something in it for her or she was not complying. The little brat, much to my disgust had a passion for McDonalds! Yuk! She used to assure that "if she was good...she could have some!" LOL Cheeky monkey! If she could not then well.... (keeping in mind while I took her ladyship out I usually had several other daycare kiddies in tow! She was a little horror! LOL)

The boys, now they put me off shopping all together from birth, they hated it, therefore I learned to hate it too. I still do, they however do not mind dragging me down to buy them something these days.

I am a complacent shopper for the most part, smile at everyone, especially the mamas with the tantrum kiddies. (provided they do not whack them of course then I get narky!) Mind you having said that, I am in and out real quick. I would rather be outside.

Erin said...

Such a great post & surely one all momma can relate to! My first born loved to shop. I'd give her an apple to munch on, which would take her about a full hour to finish and she was super content sitting int he cart, watching the world pass by. Then I had my second child. He HATED to shop from day 1. Apples did nothing for this child ... lol. All in all, he hated to be caged in. That not only went for shopping carts, but carseats, cribs, etc. With my hubby working so many long hours, I must take the kiddos shopping with me each and every time. So we got into the habit of shopping first thing in the morning, right after breakfast, when everyone was well rested & fed. Also, we keep the time spent in each shop to a minimum ... no more then 45 minutes. And the pointing things out along the way really does help in the way of distracting the tantrum plus my children are learning & engaging.
Great post Ariad :)

Monica said...

this is a lovely post. so well put. i will have to share it.

i feel that tantruming is something that needs spreading far and wide between parnets. about it's place, it's value, it's validity. and as you suggest now, of not being afraid of them.

i love all the yes' rather than starting with no. that's a very powerful message for our children.

majikfaerie said...

you are so amazing. I love you!

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