700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Taking Your Child Shopping

Jun 09, 2022
Taking your child shopping

Whining, touching things without permission, running down the aisles, having tantrums…does this sound like your last trip to the store? There is hope! Here are a few suggestions to make the trip a little smoother:

Make a Plan

Having a strategy before you leave the house can create a successful shopping run. First, try to make the trip when your child is fed and well rested. Keep in mind how miserable you can be when you have to accomplish tasks while hungry and tired; it can be even worse for children because they aren’t in control.

Coming up with activities that keep them busy while at the store can prevent problems. Some ideas include:

  1. Prepare a “special bag” at home containing items that they can only play with at the store
  2. Involve them in conversation about what you are buying and decisions you are making
  3. Ask them to find items on the shelf and put them in the cart
  4. Create a scavenger hunt for toddlers by looking for colors and shapes up and down the aisles or make a grocery store bingo card for older children to mark up along the way.

Set Simple Rules

Discussing your expectations in a positive way ahead of each shopping trip lets your child know what you want to see. Your rules should be easy to understand and follow:

  1. Stay close to Mom/Dad
  2. Walk while in the store
  3. Ask before you touch anything

Provide Positive Feedback

Rewarding your children for following the rules reinforces good behavior. Try to pick things you can do quickly and easily so they receive immediate feedback, such as a special activity right after the shopping trip is over.

Don’t underestimate the impact of praise alone. Specific praise can be a game changer: “You stayed close to me the whole way down this aisle! Great job following that rule!”

Remember that rewards need to come as close to the positive behavior as possible; kids love to be noticed!

Respond to Misbehavior

If a rule is broken, give a calm reminder: “What was our rule about staying close to mom?” Ask your child to repeat and then try again. Praise the desired behavior: “Yes!  Thanks for staying near Mom!”

If they wander again, give calm, clear instruction on what behavior you want stopped and what behavior you want to see. Casey, stop running off and come close to Mom.” Praise them if they do what was instructed: “Thanks for listening the first time I asked” or “Thanks for staying close.”

If they continue to wander, try a logical consequence. “Casey, you are still wandering off so you need to sit in the cart for a few minutes and then we will try again.” Allow them to try again with a gentle reminder of the rule and then praise for compliance.

Have a Follow-Up Conversation

In the car or at home, discuss with your child what went well and what could be better next time: “Casey, you did great with asking before you touch things but next time you need to remember to stay close to Mom.” Make sure to allow them to share their own thoughts.

With practice and consistency, your child will learn how to conduct themselves in public, which is an important skill that they can build on as they grow.

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)
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Deborah Hill, LSW
Behavioral Health

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.