When I wrote about an unfortunate experience I had with a stranger at a grocery store a few years ago, a reader noticed that I mentioned how much fun my kids and I were having as we shopped. While this was a minor point in that larger story, it really struck a chord with her. How was I having fun with my kids in the grocery store? I understand her question. And today I’m here to share with you how it is possible to actually enjoy grocery shopping with your kids!
Websites, blogs, social media… these all provide an outlet for people to share only their best. Embellishment can happen as writers portray their families in the best possible light. The ugly, dirty, messy stuff gets polished off and the reader is left with a gleaming example that is likely both misleading and unattainable. Since we are all aware of this, it’s easy to assume that’s the case here. Surely I can’t actually ENJOY taking my kids to the grocery store.
Well, actually I really DO love to go grocery shopping with my kids! And I don’t just mean that it’s a necessary thing that I have found some tricks to survive. I also don’t mean that I never slip away to the store by myself. 🙂 Sometimes that half hour of kid-lessness is just the ticket to restoring my patience! (Did you know that spell-checkers do not like the word kid-lessness? I wonder why that is.) I mean that I actually look forward to taking them to the grocery store. If you don’t, that’s okay. Keep reading. You might find some tips to turn it all around for your family. ♥
If you don’t, that’s okay. Keep reading. You might find some tips to turn it all around for your family. ♥
I’m going to be sharing with you some skills to teach your kids that are vital to having an enjoyable experience at the store. Some of these are pretty big things that are learned over time. And it is best if at all possible, to start out with these skills in mind, rather than have to retrain later when bad habits have taken hold.
Fear not, though, if you are already battling bad habits. You CAN retrain, and you CAN forge a new path to enjoying your outings. It will just take a little more focused effort. 🙂
I knew a mother some years ago who chided me frequently for training my children to be obedient. She would say that word “obedience” like it was a bitter bite best expelled in haste. Obedience to her was for dogs and slaves. (Not entirely unsurprisingly, her children were frequently the source of her most common complaints, especially the fact that they wouldn’t listen to her.)
Well, obedience is a vital habit for children if you are to be joyful in their presence and they in yours. Imagine you are playing with your kids in the front yard and your three-year-old runs towards the street as a truck is passing. You yell “Stop!” and your three-year-old freezes in place and looks back at you. There is no panic and no worry from you because you were confident your youngster would listen and obey. For me, training my children to obey began purely as a safety issue like this. I wasn’t thinking of the greater joys this would bring to all of us later on. This topic actually deserves its own blog post (or maybe a series!) but I want you to understand that this is a habit worth training both yourself and your children in. (Yes… You must train yourself to never use their obedience in a negative way. You must make sure that whatever you require of them is with good reason. If you do this, they will trust your judgment. Most of the time.)
In some homes, children are viewed as a distraction from other work. Even if you think this isn’t the case in your home, take a good long look at how you are reacting when your child calls your name. If you and your children are not enjoying each other at the grocery store, it’s likely that you aren’t enjoying each other at home, either. Perhaps you sigh a bit before you reply. Maybe you grumpily grunt “What now!” or maybe your verbal response is kind, but inside you’re feeling frustrated at being called on for the one-million-three-hundred-thousand-nine-hundred-forty-third time that morning.
Try reminding yourself that it truly is a privilege and a joy to have this child who needs you so much. I know it’s not always easy, especially near the end of a long day.
I recently battled this very issue one night when my two-year-old asked me for some milk. It was a simple request, but it came after a very long and tiring day and I had just settled the rest of the kids into bed, finally, and had just sat down to what I expected to be a half-hour of relaxing, watching a show with my husband while snuggling that little boy to sleep. Now I was asked to go all the way across the house again to get him some milk. I was frustrated! And then I recognized the selfish thoughts that were ruining my enjoyment of my family and as I walked to the kitchen (it’s a long house… It takes me approximately 43 steps to go from living room to kitchen) I prayed.
“Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to love and serve my family.” At first, I said it a bit sarcastically, I’ll admit. I was not feeling truly thankful. But as I said it over and over (it took me three steps to complete this prayer… So I said it approximately 14 times on the way TO the kitchen and 14 times on the way back to the living-room) I found my heart filling with gratitude. I smiled as I poured that milk and then when I got back to my sweet baby, who smiled at the sight of me, I handed him his cup and scooped him up into a big snuggly hug, smiling with the joy of being his mother. THEN I got to sit down with my husband as we watched a show and I snuggled that boy off to sleep, no longer wishing to hurry him off to bed, content to just sit and love both him and his father.
Personally, I tend to go through phases of being easily joyful and then of being easily grumpy. I haven’t found a pattern to it, yet, but I have learned to recognize the negative and to pray through it. This is a vital habit for a mother. Children can easily sense what your reaction to them in your heart is, no matter how you respond verbally. Don’t let your children feel that they are a burden, Mama! Let them be your greatest joy, and they will quickly learn to be joyful around you!
In our family, we practice manners for different situations. We have home manners, restaurant manners, store manners, etc. We are at the point now where all I have to do is say “Remember we’re heading into the library. Remember to use your library manners!” Of course, if you’re a mom (and you probably are if you’ve read this far!) you know this phrase is not a magic reminder that will suddenly make all children everywhere behave perfectly at all times. And you probably know that this reminder didn’t work when I first started.
In fact, the first time I did this it failed miserably! We were heading to a restaurant with three children. They were 4, 4, and 3 years old. As we were driving to the location, I chattered at them about what behavior is expected at a restaurant. Then, as we were getting out of the car I cheerfully and hopefully said “Okay, darlings! Remember… Restaurant manners!”
And then I spent the next hour and a half redirecting and reminding – I don’t think I actually got to eat anything. (Insert a moment of silent praise for the person who came up with the idea of those take-home boxes.)
I still had hope, though. And anytime we went out to eat, I continued to remind them of what was expected before we entered the situation, and then redirected while we were there. I noticed that I had to redirect less and less. Sometimes I even got to have a few minutes of grown-up conversation with the people we were dining with! Eventually, everyone learned what was expected and they learned, too, that their time eating out was more pleasant for everyone when they followed our simple guidelines. I’ll cover our easy rules for restaurants and other situations in another post. But this one is all about enjoying grocery shopping with your kids, so let’s take a look at what I expect (and get!) of grocery store manners.
*As some of my children have gotten older and new children have come along, this rule has changed a bit. If we’re walking down an aisle, I discourage kids from stopping for more than a few moments to look at something interesting. But if we stop, as we often do, for something on our shopping list, they are welcome to pick things up that are interesting as long as they put it back as they found it and are ready to keep moving when the rest of us are. 🙂 It sounds more complicated than it is. It should be natural and easy for everyone. Not something to be legalistic about, but something to practice judgment with.
As Mother, you set the tone for the whole trip. If you go grocery shopping with your kids without a clear idea of what you need to get and without an upbeat attitude yourself, you can’t expect your children to be cheerful and fun with you. First, when they DO try to be funny, you’ll find it distracting and possibly even annoying, and you’ll treat them that way. After all, you’re trying to sort out in your mind what you’re going to feed them all week and all the ingredients you’ll need to do that. Second, they’ll feed off of your mood and they’ll treat each other however you’re feeling. Still a bit mad about some transgression that occurred back home? The kids will know it and they’ll bicker. Tired and grumpy? Your kids will be, too.
Have you ever heard the saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” Many women take this to be an instruction to those surrounding mom. Keep her happy, it warns, or you’ll be sorry. To me, though, it’s a very deep reminder to the mama! Sweet Mama, you are the key to the mood of your home and everyone in it! If you are cheerful and pleasant, it’s much easier for everyone around you to be the same. And if you get grumpy and tired, dear, it’s nearly impossible for everyone else to hold it together. (Please know that I’m not saying you must always plaster a smile on. We are human and we have feelings and moods. You are allowed to have a down day! But maybe that’s not the day to take the kids to the store… 😉 Remember not to expect more from your children than you can handle giving yourself!)
So you must do two things BEFORE you go grocery shopping with your kids. You must write down a list and you must be sure your mood is pleasant and ready to enjoy the gifts of happy children.
You do NOT have to write out a menu plan or anything if you don’t want to do that. Just jot down the things you know you don’t want to forget so you can release that from your mind and allow yourself to enjoy your time together as you go grocery shopping with your kids .
Our typical grocery shopping trip includes interesting conversations, giggling, joke-telling, noticing odd or new items, finding new things to try, discussions with strangers, and so much more. The children are frequently found helping other people where they can, making funny faces at little babies who giggle back, and generally enjoying each other, me, and our time together. Oh… and we usually come home with groceries, too! 🙂
You can enjoy grocery shopping with your kids, too, Mama.
Tell me in the comments (I read them all!) if you go grocery shopping with your kids or always go alone? How do the kids behave with you? Do you enjoy having them along or is it a burden? Do you think you could work on the ideas in this post to make grocery shopping with your kids enjoyable? What tips do YOU have about truly enjoying (not just surviving!) the grocery store with kids?
Sandra Modersohn is a devoted wife, mother, and homeschooler. She loves great graphic design and has a passion for creating beautiful and useful printable materials for children. Little Learning Lovies where she shares her creations with the world. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and, of course, at the Little Learning Lovies Blog and Store.
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