What is the best way to control your child while shopping?

What should you do when your child is misbehaving or not cooperating while they are out shopping with you? What are some tips for improving a child's behavior while they are out running errands with you?

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40  Answers

6 50

When I take my 5 year old I have her carry the shopping list and a marker, we go down the list and she gets to mark off what we get. As her reading has improved over the years, she now reads me the list. It has been not only keeping her entertained, but also helping her reading skills. ♥

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1 4

smart mommy! that's a great way!

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317 9

First, make sure that you are out nowhere near nap or meal time. A tired or hungry child has little reserves to draw on for good behavior.

Second, bring healthy snacks (no sugar) & distractions, like books or small toys.

Third, involve the kids in the errand. Enlist their help finding a product. Keep them updated on how much longer the trip will be ("Hey, we only have 5 things left on our grocery list!")

Fourth, don't try to do too many errands at once. One or two is likely all their boredom factor can tolerate.

Fifth, set the expectations before you go into the store. "OK, we're going into Target now. You need to listen to mommy and stay with her. And no yelling. If you don't listen or you get too loud, we'll have to leave."

This last one is optional. Offer a small treat as a reward for good behavior. A lollipop or toy from the dollar bin.

Good luck!

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1 21

I love this! Yes, I always prepare my children (5&2) for what is coming. "we are going to go get groceries. If you walk beside me properly, you can walk. If not, you can ride in the cart"<- of course that is for my 5y/o son I agree with healthy snacks and distractions. I hate when parents think of rewards as bribery. A praise, high 5, sticker, allowing them to pick the cereal are great incentives for good behavior. I even let my son pick a few things in the beginning and through out. I remind that his choice can be put back and I can pick one. That tends to help :-)

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5 27

I have a 3 years old, very energetic daughter, who used to run away from me at the stores just 2 months ago. I had the idea and bought her a toy shopping cart at Toys R Us, that we always take with into the stores. Now she is all happy. Whatever I give her to put in to her shopping cart, she pays for it too (with my help of course). So it's like a game, but she is helping me out, having fun and most of all, she does not run away from me anymore!!! :) If we go shopping, when she is tired I have snack and a nice long story on her mp4 player :)) It all works out fine like that and I don't have to argue with her all the time... Try it! I bet your kids would love that helping out game too :))

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5 80

love it!

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19 10

I take both my 4 year old daughter and 2.5 year old son out with me on most errands, as they are home with me most days. I take them grocery shopping with me, and usually take little snacks with me to keep them occupied. We also play games they can both play, such as "can you see a fruit that is yellow" and they point out the bananas. A lot of praise and this game works very well.
My son was a little difficult when going to a shopping mall, as he wouldn't hold my hand, or stand next to me while I was busy paying for something in a shop. He would sometimes run off and I would have to chase him. He would think it was a game, and my 4 year old daughter would be left crying in the shop. I decided that for the safety of both of my children, my son needed to wear a leash. I ordered a special child's leash from an online store and it attaches to my wrist and his. He wore this everywhere we went for 2 weeks. Now he doesn't need to wear it, I just have to ask him if he wants me to put his leash on and this usually gets him to behave.
Not taking your children anywhere with you is not teaching them anything, and it is also not always convenient for you. You should be able to take them anywhere with you, and they just need to learn the boundaries of how to behave when they are out with you.
Perseverance is the key.

7
253 2

Why don't you put your kids in a stroller? It's for their safety and your convenience.

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13 78

Since my husband works 6 days a week, I have to take my kids shopping most of the time. When I go to our local grocerie store the first thing they ask for is a cookie. The bakery dept. gives the kids two free cookies. My policy is if they behave in the store they can get a cookie and I make it my last stop before heading to the check out. If they miss behave, no cookie. I recently started weekly meal calendar so now I have exactly what I have to get to avoid impulse buying. They help me find the items on the list and mark them off. My 5 yr old takes a pad of paper and pencil and after the 7 yr old finds the item, she hands it off and the younger one writes it on her list. This helps her practice writting words and I don't have to tell her how to spell it. My 4 yr old is now wanting to do the same as her older sister (5yr old) so I will be getting her a note pad for our next weekly shopping.

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1 4

The most important thing to remember - going shopping is part of normal life. The same way you expect them to behave at their friend's house or granny's house with its individual set of rules, the same way shopping has a set of rules. Always remember - you are raising an individual to integrate in a healthy and acceptable manner in society.
1. I do not believe in bribery
2. Games make it fun for all
3. Honest and open communication - once we we're doing grocery shopping and my twins were extremely difficult. I stopped the cart and said very seriously that we are going to finish this shopping. They do have a choice how - fighting or peaceful. I insisted that both answer me...
4. I changed the naughty chair to a naughty piece of fabric - red fabric. I only had to use it once in a store and she had to sit for 4 minutes (she is 4 years old). They know mom is serious.
5. Unfortunately in our country we need to keep our children close and safe. There are many kidnappings. I took them with me when we bought the halters (leashes). I had to explain to them that it is not a form of punishment but for safety. I tie them to my belt and when we get to the cart they are allowed to choose where to tie their halters then. I wish I could show you the decrease in tension... I am more relaxed because I do not have to hang onto my kids for their dear lives and they are not forever clinging onto me and fighting because there is no space for the other one. We all shop a bit more relaxed.
6. Make sure they are not hungry! I cannot do shopping when I am hungry. I just buy everything my eyes see. Same for the kids. They will beg and complain to have everything!
7. Talk to them. Tell them where you are going. What you need to remember and ask them to remind you.

Happy shopping!

4
19 1

Excellent points. I LOVE the "red fabric" idea. My kids at school have "card changes" when they don't mind the teachers. It is a very powerful tool Mary http://www.SkinnyFiber411.com

8 0

There are days my 2 year old daughter can be a handful when shopping. Usually our biggest argument is to be strapped into the cart. Our newest rule is if she stays sitting in the cart I won't strap her in. this has stopped all kinds of problems. The other thing I have found is to not take her shopping near her nap time as she becomes much more needy and argumentative. I also always carry a small magna-doodle in my purse so she can draw and make me pics. I will distract her by asking her to draw a circle or triangle or other shapes, I have also found that the crayola magic markers that only write on special paper will distract her as she only gets to use those when we are out shopping and not at home.

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28 31

My 5 year old has always been the child who behaves in public for the most part. and now he is to the stage where he asks for something at the store (and it's normally something at the checkout), so I will tell him that I will think about it and we will see how he does at the store. He is honestly great help with getting things in the cart, helping me find things, and keeping his 7 month old sister entertained.
1. consider bribery (we hit fresh fruit last and that is one of DS's faves!!!)
2. follow through on threats (be it "we leave" or "no X")
3. engage them - "now we are looking for X"
4. talk to them, sing songs, etc. - who cares if you look stupid to other shoppers!
5. if nothing else fails - leave them at home next time - with dad, the neighbor, etc and tell them that when they learn to behave, they can go to the store with you again!

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3 21

As I read through these posts, it amazes me how many parents push snacks at their children to avoid poor behavior! Is there any wonder our country is facing an obesity crisis? And children have to learn how to behave in all environments. The answer is not to leave them at home or with a sitter in order to go shopping. Children do not have to be "playing" every minute of every day in order to have fun. The best way to get a child's best behavior is to involve them in your activity, pay attention to them and their needs, and enjoy being with them and accomplishing a task together. Children need clearly defined boundaries with clear consequences. And those consequences have to be administered CONSISTENTLY! If they can predict the consequences of their behavior with 100% accuracy, and it holds a high currency to the child, good behavior will prevail.

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253 2

I totally agree with you! Why keep pushing food at kids?! My Mom is like that. When I tell her I went shopping, she always asks me if I'd brought a snack for my daughter. But if it's not snack time, why do I need to feed her? I usually promise her a treat, but it doesn't have to be food and if it is, it's during her regular snack or lunch time.

12 5

My daughter is 2 and I have a 7 month old. They both go shopping with me every single time and I spend about an hour in the store. My daughter can have a cookie when we go shopping if she has eaten healthy and well that day, but if she hasn't eaten much (which sometimes her appetite is less at times) she doesnt' get one. It is not dependent on her behavior. I doen't beleive on rewarding her for acting how she should act. I do give lots of verbal praise though. She knows even at two that I will find a timeout spot no matter where we are so I am not embarrassed about her crying or screaming in public. I also explain things to her alot. Like this is what were doing, this is what we're looking for and we talk about numbers and shapes and letters. She knows all her shapes so we point out shapes. Every now and then she tries to run away and she gets one warning then timeout. I explain to her that it's dangerous so she knows why its not okay and lastly if she throws a fit she throws a fit. I don't give in because she says she wants it. Even if people are staring. She has learned that those tactics don't work. She is pretty easy to take places know that she know the rules. I also don't let her not hold my hand if we're in a place that's it's mandatory ( i.e. parking lots, busy shopping areas, etc..) I also explain to her why and she might fight it for about 5 seconds but quickly gives because she knows that's just how it is. If I don't make it a big deal then she won't and she'll get over it quicker.

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35 19

I've always found it effective to keep my kids involved and engaged as much as possible -- at the grocery store, while they were still small enough to ride, I would have a conversation about what we were buying and what we were going to do with it, and would give them a certain amount of input (yellow cheese or white? what shape of noodles?) and as they got older and more involved, I woud have them pick certain items off the shelves and put them in the cart (obviously nothing packaged in glass). Now, I have them do things like compare prices for me, be responsible for coupons, etc. It's important to make sure they're not hungry and it's not nap time. If you're going to be sitting or waiting in line for a while, a book or magazine, or coloring books/crayons, can make things easier. Check out travel game sites; some car games can be tweaked for wandering store aisles or driving through town (and can help teach number/alphabet recognition, reading skills at the same time.)

The most important thing? If they're giving you problems (and they're old enough to know better), don't make any threats you're not willing to carry out. There have been times where I've taken a nearly full grocery cart up to an employee and said, "I'm sorry; my kids can't seem to find their manners today. We're going to have to leave without purchasing this stuff. I apologize for the extra work to whoever's going to have to put all this stuff back." And then we left, and I went back later on my own. Once they know you're serious when you say, "If you can't behave, we'll leave with nothing." they'll listen!

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1 11

One trick I use to keep my kids from grabbing everything they see (and potentially breaking fragile items) is the one-finger rule. They can touch something, but just with one finger. This way they can get their curiosities out about what the item might feel like, but they aren't so restrained that they can't touch anything at all. Sometimes we will all touch something with a different finger - like a pinky or a thumb - to see if it feels different. Ironically enough, my 3-year old prefers to touch stuff with his middle finger, which makes for some funny glances from strangers, but he's too young yet to understand the meaning behind that finger! :)

1
235 30

First try not to take your kids shopping with you. It's not fun for them or you. If you can go when your hubby, older siblings or a friend etc. can watch them it's so much better. But if you must, always make sure you have a snack and sippy cup. Kids will misbehave when they are hungry and thirsty. If they misbehave we stop right where we're at and we don't move until they are able to behave appropriately. If it's bad enough or continues I just go home and finish another time when I don't have to take the kids with me.

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16 21

Pre-activity training. Talk to them about how they will behave, how not to act. Let them know the. Consequences for misbehaving and follow through with it. I have left the store and asked the customer service to hold the stuff for me. I have taken the kids to the car and delt with them, then once they were under control resumed the shopping. On a number of occasions my husband has taken them to the car so I could finish shopping.

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253 2

I don't understand parents who let their kids run around stores and/or cry, yell, scream, etc. It's not only annoying to other shoppers, it's down right embarrassing! The car is the best place to calm the kids! For us, it's just mentioning of THE CAR, that calms my daughter down. lol My parents used the same tactic on me and my siblings when we were kids. :)

51 35

Well what works for us is putting him in the back of the buggy even at the age he is now. He is 4 going on 5. It is just easier for us so we don't have to keep worrying about him running off. We wont' be able to do that for much longer since he is already 52 pounds.

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253 2

Good for you!

145 8

I took my twins shopping since their first week. Up until 3, they stayed in the cart. If the cart moved and they weren't seated, we stopped until they sat down. If they didn't sit, we left.

The biggest thing is follow through, if you tell them that you're going to do something, (like leave the store) then you have to follow through so they know mom means business!

They're 7 now and one of them is mentally disabled, he's a bit harder to get to listen, but he knows he'll have a time-out in the store if necessary. I do have them help.

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10 10

I have twin 2 year old girls. When I take them shopping I make it snack time in the cart so they are occupied and mommy can shop.

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23 24

Being consistent with whatever you choose to do is key! If you say that he will get a treat if he behaves, do not get it if he doesn't. I see so many parents buying items for their child just to keep them quiet, but they will see that this gets them the results they want! One or two times of not getting anything will show them the opposite, that they will get good results by not misbehaving. Even if it is just a box of cereal they picked out. Simply put it back and get something you like:)

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35 3

Well, my 3 yr old is a handful most of the time, and the only way to get him to sit in the cart is if he has Dad's cell phone to play with. He can play a game or two, while we get shopping done, without any extra hassle. I used to be able to just let him push the cart with me, but he has too much energy now, and is always wanting to challenge me (joys of being 3), so that is our tactic, or I go shopping after Dad is home, so he can watch our son while I go do the shopping on my own.

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11 1

If you say it do it. Follow through is the most important thing when it comes to the kids. I tell mine if bad behavior continues this ( whatever consequence I have dreamed up) will happen, And then I ask them if they believe me. As long they believe what you say, half your battle is done. If they don't, you know what you need to work on. By the way I am a single mom with 2 kids age six and two. My girls and I go everywhere together, and very seldom do I have to bribe.

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103 25

we usually go shopping as a family but on the occassions when i have to take my kids by myself i will tell them what i expect from them and what reward they will get if the desired behaviour is given. If there is a minor behaviour that stops when asked they will still get reward but if it continues or is a major behaviour problem then the reward is withdrawn. I have a 5yo and a 3yo with ASD and this works for me

363 40

My son knows that when we are out we can very easily go home. It doesn't matter how far away we are or what we are doing, because I have done it before. When he starts to get fussy, whiny or whatever, all I really have to ask is "do you wanna go home?" and his behavior changes and he is good until we do whatever we needed to and are actually ready to go home.

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235 30

That only works if they don't want to go home. Usually if my kids are whining it's BECAUSE they want to go home:(

14 20

I give my kids a list and a cart as soon as they can read. If there's an extra cell phone available I put one in their pocket. They feel important and responsible and we get the shopping done in half the time. Sometimes I hide behind the bread and watch them order the meat at the deli, because they can stand there forever before the staff realize that the kid is a customer. If they ask for stuff that's not on the list I just say no. There is no discussion about behavior because I'm not expecting bad behavior. This has occasionally worked with two brothers sharing a cart, but it could also go very badly with more than one child at a time. We do not offer treats for good behavior or at all for that matter. If you're going shopping with three kids or more, good LUCK! I don't have a lot of advice besides wait in the car while they shop or if you have to go in the store pretend you don't know them or pretend that you are their aunt and say very loudly that their "mother" is going to hear about any misbehavior when they get home.

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253 2

My daughter, who is now 4, has always gone with me everywhere and has mostly been well behaved. Shopping carts and/or a stroller are the best things ever created! At the mall she sits in her stroller. She knows how, this way she won't get tired doing so much walking. Some shops, like Gymboree have a television with kids shows on, so I park the stroller there and she socializes with the kids as they all watch and I shop, keeping a close eye on her. Usually a I promise her a treat and a visit to the Disney store (which I let her walk around in), keeps her happy and well behaved. At our local supermarket, they have junior size shopping carts; just smaller versions of the real thing, so she gets to push one around and actually help out. Everywhere else she sits either up top the shopping cart, or rides inside it. And after everything, if my little girl, just doesn't want to go shopping, has had enough, or is just plain board or tired, there is always my trusty iPhone, where she can play games or watch videos and I can shop quietly. :)

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38 0

When I take my 2 1/2 year old twins with me to go shopping, I always tell them what I am looking for! "Can you help mommy find the milk, eggs, fruit, etc". This keeps them focused and busy. I also plan around naps, meals, etc. When all else fails, I pull out a snack! :)

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2 6

I give my 4 year old the coupons and she finds the items we're searching for in every aisle. She takes her "job" very seriously and this exercise also helps with both letter and number recognition. Works like a charm every time! We also have fun clipping the coupons for the items we use; she can spot a good deal a mile away!

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22 0

I remember finding this one out the hard way.

I went shopping rite on avo nap time and had one child crying and the other child trying to hop out of the trolly.
I desperately needed pads and was seriously tired. I took literally less than 5 min to run to my ail and to the express lane and I had every person staring at me the whole way. While my two kids made so much noise it way humiliating.
I was trying my hardest to stay calm and keep talking to the kids calmly and not scream at them, which I felt like doing. We finally get threw the checkout and back to the car - buckled the kids in and I just about collapse in a crying fit - outside the car. To endure even 10 min of solid screaming from two kids - did my head in. (Once in the car, with the air-con on and the calm music on - they quickly settled down, with there drinks. )

I was very lucky to have a passer by (nurse) ask me if I was alright and she gave me a hug and said she understands - she had kids and the early years are challenging.
Since then I shop online and avoid going to the shops with both my kids as much as possible. Its not a fun place for kids. And I realized my limits. I learned the hard way and will never be doing that again.

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1 64

give a list of things you need to buy and pen to scratch ,ck with him or her if you have everything ,involving them with your errant,ask them what thing you need at house or kitchen, thats why they out control cause feel bord ,give them some coins to add or caqlculator to imagine adding the product you buying k, my childrens allways behave wonderful and helping me a lot.

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17 0

with the "if they arnt good u leave"...i dont understand that as a single mom. if we need things i have to get them or we are screwed. i HAVE to take my 6 and 7 yr old boys everytime and i hate it! they dont listen half the time and run from me. not to mention ask for everything. I dread going to the store. its embarrassing and ive tried everything!

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40 22

the point of saying you are going to leave, is to prove a point to the child as to who is in charge. You will have to follow through with it. It should take only once or twice of removing them from the store to show them you mean it when you say it. As to advice on how to get your boys to listen... i dont really have any. I know boys in general tend to be more rambunctious, and they find ways to play with anything and everything around them. All i can say is try to include them in everything you do. Have them use all their extra energy to run and get the things you need on your list. they can choose to make it a race, or take turns. Maybe you could bring a timer, and they can try to do it the fastest? (also the safest, tell them they have to get the object as fast as they can without running. then it will be a little bit more challenging, and at the same time safer for both them and people around them)

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30 1

Have a talk with your child before you leave your home. Let them know what you expect from them. Do not try to bribe them! If you tell them they can have a special treat as long as they are good then you are creating a child who focuses on the treat rather than the behavior..not good!!! You want a child that is good because that is how they are supposed to be, so it is up to you to create that child..by YOUR behavior and YOUR example. Like everything else when it comes to our kids, its gonna take some effort on your part. If they are bad, give them a warning..tell them that if it continues you will leave the store. Make sure you follow through!!!!! If they continue to act badly, leave the store! Leave the cart right where it is...take your child and leave. The people in the store will understand and totally respect your decision to not make them have to edure the badness of your child and you constantly telling them to stop and apologizing. It shows your child that you mean business. What you do next really depends on what your needs are. If you NEED to get something from the store then you may want to take your child to your vehicle for a timeout. Put them in the seat, buckled and everything. Do not start the time until they are still and quiet. Don't stay in the vehicle with them! You want them to know that what they are doing is wrong, keeping them company does not teach them that! Just stand outside your vehicle, that way they know you are there and you know they are safe. When the time is up, get in and sit next to them. Talk to them about their behavior, tell them you love them very much you just don't like it when they are being bad. Tell them that you have to go into the store and you know that they can do better than before. When you go back in you will definitely have a different outcome! If you don't NEED something from the store, leave and go home. Do the timeout and talk at home. You can always go back to the store. I have grounded my children from going to the store for behaving badly when we shop. You don't have to leave them with a parent, get a babysitter. When they see that you seriously do not want to shop with craziness, they will change their behavior. If you have more than one child and one gets grounded from shopping but the other doesn't, make sure you take the unpunished child with you! It will show that child that they do not have to be punished for the other child behaving badly. Everything that I've told you I have done myself..with success! My children are not perfect, but I can take them to the store and other places in public without problems. Good luck =)

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5 22

Make shoppin fun for ur children even more so if u no its goin to be a long shop :) get them involved...findin things down the isles for u, puttin it in the trolley etc. My boys always ask if they can have sweets if they r good. So i make them stick to it. I have gave in other times n then it just makes the next shoppin trip harder. So dont give in....if iv been like an hr shoppin(as i go wkly) i jus praise them along the way and remind them that they r bein good and we wont have long left and then we can go to the sweetie isle n choose a treat for good behaviour. Its the gettin them involved...the praise and the consistensy throughout the trip that helps me the most. If im hungry tired or not in the right frame of mind i try not to shop with them as its stressful which isnt their fault :)

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16 35

When I take my 6 yr old pdd ADHD child to the store I have him help find the items I'm looking for and put them in the cart. We sometimes race to see which one of us finds it first. If he is really hyperactive and can't focus he holds cans or boxes for a few minutes,which calm him down .

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311 26

It depends on the age of the child. However, mine knows he misbehaves he will go into the cart and/or time out. He knows, it does not matter where I am, he wants to hit or throw things...there's always a corner somewhere. He normally likes to shop anyway he asks me if we can go to the big store, or circle store (Target) and even walmart so...I have an odd three year old. Sometimes we take books with us, if it's hot really hot outside we always bring a small snack and a juice box or water cup with us. He also is allowed to pick something, for instance we're getting cereal he is allowed to pick one. Just make sure, just as at home, they know you are mommy. My son even knows it's not safe to run too far from mommy and daddy. He told me the other day, if i do that mama then a not nice person will take me. I had never said that to him before...lol

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40 8

I've never really had to do anything really. She has her days where she's grumpy and doesn't want to mind or anything just like every other kid but I've never really had to try overly hard to get her to behave. Then again, my husband is military and has been gone over half of her 2.5 years already. His first bit of being gone she wasn't even a month old yet. So from day 1 she's had to go on every errand I have to run. The only 2 things I never take her with me to do are getting my hair cut and getting my nails done. Only because I NEED some time to myself and those are pretty much the only small opporutinities I can schedule in about every 6-8 weeks for alone time. I guess since she's always had to go with me to do shopping and errands she enjoys it. She actually asks to go shopping. Like this morning. She actually got up and said to me "Mommy can go shoe shopping please?" I'm probably in for it when she gets older but at least she enjoys shopping now. :)

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1 79

I have a 6 year old boy that is very good in the grocery store. He helps me push the cart, pick out the food, organize the cart, and checkout. He wasnt always this way though. I remember when he was young and I told myself that I wasn't going to be that parent whos kid is misbehaving and throwing fits in the store. And even more, I wasn't going to be that parent that is constantly making threats and not following through. When he was younger, there were a couple of times I got him right out of the cart and left the store, leaving our cart full of groceries there. After that, he knew I wasn't kidding. It seems like most kids enjoy going to the store. I say if they aren't going to behave, then they should have to stay home as punishment. By doing this, they will learn that going to the store is a privilege and in order to continue going, they must behave. Good luck moms!

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3 45

I have a 6 year old daughter.Let your child have a good meal before you leave the house because they get cranky and edgy when they hungry.My daughter has different cereal options so i let her choose what she wants and when I get to the till point i pick only the necessary ones.Keeps her happy that she could at least choose them.I totally walk past the toy Isle.I promise her one item if she behaves and that is usually a KinderJoy.Happy Shopping

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1 18

Anywhere they have buggies, mine sit in the buggy and play their Leapsters :-) Thank you Leap Frog for allowing me to grocery shop in peace while my kids learn their letters and draw! As far as clothing stores, I prefer to go without the kids but if I have to take them the 50 cents it costs for them to ride a ride afterwards is well worth it because they'll behave and walk nicely holding hands to ride rides! My girls are 3, 4 and 5.

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2 12

I guess I started very early on when my daughter (now 6) wanted to walk. I explained that walking with me and helping push the cart, etc was a privilege and that if she was bad, she would find herself riding in the cart. I soon found the phrase "hand on the cart" worked exceptionally well (if you can't touch the cart, you are too far away). When my son (now 4) was old enough to start walking, the rules were already set.

They are no angels in the store... if I don't set the pace correctly. I have my biggest success when I talk to them for a moment before we go into a store together and set the expectations for the store. I let them pick out the fruit that we are getting (it's our snack method at home). We talk about whether the package they picked is a good or bad choice. We are also moving to them carrying the list which is a coveted job, mostly because they get to use a pen.

The grocery store has become easy.

It's other places that are more difficult.

For Target, we go to the dollar section and pick out a toy, whatever makes them excited (It could be a pencil or a coloring book or whatever they see). They keep that toy as long as they behave throughout the store. If they don't, we give the toy to the cashier at the end and apologize to her (or him) for not behaving in the store. I'm also not above just giving the somewhat full cart to an employee at the end without purchasing anything.

At the mall, we talk about what we are going for and that we are not stopping for other things. We talk about good behavior and bad behavior and that when we get home depending on how the mall trip went can mean the difference between a sleep nap (sleeping) or a book nap (reading for the time of the 'nap').

I have never used a leash and can't really speak to how effective it is.
I don't bribe my children with sweets, but I do let them go to the dollar section.
I have given them a snack in the car before we go into the store if they seem hungry.
I don't avoid stores when they are tired, they need to learn to control themselves in those situations (I also don't go out of my way to go to the store when they are tired).

Consistency. Whatever method I choose to use, I find it most effective when I am consistent. If I bend and tell myself "they are tired, I should go easy on them", the trip becomes horrible. If I hold them to the behavior I expect, the trip usually goes well (regardless of how tired or hungry they might be) and when it doesn't, we leave with *nothing* no matter how badly we 'need' it.

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First of all let me say that we have a 5yr old, a 3 yr old and one on the way. We have NEVER used a leash. When we considered it and discussed it w/ friends who had older children they said, "God has already given you a leash...it's your hand. Your young child should never be further than arms length away anyways." That made perfect sense. Also studies have been done on the safety awareness of children and those who use leashes in their formative years have proven to be less safety aware in older years - it's like you are preventing them from learning the proper behavior, so try consider that before you jump to use one.
Like most of the other mom's I engage my children in the shopping process unless they are infants. When they are under the age of one I carry them in my MobyWrap. It's very snug, the baby often sleeps through the shopping process, I can clip a pacifier to the fabric if he/she awakes and it keeps the baby away from nosy shoppers who want to touch my baby. My son was an extremely active toddler, so I allowed him to "push" the bottom of the cart and would direct him to retrieve some items that he could reach and then toss them into the cart, "Find the yellow bread Charlie." Since he was only 2 at the time it was a lot of work for him to try and toss things into the cart - kind of like playing basketball. If he was disobedient or ran out of reach his punishment would be to ride in the cart. Now that he's older he holds the edge of the cart if he's not pushing it - like when we are crossing the parking lot to unload the groceries. I once saw a mom w/ four kids and each kid held on to a corner of the cart. Smart woman. It was tangible and worked. We NEVER feed the kids in the grocery store. I make sure they have eaten before we go. I figure I wouldn't shop hungry, so why should they, plus I don't want them eating in an environment that exposes them to more germs.
Finally, when we are in a long check out line, as if often the case in military commissaries, I sing toddler's a baby's songs (Wheels on the Bus) and I quiz older kids w/ eye spy games, asking them if they can find a number "8" or something blue or a picture of a cow, or whatever is visible from the check out line.

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if in a grocery store, i put my children in a basket if they misbehave. Therefore they cannot run around. If in the mall or something where there is no basket, i tap his hand look into his eyes and say, "unacceptable behavior!" and, " dont let it happen again!!" Bribes only tell the kids that if you misbehave i will get candy and/or toys. That does not redirect behavior, it supports it. You dont reward unwanted behavior or attempt to avoid it by this manner.

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by the way, my kids are 4 and 3

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Singing along .. naming items ... that helps alot. and when shopping takes too long a toy will be great.

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