One of the most common questions I hear from parents of young children is how to get through the grocery store without hassles. For all of you parents who have found yourself ready to tear your hair out in the frozen food section, let's take a look at this situation through the eyes of the child:
Dear Mommy and Daddy,
Well, here we go off to the grocery store, that wild and crazy place with all those tasty treats that seem to be just begging me to take them home. I know that sometimes grocery shopping seems to wear you out and make you grouchy. You know what? It wears me out too! There I am, stuck in that cart where I can't get out and can't even grab all those things that look so good. And when I point to something I want-or yes, I admit it, sometimes whine and fuss-you almost always say, "No, that's not what we're here for." (Of course, sometimes if I fuss long enough, you do give in. So, I'm a little confused about what you really mean!) Anyway, by the time we get to the checkout line, my stomach is churning and I'm ready to scream, "Get me outta here!" And you look like you feel the same way.
I've got some ideas though about how we might get through this adventure without getting so upset. First of all, it really helps when we go to the store after my nap instead of before. When I'm tired already, that trip to the store really does me in. It also helps if you give me a little snack so I'm not so hungry and tempted by all that good stuff to eat. Even better, it helps if the minute we get to the store, you let me choose one tasty treat that I can eat while we cruise the aisles. (Animal crackers are one of my favorites!) Then, maybe when I'm done with my snack, we could make a game out of shopping. Like, now that I know my colors, how about a contest to see how many green boxes we can spot on the shelves? Or maybe a race to see who's the first one to find a man in a red shirt? Also, I love to be helpful, so maybe you could give me some coupons and let me watch for those items as we roll down the aisles. One last thing, Mom and Dad, it helps to know before we even get to the store what's OK and what's not OK for me to get. It's great if you let me know that I can choose one kind of cereal (I know...NOT the chocolate kind!) and one kind of juice. And then, even if I fuss and beg, you calmly stick to your rules. Even though I might not like it right now, it's a lot less confusing for me. And you know, when we get this grocery shopping thing figured out, just think how much more time and energy we'll have to play when we're all done!
A question-and-answer column with Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson of the University of Minnesota