Expectations for young siblings when running errands - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 04-17-2011, 08:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm really questioning my discipline lately, and after a stressful shopping experience today I need some advice. I have 6 and 3 y/o boys, and they are generally great guys and active like any kids are. So today I have them both the grocery with a long list around lunch time (so it's crowded) and they're running around the cart, running and sliding down aisles on their knees--horrible, but I just wanted to get my shopping done quickly and was glad no one was screaming, hitting or crying. redface.gif  Many many "don't touch", "put that back" "please keep up with Mommy" "let the lady go by, please"  etc., feelings of disapproval from other adults, extreme jealousy of moms w/ singles sitting quietly in the cart.


It was horrible, yet not anything so out of the norm for us. So after I got home and my blood pressure went down I started wondering what I'm doing wrong (other than not going by myself, lol). I can't have them ride in the cart because then there's no room for food. I hate those stupid car carts because they're always filthy, take up practically the whole aisle, plus after 15 minutes they climb out anyway. Is it reasonable to expect them to walk calmly by my side while I shop? When I have just one that happens, but when they're together, not so much. I'm questioning myself now if that's not because I lean on the older one to entertain the little one, but of course that quickly leads to hog wild for them and angry embarrassment for me. Are other moms able to take their 3 and 6 y/o together out in public w/o this hassle? Please, share your secret. I can't stand to have another day like today.

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#2 of 25 Old 04-17-2011, 08:49 PM
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I think just wanting to get your shopping done quickly is the biggest problem. They probably have that figured out and take advantage as a free for all for behaviour because you are willing to let things slide to get the shopping done.

If you want them to behave properly you should focus on that - whatever your method of discipline ie teaching that should be first, shopping second. Everything else, including the shopping, has to stop to address the behaviour in whatever way you have decided to teach your children.
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#3 of 25 Old 04-17-2011, 09:09 PM
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My kids are 3 and 5.  I find that I have clear expectations I lay out beforehand, and I use the cart if they don't meet them.  And/or I insist that the 3yo ride for the first bit in the store so we can get things done faster -then he gets to walk for the last while so he doesn't feel like he totally lost out.


I've been pretty strict about how they follow me at stores, so they know how it works.  They have been pushing things lately - I think because my younger is 3 they just know how to have more fun and be more silly together.  So I too have unfortunately had a couple of crazy shopping trips in the last month or so, but I also held firm in my standards and had to deal with some unhappy kids for a trip or two before it got better again.





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#4 of 25 Old 04-17-2011, 09:09 PM
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The six year old should (barring an off day) be able to make it through a shopping trip without needing constant reminders.  At that age, I kept mine busy by sending her running for the bread, or to pick out four cucumbers- anything like that always in my sight, but she needed to have her own tasks to help alleviate the boredom. I also gave her a calculator and let her total up all the groceries we put in the cart sometimes.    The three year old may not be ready to be loose in the store, and may do best sitting in the cart or being worn still- particularly when you really just want to get in and out.  I know that my almost three year old creates havoc if not contained while shopping.  Before he is four I expect he'll be much more appropriate. 

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#5 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 05:47 AM
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I also agree that if the shopping is always the priority, it will be hard to change their behavior -- maybe go 'grocery shopping' a few times when you really don't NEED anything and have plenty of time to spare...

Have you tried giving them sections of your shopping list (draw pictures of the items if they can't read) and ask them to shop for those items?? Maybe it would help them to have a task & know what they're supposed to be doing during that time? I can't imagine a kid just walking right beside their parent, with nothing to do, it just sounds boring to me, but I'm sure there are some kids somewhere that do so...

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#6 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 06:28 AM
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I just don't take mine.  Mine are 4 and 9 and my 9 year old is typically fine.  One or the other is fine as well, but with both, it's just a nightmare.  So my rule is you have freedom until you abuse it (pulling things off the shelves, knocking things over, running away) then you have to hold onto the cart.  And no, it's not fun at all for any of us, but they do know the rule and usually after holding onto the cart for awhile, they're good to go again.


But mostly, I avoid taking both of them grocery shopping by myself.

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#7 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 06:59 AM
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I still never take my ds (9) on errands unless we are literally just picking up one or two things.  He was pretty horrible in stores when he was younger and still hates shopping.  He'd jump off and on the cart, run around in circles, etc.  The car carts were bad because he'd want to climb on and off them (not just in and out) while I was moving.  Something about the grocery store environment was very stimulating to him.  And it's not like leaving the store would be a solution since that's what he wanted.  I'm just grateful I could shop at night or on weekends and leave him with dh.

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#8 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 07:19 AM
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I try to order "big shops" online and have them delivered. If I'm meal planning I just make a list and order it, because I know searching for the things in our super huge market would be a drag with the kids, and I'd end up loosing my patience. Very much worth the delivery fee! If I'm running to Whole Foods or the health food store for the few things we get from there, I bring the kids -- I try to involve DD in helping me find the perfect carrot, or we smell the flowers, and I make sure I plan enough time for it to be as long as it needs to be/interesting. 

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#9 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 10:27 AM
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It's very important to let them know your expectations ahead of time. Discuss it before you leave the house, and go over it again when you get there, before you get out of the car. Every time. Go when you have plenty of time for a while. Try to go when the store isn't busy. I like to go fairly earl yin the morning, like 8am. There are very few people there then. Make sure the kids aren't hungry. If my kids act up in the store, we leave. Sometimes we go sit in the car for a while and then go back in. Sometimes we drive to the next town over and go to the store there. Sometimes we go home and have to do without what we went to the store for. It doesn't really happen any more, because they know I'm serious and they don't want to have to start all over or in the last case, they don't want to go home without the peanut butter they so desperately desire. We definitely have bad days, it's not always perfect, but it's usually pretty pleasant. If we get out of practice, it's harder. If I forget to tell everyone how I expect them to behave, it's harder. If I'm in a hurry, I let them know (nicely!) what we need to do, why and how we need to do it. Sometimes we get something special at the end of the trip or go somewhere fun afterwards, and I let them know that when they help me do what I want (need!) to do (get groceries) I am really happy and excited to help them do something they want to do.
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#10 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 10:48 AM
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I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to walk by the cart. Jumping around and sliding on their knees may be age-appropriate behavior, but it's not store-appropriate behavior, and they can learn not to do it. Mine are 6, 4, and 4, and I often shop with all three of them. They're not models of decorum, certainly, but they do walk by the cart, and refrain from grabbing stuff or jumping around too much or making too much noise. It means though that you have to take the time to teach the expected behavior, and be prepared to reinforce that behavior consistently. If my kids behave badly in the store, we immediately head to a quiet corner of the store-- I'll scoop up and carry the offending child if necessary-- for a talk about appropriate behavior. We only resume shopping when everybody is calm, understands the expectation, and is ready to cooperate. If we can't get to that point, we leave the cart and go to the van. We stay there until those conditions have been met. If we still can't do it, we go home, and try again later. FWIW, though, I only had to do that once, before the point was made. It's a matter of demonstrating that you have no tolerance for certain behaviors-- that you can and will drop everything to ensure that those expectations are met. If we're constantly making exceptions in order to just get through it, or because it seems like it's not worth the struggle, they start to figure out we're not serious about what we expect.

A lot of times, for certain types of situations, I decide it's not worth it, and find a way to get the errand done when I can go alone. But since that's not always practical, and since they do need to learn about appropriate behavior in public, I think it's valuable to take them shopping at least sometimes, so they have opportunities to practice and learn.

It helps, too, to make sure you shop at a time of day when everybody's rested and well-fed and has had a chance to get restless energy out. And that any brewing conflicts-- a kid who's angry about something that happened earlier, for instance-- have been dealt with before you arrive at the store.
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#11 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:14 AM
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I would have the 3 yo sit in the seat of the cart, and the 6 yo walk nicely next to the cart.  It would be non-negotiable. 


I do much prefer to shop alone, and now that all four of my kids are in school, I am able to do that 99% of the time.  When I do bring my kids with me, it's b/c I want to, luckily not b/c I have to.  They know now what is expected, and if they misbehave, they certainly won't be asked to come with next time. 

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#12 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Drummer's Wife View Post

I would have the 3 yo sit in the seat of the cart, and the 6 yo walk nicely next to the cart.  It would be non-negotiable. 


Me too. When my 4yo and 7yo are in public together they act like fools unless I make sure they're unable to do so. When I have to take my 7yo along with us my 4yo doesn't have the free roam she does otherwise. 


I'm sorry you had such a rough time. If mine behaved that way we'd be leaving the store at once. We've done it a few times because that kind of behaviour is, to me, unacceptable. Ain't gonna happen. I don't mean any of this in judgement, but in a BTDT wanted-to-pull-my-hair-out way.  

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#13 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:30 AM
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Would breaking your trips into smaller ones help?  I have a 2.5 y/o and a 6 m/o and we go 2-3 times a week.  They can keep it together for the 30-40 minutes that takes, but would lose their minds on a 90 minute trip.  Plus this way if they're just melting down and I have to leave it's a much smaller cart I end up having to leave.


Maybe giving the 6 year old his own list would help.  Pick a few things in each aisle and either write the word or draw a pictures.  Even now my oldest is capable of walking over to the bananas and grabbing me a bunch.  Letting her "help" keeps her engaged and entertained some days.  And when it doesn't I am not above bribing her with a cookie from the bakery.

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#14 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:34 AM
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Great advice here! I have three boys - ages 6, 4 and 2. I make the youngest sit in the seat in the grocery cart and my two older sons walk. The whole "if you give an inch they'll take a mile" is so true. We've had some embarrassing experiences out and about so now I work hard at keeping their behavior in line (I remember an incident at a post office a year or so ago when my two oldest were hitting each other with mailing tubes and running around while I was standing in a very long line bag.gif)


Anyway, now before we go in a store I lay out my expectations (and personally I don't reward them for good behavior by buying them something - good behavior is personal responsibility). Then I keep them in check. If someone starts to run or grab things off the shelves or act obnoxious, I stop right then and there and tell them to stop. I do timeouts (which I know a lot of people on MDC don't agree with), but I've been known to have one of my older sons sit on the floor while I shop (all within my view, of course). My 2yo is too young to stay with me or listen to many rules, so he rides in the cart. Oh, and I write a very detailed list (and organize it by section of the store) so I can get in and out as fast as possible.


It's not exactly relaxing to shop with three kids, but it's doable!

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#15 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:37 AM
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DH is in the military so I usually have the 4 of mine (6, 4, 2 and 10 months) with me when I shop.  Up until recently the toddler was sitting in the cart, now I have the baby sit in the cart and the other 3 walk along side it.  They know what the expectations for a shopping trip are, they've been doing it with me all their lives, we just add in a new kid every 2 years or so.  DS1 (6.5) only needs reminders to stay on our side of the aisle sometimes ("hey, hon, you're on the wrong side of the road!") and he helps hold DD2's hand (she's 2.5) and makes sure she keeps up if we're in an area where she can't hold onto the cart beside me.  DD1 is 4.5 and tends to stop and get distracted so she needs reminders to keep up with us, stay on our side of the aisle and not walk backwards and walk into people, but overall it's not a big deal.  They're wild and crazy at home and outside, but in the store (or restaurants or at the waiting room for the chiro, etc.) they're pretty chill.  There's the occasional shopping trip from hell, but those are pretty infrequent.


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#16 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:47 AM
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Shopping is rough for us too, mine are 3 and 5.5.  They both like to ride in the cart but they will wrestle while in the cart and it drives me mad.  If I can possibly keep their hands busy it helps, with shopping lists (dd likes to cross things off) or with a snack.  I can't let ds walk because he runs and dd can walk but will whine and cry that she wants to ride.  I love going without them but it's usually just not feasible, and I do want them to learn about grocery shopping.

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#17 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 11:58 AM
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I do a big lecture before we go in about 'store behavior' (similar to the 'restaurant behavior' lectures smile.gif). No running, yelling, craziness.

They can walk but if they can't behave they sit in the cart. If they can't sit in the cart they are strapped into the cart (they are 2 and 4). I don't care how much they have a fit about it. That's the rule. That assumes I HAVE to get stuff there and then. Assuming I don't then we just leave. I think I only had to leave once.

Sometimes we're going somewhere fun afterwards and that will be contingent upon their behavior. Again I think just once I had to cancel whatever it was.

I give one warning for behavior before I enforce the consequence.

I'm VERY strict because it's really easy for them to go crazy and I can't stand that kind of nonsense in stores redface.gif I figure just like a restaurant people are there to focus or even to relax. Not to mind that it's easy for stuff to get knocked over etc.

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#18 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 12:03 PM
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I am not above bribes. I've got a 8,4, and 2 year and I never get to shop alone, I often get out with just the younger two since DD1 is in school. I shop for groceries once a week and my trips tend to be long ones. Running around is not acceptable, they must stay by me or get in the cart. Toddlers always ride. They get to either pick from a selection of crackers, special fruit, or sometimes a cookie at the end if everything went well. 

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#19 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, all, lots of good advice.

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#20 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post

I just don't take mine.  Mine are 4 and 9 and my 9 year old is typically fine.  One or the other is fine as well, but with both, it's just a nightmare.  So my rule is you have freedom until you abuse it (pulling things off the shelves, knocking things over, running away) then you have to hold onto the cart.  And no, it's not fun at all for any of us, but they do know the rule and usually after holding onto the cart for awhile, they're good to go again.


But mostly, I avoid taking both of them grocery shopping by myself.


 Me too. My kids are 6 and 9. They are usually fine. But it's so much more pleasant to go without them. We also have the 'hold onto the cart' rule and it works pretty well.


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#21 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 05:18 PM
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I would put the little one in the cart and have the big one walk. At 6, if the little one isn't available to play with, the older one should be more settled. Also, try having the older one hold the shopping list to help.
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#22 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 05:55 PM
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I once had to abandon a cart full of groceries at the supermarket customer service desk because I felt my kids' behavior in the store was obnoxious. However, in general I'm pretty lucky- my DH does the stock-up supermarket shopping, which means that I only need to make occasional trips to the store. 19 times out of 20, I limit food shopping trips with my kids to the little butcher shop/grocery near our house and to Trader Joe's, which is pretty small compared to the supermarket. My kids behave better at those stores as opposed to the supermarket, which is bright, loud, and full of temptation in the form of junk food. The employees at the butcher shop know us by name, which gives my kids a feeling of importance, and Trader Joe's is just plain fun for the kids- they get stickers from the cashier, and I usually let them pick out a small treat before we checkout. At those stores, I do insist that the kids either walk with me or ride in the cart. I won't put up with my kids running away or getting in the way of other shoppers. I remind them that they are a part of a larger community, and that they need to have consideration for those around them.


Sometimes DH will take one of the kids to the supermarket when he goes shopping, but since it's one-on-one time with dad, the kid in question always behaves well.





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#23 of 25 Old 04-18-2011, 06:42 PM
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My kids are 9, 10 & 12.  They have ALWAYS come with me unless they were in school.  From the beginning I had the expectation that they will behave.  They have thrown tantrums, I ignored them & kept shopping.  Between the 3 kids they've had 6-10 tantrums in the stores because I would not cave to their wants(leaving or getting a toy/candy).  They found out quickly that a tantrum does not work.


My shopping trips take 3 hours through 3-4 different stores.  I always made sure it was not nap time and they were fed before going or they had the promise that we'd eat out once we were done in x store.  


If they got antsy about shopping I gave them a shopping job to do(ie, get the toilet paper, whatever thing we needed in whatever aisle).


When my kids were 3 they were often still in the cart.  I would pile groceries around them until I had to put groceries on them & then they had to get out & walk.  There were a few times I had a sleeping child in the cart & stuff got piled on them.


These strategies worked with my 3 kids when they were young & still work now.  When they were babies & I was doing babysitting there were times I had 7 kids in the store with me & they all behaved because they knew what behaviour I expected & tolerated.



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#24 of 25 Old 04-19-2011, 11:48 AM
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Your expectation to shop with a 3 year old and 6 year old without trouble is perfectly fine.   I had three kids that were three years apart and I never shopped without my kids.  Or tried on clothes or went to the doctor....!   Fast forward to the teen years and I would give my right arm to be in the grocery store with with a 1 year old, 3 y/o and 4/o!


Here are some ground rules that will help accomplish that goal...

Go in the morning, immediately after breakfast.   You never want to go near lunch or nap time.  NEVER

Set up guidelines of acceptable behavior - # We watch out for others and don't get in the way.....  #  A good line for keeping inside voices - Who needs to know we are in the store kids?  Just us!

    # Mommy needs to be able to see you all the time    # Keep your hands to yourself unless Mommy has asked you to put in the cart.  Discuss this while driving to the store.  Needs to be fresh in their minds.

Before you go in the store - let the kids know that if they are helpful and cooperative (cooperate is the operative word here) then they are allowed a simple toy as they leave.   Let them have a small round rubber ball - something cheap from the school supply section.  My gosh - my kids loved getting pads to write on!  Anyway - don't let them pick this out until you are completely finished.  You never never want to let them hold the object while shopping.

While shopping keep a constant dialogue with the kids about what they think they want when you are finished.

While shopping give them a list (for the 6 year old, this is perfect) to read.  As you come to the aisle that has their items - ask them to read their list.  You can even do this for the three year old.  Three year olds love to pretend they can read and write.  You give the three year old a list, tell them what is on it and remind them as you approach the items.

Make them your little helpers! 


Good luck!


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#25 of 25 Old 05-14-2011, 10:00 PM
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My kids are 5 and 12 month and I just remind the 5 year old about good behavior in the store and let him help me pick out fruits and veggies and snacks for himself. By 4-5 kids can handle a simple shopping trip imo. 

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