We’ve all experienced it, whether first-hand or vicariously through someone else. The lone parent grocery shopping with their kids. A sedate scenario at first glance, erupting into chaos that could only be explained by Dante. And degree of misery is in direct relation to the parent-to-child ratio.
One kid spinning circles on his back, in the middle of the aisle. Hurling torrents of ear-splitting abuse because he can’t bring home a box of fruit-loops. Child #2, one aisle over, organizing the entire votive candle section — on the floor.
Child #3 (heaven forbid) perhaps too small to leave a parent’s locus of control, sees fit to gnaw every germ-covered surface on the grocery cart before spitting up on the slightly-open bag of grapes next to her.
And then there’s the whole issue of stares from other customers. The not-so-discreet looks questioning the struggling parents abilities, or simply being annoyed at the racket drowning out their appreciation of elevator music coming from the store’s sound system.
Perhaps something like the video below:
I’ve always thought of myself as the I don’t give a rat’s ass what other people think kind of guy. But every time there’s been a meltdown in a grocery store with my daughter, it’s made me excruciatingly self-conscious. I don’t know if it has to do with wanting to appear adept to others, even as the Stay-At-Home Dad.
Or maybe it’s because I remember feeling annoyed at other people and their kids before becoming a parent. Sort of like how we become what we loathe when we travel on airplanes with fussy kids.
But it can be a disaster. So, a handful of useful tricks that don’t include you buying your child’s behavior with copious amounts of sweets are as follows:
- Discuss the rules before hand: Set parameters for them right away (pdf), which will give them a framework to work within.
- Get your children involved in the shopping process: Teach them how to identify different fruits and vegetables, how to tell when they’re worth buying or in bad shape. Then give them their own lists (within your line of sight, of course). You’d be surprised how much children appreciate the responsibility.
- If they can read, teach them about labels: You want your children to understand healthy food too. So, if they’re of the right age, teach them about checking labels for ingredients. Sugar, hydrogenated fats, dietary requirements etc. It allows them to make decisions based on agreed upon criteria.
- Do not pitch a fit yourself: Want to make the situation worse? Then start yelling and making a scene yourself. See how that works for you. Keep your cool, Dads — and I know it’s not easy. I’ve failed many times at this. And what do you do when they start smashing food items or taking the shelves apart? Keep your cool. I’ve even walked away while my daughter’s thrashed about. In 2 minutes she was back at my side, helping out.
- Look for family-friendly grocery stores: You’ll know them when you see them. Family-friendly grocery stores often have mini-carts for kids to push or maybe a play area for kids (a-la Trader Joe’s in Bellingham) — which could be incentive for the kids to listen if they know they can muck about at at the end.
Sage advice? You can be the judge of that. All I know is that it’s worked for me more often than not, so I’m sticking to it.
Harry Tournemille once watched his daughter climb in behind the toilet paper stacks at a grocery store, unable to do anything for fear she’d knock the whole display down.