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A Clever Way to Combat Begging

Learn one mom's great idea for dealing with little ones who just have to have that toy/book/candy right now.

It’s that time of the week again! Here at Norristown Patch, we try to take a moment to help out those most important people in everyone’s life: moms. Believe it or not, we don’t have all the answers, but we do what we can. When we come up short, we need the community to lend a helping hand and put in its two cents, advice or tips to help us along the way.

This week, we’ll take a look at one reader’s question regarding begging. 

"Dear Patch,

Each week, I have the same issue with my daughter. We have to do the grocery shopping, and I prefer to go when my older son and daughter are in school. I am a stay-at-home mom, and so I have to bring along my daughter who is just 3. She does fairly well in the store, sitting in the cart, but every week I dread the same thing: the checkout line. Sometimes, though, she gets bored and starts acting up to get my attention.

What’s worse is the finale. Why do stores have to put the candy, toys and eye-catching goodies in that aisle? It makes me insane. Every week, she begs and whines and cries to get something. I really don’t want her to have candy in the middle of the afternoon, but I don’t know how to avoid this drama.

How can I keep her happy while I get the shopping done, and most importantly avoid the check-out meltdown when she begs for a candy?” 

Susan K., Willow Grove

Oh, Susan. I can feel your pain. Shopping with a preschooler is a tough job. But, after a few years of the routine, I do have some tips that may make your trip easier.

When I take my kids to the store, we have a few ground rules. Generally, the children have to stay in the cart. It is hard enough to shop for deals and stick to our list without me having to chase two kids through the aisles. We also tell them before going in, or on our way to the store, that there can be no misbehaving. There will be no yelling or fighting or whining.

No, of course, this doesn’t make it all stop just because you say so, but you want to be sure the ground rules are clear. We generally tell our children they will be rewarded for good behavior if they can stick to these rules. Each child may pick out a special reward if the child remains calm and helpful throughout the shopping experience.

If you don’t want that to be candy, allow your kids to pick out a favorite cereal or fruit. Maybe a small toy or book would be more acceptable. A reward doesn’t have to be unhealthy or harmful. It can be any treat the child would not normally get.

To keep the peace in stores, we also try to keep the kids involved. We ask them to be our “little helpers” by having them search for items on our list or adding things into the cart when asked. By giving them a task and focus, it tends to keep them busy and keeps them out of trouble.

Another good method we’ve developed is a simple little trick we call “The List.” To prevent in-store meltdowns, such as the fit for candy as you describe here, we’ve told our children that they can add that item to their list. In short, it is a request or Wish List. They can accumulate items (like a toy they just have to have, or that candy bar, or a special shirt) throughout the year.

We tell them items on their list will be reviewed for birthdays, special rewards or Christmas. They can add anything they’d like to the list, at any time. It doesn’t mean they will get it for sure, but it means we’ll remember they wanted it and take a look at it in the near future.

In short, The List keeps us from saying “no” outright, and instead, we're basically saying “Maybe, in the future.” This may not sound like a big difference because ultimately, you aren’t leaving with it today from the store, but for a child, it makes a huge difference in attitude.

Because mommy didn’t say “No!”, children are more inclined to react in a positive way. It isn’t the same as saying “Not right now,” or “Maybe later,” which can be vague to a child. Instead, by saying something positive, like “Yes, that is a great item to add to your list,” your children hear a good reaction and an optimistic outlook on that item.

The List has worked like a charm for us, from items as small as those found in the grocery checkout lane to those as large as a new video game or bike. It is also a handy defense for every toy commercial that comes on television!

I hope these ideas help your shopping experience to be a bit more peaceful, Susan.

If you have an addition to these ideas, please share it here.

If you have your own questions to ask our Mom Talk columnists, please post them below in the comments.

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