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How to Stop Kids From Begging at the Store

Updated on April 26, 2007

If you shop with your children, you know it can be pure misery. But it doesn't have to be. You are the parent. All you need to do is act like it. There seems to be an attitude afoot that children should not be made to fear their parents. Kids need to learn to respect authority and you are it. If your child feels entitled to every tempting toy placed at her eye level, it's not the evil marketers' fault, it's yours. Lay down the rules and your next trip to the Piggly Wiggly can go from awful to simply unpleasant in a few easy steps.

Get Clear on Your Values

This is the part where you decide what kind of human you want to raise. It's just a trip to Wal-Mart I hear you protesting, but how you approach this problem is important. Consumerism is a big part of American society. What and how we buy reflects our attitudes on health, the environment, and our children. Maybe the latest Barbie is just a Barbie, or maybe it's the quickest way to get your daughter to be quiet for ten minutes, which is coincidentally, about the time it takes to come out with another Barbie.

Are you teaching your child to value the possessions she already has? Or that all things are disposable and not worthy once the novelty has worn off. Will you teach her to be creative or to be a passive partaker of all things entertaining. What do you want to pass on about wasteful packaging, junky foods, and the value of a dollar?

Think about that before you go to the store.

Be Realistic

You know your child's limits so don't try to push them. If you really want the kid not to beg at the store, be fair. Don't push him beyond his reasonable capacity or you may find yourself painted into a corner. Time it right. Don't try to take a hungry or sleepy child to the store. That's just masochistic.

Lay Down the Law

Let him know what to expect before you even think about getting out of the car. Things that are obvious to you mean nothing to him. What is a quick trip after all? Is it one episode of Spongebob? Tell him exactly how it's going to work and let him know the consequences for bad behavior.

The trick here is that you've got to be willing to follow through. If you tell a kid you're going to embarrass him by singing Itsy Bitsy Spider in the middle of Target if he whines, then you'd better prime up your singing voice. A threat of punishment not followed through is just more ammunition for the kid.

Bribery and Distraction

I know the parenting books don't back me up on this, but real parents know the truth. Judicious bribery is good parenting. A special meal or treat (best not purchased at the store where you are shopping) is perfectly fine. But again, you've got to follow through. If he doesn't behave, he doesn't get the treat. Seriously.

Along the same lines is distraction. A bag of Goldfish goes a long way on a weekly trip to the grocery store. Let your child bring a book or toy on longer trips to keep him occupied. Paper and crayons or pens is a good thing to have on hand.

More Ideas

I suppose if you have the temperament for such things, you could make a game of going to the store. You can talk about foods, count letters on signs, guess prices, or play I-Spy. Let them help choose some meals, or between brands. Kids love to pick out their own cereal. You can give older kids responsibilities like pushing the cart, reading the list and marking off items, or opening those awful produce plastic bags.

If you want to have an easier time shopping, it comes down to this: accept that you are the meanest Mom/Dad ever, fill up your cart, and don't take it personally.

Read more from Lela Davidson

Read Lela's humor column, After the Bubbly

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  • profile image

    Straight Dope Dad 7 years ago

    Yep, nothing wrong with a little carrot to go along with your stick. The promise of a small treat in exchange for better behavior is fine when used responsibly. My seven year old daughter is a breeze to take to Costco because they have lots of free samples and she likes to ride in the big carts.

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

    I love the supermarkets with the car/carts and of course Trader Joe's with the anticipation of a balloon at the end!