A week ago, when it was still winter vacation from school, I took my oldest son shopping with me and he was so good about it. We picked up a lot of bargains at multiple stores, including cheap cereal at Vons and $0.49 packs of batteries at Ralphs.* In retrospect, I realized I had done quite a few things to induce his cooperation and good behavior – things that I ought to keep in mind for future shopping trips:
- Mental preparation – I told my son the day before that we would be going shopping the next day, and that the plan was to drop his brother off at preschool and then head to some stores. That mentally prepared him for the next morning, so that things got off to a smooth start.
- Pick a “good” day and be flexible – My son woke up in a good mood (he usually does), but if he had been cranky, I probably wouldn’t have started our marathon shopping session right after dropping his brother off. Maybe we would have stopped for breakfast first, or some other activity he enjoys, to get him in a better mood. If he had been in a particularly bad mood, I would have aborted my shopping plans entirely for the sake of my own sanity.
- Plan a fun stop – I didn’t actually plan this ahead of time, but when I saw Starbucks near Whole Foods, I realized it was time for a snack. My son gets very moody when his blood sugar drops, so we popped into Starbucks, where he enjoyed a cake pop (his drink was water that was in the car). Next time, when I’m (hopefully) better prepared, I will try to plan for a stop at a park so he can run around too.
- Explain what you’re doing – I always explain to my kids that I shop the way I do to save money so that we have money for other things, like their toys, or to put into savings for the future. My first-grader is beginning to grasp the value of a dollar, and even my younger son understands that money is not an unlimited commodity.
- Offer lots of praise and thanks – I told my son repeatedly while we were out that he was behaving well, and I really appreciated his cooperation. If I recall correctly, we went to seven different stores in about three hours, and he was a real trooper.
*Side note: I’ve been able to get free AA and AAA batteries at the drugstores, Staples, and Target. But I take advantage of sales like the current one at Ralphs to get other sizes, which I’ve never been able to find for free.