Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Parenting by The Clash

Anna learned how to use the sewing machine yesterday, and made, all by her lonesome, two pillowcases and one skirt (modeled in the center picture). She struggles in her academics, especially with reading still, so we took a break and did a whole afternoon of Home Ec. just me and her. It was a nice bonding time with Roosky and she is still talking about it and dreaming of fashion design...
This post is going to be interactive, folks. I want opinions about a pressing matter. Here it is:
To leave the cart behind, or stick it out?
If you're parents you already know what I'm speaking of. When a toddler has a freak out in the middle of Walmart, what do you do? There are two schools of thought here. Leave or stay. Now most books/experts/mommies will tell you that you leave the cart right there and hightail it home pronto. This tells the child that his behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated, and it has the added perk of rescuing fellow shopper's ears from ringing and their mouths from saying under their breath, 'Why won't she just take that little spawn home?' Now this is a good method, tried and true, but it comes with problems of it's own, not the least among them the fact that your cart is filled with perishables that took you the better part of an hour to pick out lovingly and who wants to just destroy all that hard work and just leave it with the strawberry ice cream melting slowly all over the chicken breasts (the ones that are on sale and won't be when you return). Some underpaid bag boy is going to have to put all that stuff away, you know. And really, when are you going to find the time and energy to come back and shop anew, much less desire to show your face there again anyway? Here's my other issue with this method: that little angel didn't want to be there in the first place (it's hardly Lego StarWars Skittles Palace that you're shopping at) and if you leave aren't you in fact, giving in to what he/she wants? Yes, of course, when you go home you aren't going to cheerfully dole out a months supplies of Chips Ahoy and give them a pony ride and that could disappoint them a bit, but all in all, most of them are just going to be glad to be out of that god foresaken market and home, even if it does mean a severe tongue lashing from Mom. And now that you're home and little Jr. is all settled down for the nap that was overdue, you have no groceries, or possibly toilet paper, and no foreseeable future date to go get those again. Dinner consists of bean casserole surprise with a M&M reduction and a hamburger helper risotto, with a lovely souffle of canned peaches sliced 5 ways with a cheerio crunch topping. So, readers mine, do you stay or do you go (now...if you go there could be trouble...if you stay it could be double...sorry, couldn't resist and now you know what those lyrics mean).
Scenario number two: Staying to fight it out. This is not for the faint of heart. Although you may be tempted to swat a backside, this is not advisable for lots of reasons we won't go into, but mostly because I don't want to turn on the evening news and see you on it. And as much as I would like to become a foster parent, receiving your kids would be awkward and uncomfortable. So, you give the monster a firm talking to usually while gripping his shoulder in a vulcan hold, and threaten terrible things in a hiss that you will never follow through on. Also not the best, we all know you have to follow through. It's also not advisable to tease your children as my husband used to that he 'drop the hammer!' That's just asking for little Susie to shout at the top of her lungs in a public place, 'No, Daddy! Don't hit us with the hammer!' Also a great way to get yourself on the evening news. If the child has superhuman strength like the Williams' children, attempting to fold their little 30 pound bodies in half so as to place them in that dratted cart, is a little like nailing jello to the wall. Pointless, insane, and impossible. It's like trying to fold a two-by-four in half. You can reason with Susie. You can bribe Susie. But reasoning with a two year old is laughable, at least at this point, and bribing brings consequences all it's own (like being forced to buy your 16 old a car just because he didn't steal Gramma's silver that week). If you can finish your shopping in peace, kudos to you, oh parenting God or Goddess, because usually mine is finished by dangling a wriggling, snot faced, toddler under my armpit, while fishing out the debit card and shouting, 'No, it's ok, don't bag that one, just toss it the cart, and I am so sorry, and he's never really like this, and -'
Incidentally, the first time I knew I was really and truly a parent was not when they laid my little bundle of joy in my arms or the first diaper I changed or the first time they said, 'mama,' it was when I called Mike in tears and sobbed over the phone,
'You know THAT mom in Walmart? Today...I WAS THAT MOM.'
Seriously, everyone of you, this is for posterity so be honest. Do you stay or do you go? And if you have no offspring, would you rather see a mom leave or struggle through? Leave a comment, an email if you can't figure out the comment thing, a phone call, a carrier pigeon, etc. I really want to know.


  1. I vote "stay" with a few advisos, provisions, & what-not. Preventative medicine is the best cure. Not always possible, but certainly advisable.

    You know the old rule - never shop when you're hungry? Also, never shop with a child who is not well-rested and does not have a full love tank. Actually, it can be very helpful to shop with a hungry child, since you can periodically offer cheese, fruit rolls, lifesavers, cookies etc. to feed them "lunch" in the cart, while at the same time making a loud fit very unlikely.

    A good talking to "before" the trip is also good, with clear consequences/rewards laid out in advance. It saves the idle threat and after a few times of follow-through, they know you're serious. i.e. if you are well-behaved in the store, we will get the free cookie at the end. If you throw a fit, you will not get the free cookie and when we get home, you will be in time-out for 1 minute for each second of your fit. (60 second fit gives you an hour off, a longer fit, and you get the rest of the day off while your child is bored silly, crying and screaming in defiance, and generally trying to figure out why this is happening.) Bring a timer. When the fit starts, press the start button and audibly remind the child of the consequence.

    Spanking is not advised, but a firm pinch on the inner thigh or under the arm can be an invisible, yet effective, reminder that mom will not tolerate this behavior and there will be consequences; immediate and otherwise.

    Other positive ideas are to have special toys that can be attached to the cart and that are only brought out when shopping. Allowing the child to "help" by crossing off a list can be good too. Draw pictures of the main items and make a game of noticing when/if mommy put that item in the cart and then crossing it off. (make a second list because the chances of this one being scribbled all over and/or torn is very likely). Of course, the toddler harness can be a good way for the child to stay under your control while having the freedom to walk around and pick out items that match the picture on the coupon or on your list.

    More frequent short trips might also be advised.

    As a last resort, partner with a friend and see if you can shop only once every 2 weeks and leave the problem child home with a friend. Since this is a reward, make sure that the kids that go with you get a special treat for behaving well, while the one left behind missed out. Thus, he/she will be trying to earn the privilege of going with you.

    While with young children, try to only have to go to one store. It may cost a little more for the milk, but it may be worth it.

    There you have it for what it is. Hopefully a few things to think about. As a parent, I mostly ignore the tantrumming child unless I can visibly see that he/she is over-tired and then, I'm a little peeved that the parent did not take this into consideration and then seems frustrated with the natural consequences.

  2. First tip: Find a grocery store with a day care! My kids have gotten the nastiest diseases from the Fred Meyer "play center" but I've gotten to shop and have a cup of coffee in peace (although you pay for it, with their prices).

    Second tip: Bribery. I've yet to leave a cart but it has gotten hairy, so now we pick a treat at the biggining of the shopping trip and I lord it over them the rest of the trip until we manage to get back into the car. Sometimes it does get replaced on the shelf and that is usually enough to ensure good behavior for the next month. Our go-to treat? The 50-cent fruit roll-ups that are in the fruit aisle right as we come in the store. Colorful and carefully chosen they are a special treat and even a little bit healthy. They can clutch them in their little fists the entire trip revelling in their wonderful behavior until tearing into them in the car.

  3. My best advice is this......both. I think that MOST times you should push through and help the child to see that his way is not always the way, we are the parents and part of being a family is shopping for groceries and subsequently everyone has to come. When we were kids our parents never questioned these types of things and I knew that if I complained about having to go, it would later come back to me. That is the precedent you need to set. If you give in to too much bribery, which we all do, cuz it works, they grow to expect it...which can also be an issue and start fits. So if you can, push through with a nice little trip to the bathroom with a stern talking to and some sort of later consequence. At two they may not get the idea right away, but one or two times of a consequence and they catch on...
    So if this all fails and you are absolutely mortified and could possibly lose it and do or say something you will later regret, then maybe neither one of you should be shopping without a nap or a snack. In this case, walk out, leaving the cart near the front and ask if you may leave it for a bit and that you will be back. I have found that just the act of walking to the car, getting in, buckling up and losing it a bit really has an effect on them and usually they start promising good behavior and everything else they can think of. This has always worked well for us. I only recommend this as a last resort though, because eventually they just say, "fine, lets go home." Then the whole thing backfires on you anyway.
    So there is my advice...hope it helps.

    Love you!
    PS They do sell straightjackets at WalMart right?

  4. I rambled so much I couldn't post my comment. Good thing for copy/paste! Check your email.

  5. I forgot got to say stay or go? Well I have done both, but usually I try if at all possible to stay.

  6. I think I have only left a store once, because usually, like you, I only go shopping when I REALLY NEED STUFF, and don't want to waste the trip. Leaving didn't really seem to make much of a difference anyway. The kids were still crying, and I just had to come all the way back later!

    My oldest can be a handful, sometimes. He is very high-energy, gets bored very easily, and starts fights with his younger brother when he's bored. We have had the kicking, screaming, all out tantrums in the middle of the store. At this point I tell him I will just leave him there if he doesn't get back in the cart and behave, and he usually picks his little butt up off the linoleum pretty quicky and turns off the water works as soon as I start walking away with the cart. It does help if we have a talk before hand about how to behave in the store, what I expect, and what reward they can pick if they are good. If they misbehave, I threaten to put back the reward. If they contintue to, I put it back for real, and then they really scream until I remind them that if they continue to scream, the ice cream, the peanut butter, the raisins, or any other favorite snacks/treats of theirs are going to be next, so that makes them quiet down pretty quick, usually.

    Also, to keep them from getting too bored, it is helpful to give them something to do. Let them bring a little toy to hold while in the cart, or let them help you with the list, or picking out the produce--ask their input on what items to buy, or play "I Spy", or sing silly songs, or whatever works to keep them entertained. I know it's hard to concentrate on much, let alone remember what you orginally came in to buy, when you have a cart full of kids, but if you can creatively engage them somehow in the whole shopping experience and make it fun for them, they will be better behaved and you won't have to deal with a tantrum.

    I also like to go shopping early in the morning, when they are still fresh and not too tired, and ideally take them to the park first so they have had a chance to burn off a bit of energy, and feed them some snacks before we go in the store so they won't try to devour everything in the cart, and then go home right afterwards. Two stops in a day with 3 kids seems to be my limit.

    It is important to know your limitations, and theirs. Don't push it if you are both tired and hungry. In that scenario, you probably will be better off going home, leaving them with Daddy, and going shopping by yourself later. (Or just don't bring 'em if you want to do a large shopping trip, and don't want to deal with them in the store for an hour.) Hope this helps! Believe me, I've been there! =)

  7. My girl has been pretty good so far, so I don't speak from personal experience. Take what you may.

    Here is what Love and Logic would have you do. A lot of thier theories require a "mean babysitter". ie. a babysitter the kids hate! When you know that you are going to face a conflict, ie. the store, you pre-arrange for the mean babysitter to be outside the store or nearby. Then you tell the kid, if you don't behave you're going to have to go with the mean babysitter and pay her from your toys (and you actually take toys away to "pay" the sitter). When he/she doesn't settle down or calls your bluff, you leave cart, head outside (or give a call and head outside) and hand kid over to the mean babysitter. Then continue your shopping trip as planned. That way you go shopping and they don't win. (that's why the MEAN babysitter is important.) It may be a little tricky with the two year old.... but I think the drama of it may work. Or not. Maybe it will work when he's three.

    Best of luck to you no matter what!!!

  8. I have to agree with, I think it was, Lorna, that if you can convince them that going to the store is a treat, and staying home while the fun people go to the store is a drag you'll be miles ahead of the game. And I also have noticed that if you go to Costco while they're hungry and you can go from sample to sample, wow! is that a fun grocery trip! It's worth a Costco membership!

    Does Sam's Club do samples?

    Also, if it's nap time, drive around for ten minutes or so for a power nap. You can probably run in and out of the store before the groggy-ness wears off.

    By the way, my kids were so perfect I never had this problem. Anybody else see that lightning?!