Grocery Store Hassles

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Taken from Growing Concerns -- A childrearing question-and-answer column with Martha Erickson October 10, 1999

One of the most common questions I hear from parents of young children is how to get through the grocery store without hassles. If you're a parent and find yourself ready to tear your hair out in the frozen food section, here are a few measures to consider.

First, consider your child's predicament. To a child, a grocery store is a treasure trove of tasty treats that seem to beg to be taken home. Also, the many sights, smells and sounds can also wear out your child. She is stuck in the cart, where she can't get out and can't even grab all those things that look so good. Think about the times your child asks for something, and your response: Are you firm? Or do you give in? Do you sometimes say "no" and sometimes say "yes"?

Here are some ideas to help you get through this adventure.

Plan your trip to the store after nap instead of before. A tired child makes that trip to the store quite unpleasant.

Bring a little snack so your child isn't hungry and tempted. It might be a good idea if the minute you get to the store, you let your child choose one tasty treat that she can eat while you cruise the aisles. Animal crackers are favorites.

Make a game out of shopping. If your child knows her colors, how about a contest to see how many green boxes you can spot on the shelves? Or maybe a race to find a man in a red shirt?

Children love to be helpful. Give your child some coupons, and let her watch for those items as you roll down the aisles.

Make sure your child knows before you get to the store what's OK and what's not OK for her to get. Let her choose one kind of cereal, but be specific if there are certain cereals that are off limits. And let her pick one kind of juice. If it's a concentrated juice, make plans to mix it together.

If she continues to fuss and beg, calmly stick to your rules. Even though she might not like it, it's a lot less confusing for her than switching back and forth between yes and no.

When you get grocery shopping figured out, just think how much more time and energy you'll have to play when you're all finished.

Editor's Note: Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson, director of the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Family Consortium, invites your questions on child rearing for possible inclusion in this column. E-mail to or write to Growing Concerns, University of Minnesota News Service, 6 Morrill Hall, 100 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455.
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