The Fairly Good Mother: Shopping cart showdown: The grocery store obstacle course

By: Anne Wise
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Meet Anne Wise: 
So you read all the parenting books, you know what to expect when you are expecting, and then the unexpected happens — your baby. Kids do not have a how-to book, they are all wonderfully unique. I am the mother of three small children. But after six years, I still get surprises. Being a parent is one of the most challenging and rewarding choices you will ever have to make. It’s not always easy, but I learn as I go, think on my feet and at the end of the day hope that I’m doing it right.  But, what can I say?  I’m a fairly good mother.


Editor’s note: “The Fairly Good Mother” offers musings, advice, etc. on raising children that will be published every other Tuesday. 
The grocery store — the official location of the mommy meltdown. It seems as though everyone else is in slow motion. But not you, you are in a race, a race to see who is going to break down and cry first. Shopping does not have to end in a tantrum. So get up off the floor, dust yourself off, and write down some of these tear-free tips.
I like to start by making a shopping list. I try to visually map out the store (if it is one I am familiar with) as I create my list, so that items are in order of their location. Next is prep time. Try to think of the problems you run into while shopping and prepare yourself as much as you can for them. For example, does shopping make your child hungry? Pack a snack in your purse that is appropriate for travel and easy to hand out at the right moment. If your child is like most other human children, they might want something to play with or keep them busy. 
I like to give the kids a notepad. This can be used for doodling and also doubles as a way to divert that inevitable question “can I get that pretty pretty please?!!” If they see something that they want, they can use the notepad to either write that item down, or draw a picture of it. This will distract them from constantly asking and gives you an illustrated birthday list as well. 
Now that you have your disaster kit, it’s time to get this show on the road. During the car ride would be a good time to explain where you are going, what you are getting, and the behavior that is expected. 
When you arrive, it is your last chance to set expectations before the real deal. I use the hands on the cart rule or sitting in the basket. I also explain the consequences of breaking the rules or deviating from the plan. Following through is very important. If expectations are constantly being changed or lowered, it is difficult for children to gauge what is OK or not. 
First things first, time for a bathroom break. Yes now, no not when we are at the back of the store. If you have a child in diapers, you know the struggles of a public bathroom — long lines and the possibility of no changing table. You have likely mastered the stand up change, and are proficient as a changing table quick- change artist. And you gotta love squeezing your whole family into one stall. Ok now we are ready.
As I get the items on my list I let my kids try to find the item as well. I will tell them what we are looking for and they can help me out. It is a good way to narrow their view. If they are looking for something specific, their eyes are less likely to wander. Giving positive reassurance as we go helps them feel accomplished for their good behavior. 
When we have all the items on the list, it is time for check out. This is the prime time for the check stand, stand-off. The time at which your children cannot sit for one more minute. It may be tempting to give in to the impulse snack section, but you can’t quit now you are almost there! Keep them busy by letting them help load the groceries onto the belt. I even let them help bag if necessary, anything to keep their hands busy. If things get a little unruly, remind them that they have been really good so far and are almost done. Try not to resort to bribery. Remember, if you reward bad behavior, you have changed your expectations.
Before you know it you are done, if you wanted to give a treat for good behavior this would be the time. When you give praise to good behavior, it encourages the child to reciprocate next time! 
Reach Anne Wise at wise_momx3@