I was in the grocery store last week and within the course of the 30 minutes that it took me to find the four items that I needed and check through the express lane, I experienced 4 children with four different families whaling uncontrollably. I wanted to say something to all of them but the moment was too stressful for all of them so I decided to wait until another time that would be more appropriate. Each one of their children was asking for an item that was not on the list. At first the parent would say “no”. Then the parent would say “no” a little louder. By the time each child’s cries became louder than the screams of the parent, the final answer was “Alright already! I can’t stand it anymore!!” For those of you who can relate to the temper tantrums and saying “No…No…No…Alright already!” here are some pointers to change your life.
1. Set clear expectations BEFORE you go into a store. “We are going to the grocery store and I have a list of just a few items that I need. We are not going to buy any toys or anything that is not on this list. Do you understand?” This is a very important conversation to have in order to set your child’s expectations. When your children know what to expect, they will be less likely to develop hopes for the big stuffed bear in aisle 4.
2. Invite your child to take items from home to the store. My son had a STORE bag that was always packed before we left the house. It contained a juice box, crackers and a few small toys to play with in the carriage. He was always invited to participate in packing this bag so he would like the goodies that were in there. I would set the expectation that I was placing a surprise in the bag that he would be able to get when we got into the store. Sometimes the prize was a special lollipop, a special toy or a new gumball machine toy that he did not know about. This special packing and unpacking time made going to the store a treat instead of a chore.
3. Stick to your guns. Now that you have set the expectations before going into the store, the moment of truth will always arise. “I want that!” usually occurs within 10 minutes of arriving. Calmly state the expectation that you reviewed earlier. “We are only getting what is on this list. Would you like to open your bag and see what your surprise is?” Diverting your child to another topic will get the attention focused to something else. Continue to focus on what your child CAN do. “You can play with the toys in your bag. You can open your lollipop. You can check off the items on the list as I put them in the basket.” This will reinforce to your child that you are not all about saying “no” but that you are focused to following the standards you set before going to the store.
4. Continue to stick to your guns. Allow your child to have a temper tantrum. Do not contribute to the commotion by yelling or losing your control. Continue to support your child’s emotions, but stick to your guns. “I’m sorry that you are so upset. I know you are very angry right now since you are not getting what you want. I would recommend that you play with your toys or eat your snack. We will be finished in just a few minutes.” DO NOT leave the store. You will be setting the expectation that your child is in control and he/she IS NOT the one in control. YOU ARE THE PARENT. By leaving the store you are setting the expectation that anytime your child wants to leave, all that needs to happen is the pitching of a fit. Absolutely not!
5. Praise your child for good behavior. Do not use prizes to reward good behavior. Good behavior is the standard and you do not want to set the expectation that every time your child does not whine that he will be rewarded with a new toy. Use positive verbal reinforcement to praise a job well done. “I really enjoyed going to the store with you today. When you are happy, I am happy too and I really enjoy my time with you. Thank you for focusing on your toys and helping me put our items in the basket. It was really a fun time together!” This allows your child to understand that you appreciate the good behavior but that you are not going to buy things just because there was an absence of tears.
6. Be patient. If you are experiencing temper tantrums and now you decide to change your ways, you will not see results overnight. Your child will be very confused the first time you follow these new guidelines. “What do you mean you’re not going to buy anything when I cry?” “What do you mean I’m not going to get what I want?” It will take a few times of following these new guidelines for them to understand that life is changing.
My son was raised with these guidelines so I never experienced any temper tantrums. But the most rewarding day of my life was after I was remarried and my 4 year old step-son (who was not raised this way) had his breakthrough. He looked up into my eyes after he asked for a candy bar for the fourth time and he said, “When you say “no”, you mean it! You’re not going to change your mind, are you?” I smiled knowingly. I gave him a big hug and said, “No does mean “no”. But “yes” also always means “yes”. He has trusted me every day since that day and knows that I mean what I say and I say what I mean. What a peaceful house we have!
Business Management Consultant, Kimberly King, and the author of a new children’s book, “God is in the Refrigerator”(on sale August 15, 2006) takes her business savy and applies it to parenting. Kimberly can be reached at 813-933-4432 or InterWeave