I had a friend who was a therapist and he once said to me that the best way to keep your sanity when you’re shopping with your kids is to remember one simple thing.

You’re shopping with your KIDS!

So that means being mindful and realistic about what you are going to accomplish!

We’ve all seen that mom pushing a cart through Marshalls, trying to pick out a new outfit for an upcoming event, only her kids are crying and whining the entire time she’s there.

Can you really blame the children?

Ladies, think of how you feel when your husband drags you around Home Depot and tries to explain the merits of owning an air-powered impact wrench. (Yeah, apparently, that’s an actual thing.)

Gentlemen, consider how long you can pretend to be enthusiastic while your wife is asking which of the 15 pairs of shoes she’s tried on looks, y’know, sexy, but not too sexy.This is the sensation that your kids are experiencing when they’re out shopping with you, so here are some tips to help you shop like you’ve got a purpose!

• Plan ahead

Make a list of what you need and stick to it! This will help you get in and get out before your kids start getting fussy.

• Lay out your game plan

Kids, just like grown-ups, like to know what the strategy is, so let them know what you’re up to. Tell them where you’re going, what you need to get, and whether or not they’ll be getting a treat while they’re there.

• Alternate your destinations

If you want your kids to have fun while you’re shopping together, then you’re going to have to play fair and split the spots you visit somewhat evenly.

It might be kind of fun for them to help you pick out a dress, or weigh in on what color the new lamp in the living room should be, but really, they want to hit the toy stores, book stores, and play areas.

That’s a good thing, though! It’s a perfect, time-based reward for good behavior while they’re waiting. “If you can show me good behavior for 15 minutes while we’re here, we’ll go play on the slides right after.”

• Leave before the meltdown

It doesn’t take long for kids to go from bored to bawling, and remember, you’ve still got to go through the checkout, get through a crowded mall, find your car and drive home.

That’s probably going to take you at least 45 minutes, so start planning your escape well before your child starts demonstrating any boredom and frustration.

• Keep them engaged

Expecting your kids to stand quietly by while you occupy yourself with activities that don’t involve them is both unrealistic and unfair. You don’t need to provide non-stop entertainment, but they need to feel like they’re part of the activity.

Questions like, “What do you like about this one?” or, “Do you think it’s worth the extra money?” really make kids feel like they’re shopping with you, and not just being hauled around.

• Be careful how you react

Even the most well behaved kids are going to have a few minor freak-outs here and there, and it’s crucial that you don’t reinforce that behavior. When your little one hits the roof while you’re shopping, coolly bring her outside and calm her down.

Don’t, I repeat, do not give in to demands to leave! That just teaches her that pitching a fit will get her a quick ride home, which is probably exactly what she wants.

Wait until she’s calmed down, go back inside and finish up whatever you were doing, and then ask if she still wants to leave. If she responds calmly and respectfully that, yes, she wants to head home, then it’s time to call it a day.

• Call for reinforcements

One of the most enjoyable ways I’ve found to shop with my kids is to invite a friend who’s got some of her own.

I know it might seem like bringing more kids along is just exacerbating the problem, but they tend to provide each other with a lot of entertainment, and having another grown-up around means you can watch them in shifts.

Following these little guidelines will go a long way to ensuring a happy, tantrum-free outing, but if you’re having issues with consistent meltdowns, it might be time for Kids:The Manual. It’s a comprehensive behavior resource that has helped over 20,000 happy parents eliminate undesirable conduct in their kids.
Learn more here.
One last little piece of advice, and I say this as a woman who loves to shop… On those occasions when you know you’re going to be out for more than a couple of hours, leave the kids with someone and go by yourself. Shopping is more fun and more productive when you’re flying solo.

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