It is a typical lazy Sunday afternoon when Rekha decides to take her daughter Ria to the nearby supermarket. Can you imagine what could be happening there? Let's tiptoe behind the mother-daughter duo to see for ourselves:
Ria: Amma, I want that doll with black curly hair.
Rekha: You already have many dolls and toys at home, darling. And you don't even play with most of them! I am not going to buy you another one at this time.
Ria: (Raising her voice) But, that doll is so pretty. I want it. Please get it for me, Amma.
Rekha: (In a stern tone) Ria, I am not going to buy that doll for you. Now, be a good girl and let's go on.
Rekha pushes the shopping cart and takes a few steps forward to look for the next item on her list. But, Ria is still standing in the toys section. After a few moments, she lets out a loud wail. Startled, and embarrassed, Rekha rushes towards her. With great difficulty, she picks up the crying, wriggling child and manages to quickly push the cart towards the billing counter. And all the while, she avoids the gaze of the onlookers.
Have you also experienced such moments? Does your child also show signs of a meltdown in a store when his demands are turned down?
A child wailing loudly in a public place like a store can be a parent's nightmare. The creeping feeling of embarrassment, the thought of becoming the center of attraction for all the wrong reasons, and not knowing how to set things right can all be very unsettling for any parent.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. Here are five things you can do to ensure that your child leaves the shop without making several demands.
Have a conversation: If you plan to go to a store accompanied by your child, first get into a conversation with him. The idea should be to make your child understand why you both are going shopping. A good way is to sit down with him and make a list of what you need to buy. Let him write while you dictate the names of items. Then, reinforce to your child that you'll only buy what is on the list. This tip also works when you have to take your child to a toy store when buying a gift for another child. Setting a clear expectation in advance makes it less likely that your child will be demanding at the shop.
Speak in a kind but firm tone: In stores, a lot of thought goes into displaying items in such a manner that attracts a child's attention. So, while going around the store, something can catch your child's fancy and she may forget the commitment she had made earlier at home. She can even ask that you buy her something that she finds appealing. If this happens, speak to your child in a kind but firm manner. For example, "I know you want to have that doll, but do you remember that we came here to buy only what is on our list and not something else?" Most of the time, this approach works. Your child may sulk but don't let it get to you.
Make a note of your child's demands: A good way to reassure your child is to write down his demands. So, pull out your notepad or phone and make a list. Tell him that it is not possible for you to meet his demands immediately, but that you'll consider getting one of them for his birthday. It gives him something to look forward to. However, be wary of using this strategy every time your child asks for something. For, it could make him think that he will get quite a few gifts on his birthday!
Stay firm, don't give in: When reminded of their promise to not ask for anything from the store, most children will give up making their demands. However, if your child persists or has a meltdown at the store, don't give in. Many parents give in to their child's tantrums just to avoid embarrassment in a public place. Instead, know that it is more a battle of the wits than of the emotions - your child is trying his luck even though he knows that he made an agreement with you.
Reward good behavior: If your child is well-behaved in the store, do give her a small reward when you get back home. Read her a story or allow her to watch TV for more than her allotted time. Express your appreciation, "It was such a lovely shopping experience. I admire how you kept to our agreement of buying only what was on the list. Good for you!" It will also encourage your child to exercise self-restraint on future visits to the store.
Ultimately, getting your child to leave a store without asking for something is a matter of discipline and habit. Though, you can be flexible on rare occasions. But overall, you are helping your child learn how to delay gratification and tolerate frustration - two essential skills that will help him regulate his emotions. Trust us, when your child grows up, he will be deeply grateful to you for what you have taught him.
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