I was reading about some of your hurdles and challenges with your strong willed kiddos and the frustration from the reaction from your kids and the training that goes along with it. Rest assured, nothing is wrong with them, nothing is wrong with you, they simply have their own opinions and are strong about voicing it, quite often it’s physical because they aren’t able to articulate what they are feeling or wanting to express. I’m sure you hear from people, how your child’s strong will will be used for good some day, how they might be a future CEO, a leader etc., That’s all great and cute, and most likely going to benefit them at some stage of life, but right now you are in this season and are crying out for the tools and encouragement to keep on, and sister I’m here to tell you there is hope! It takes training and time, and consistency and a plan, but you can do it!
Mamas, I have 3 kiddos. And at one point they were all three years old and younger with no Instacart so I get it! I had to figure it out. I read book after book, sought wise counsel from friends and family, experienced trial and error and I came up with a plan to make it. No book or person was going to tell me a perfect step by step plan, because each child is different and going to react differently, but that’s where you have the choice. So this is by no means undermining what you’re doing or telling you exactly how to do it, I’m just giving my input and tips that worked for me. My children were, and still are today, very different from each other. I still have to prep and talk to them before we go into the store, to remind them of what appropriate behavior is in a store. Not much has changed about which one I have to get down eye to eye and discuss what’s expected in the store before we make that trip into Target or Trader Joe’s, or wherever we are off to.
You’re fostering growth and training these little people, and training takes effort and time. You are their mama and know them best, so use that wisdom to guide your plan. I hear you and I feel you, and it’s hard no doubt, but in those hard times character and strength grows and your child is learning what YOU expect and accept. Your hurdles will change over the years, so consider this a foundation and starting point of working through things. When my predictable child would be fussing or having a moment and I felt like people were looking at me I would politely (over the noise and kicking) say, “Excuse us, we’re in training.” And honestly that made me feel better about it. I was bold and sure that they were learning that mama was going to finish the grocery store trip regardless.
Onto my tips…
- Be wise about the time that you go. Don’t go when they’re about to nap, or hungry or a during predicable melt down time. Granted, that doesn’t always happen, so in that case you know what you’re in for, try your best to time it well. You’re most likely the calendar maker and scheduler, so use your talents and discretion when planning your day.
- Talk, talk and talk to them. Tell them about what you’re doing for the day. Kids love predictability and consistency, so tell them what your day looks like. Tell them today, “We are going to the store, and I can’t wait to see all that you remember about how we behave in a store.” Tell them your expectations, be clear. If you don’t know them, how do you expect them to know them? Once they’re old enough to speak, have them repeat and tell you. I know it sounds cheesy, but how do you think a classroom of 34 little people runs efficiently? With clear and consistent expectations, praise and consequences over and over and over again. Remember, they’re listening, even if they can’t articulate it. I would tell my kids they weren’t able to walk in the store until they were 4 years old, simply because I wanted to keep them strapped in until I knew they were trained enough to walk well and hold onto (not hang) the side of the cart. I knew my expectations, and so did they.
- Bring a book and a snack. If your child is like most humans, they enjoy choice, so let them have a voice and choose the snack. Put two out before you load up for the trip and ask them which one they choose. Maybe you bring out a ‘special snack’ that’s for store trips. Again talk about it! Say, “We are going to the store today, and I’d like to give you a snack once you’re sitting nicely in the cart.” Plan it out, put the time into being intentional about it. Yes, it takes planning.
- Praise them for baby accomplishments along the way. You can do this by saying, “I like how you’re sitting nicely, or I see you’re not kicking mommy, thank you. Or I can’t wait to see how well you’re going to do on the next aisle.” Verbalize any positive praise and reinforcement for any little progression.
- Don’t be distracted on your phone. Sorry, but it’s a distraction and they know it. Put it away, be old school and put a list on paper. Let your child ‘read’ the list to you If they’re the kid that will rip or eat the list, then plan ahead, and give them a pretend list like mommy’s. As you’re walking talk to them about the items. I used to make up games as I was shopping. You could say, “How many boxes have blue on them, or which is the tallest in this row?” Talk to them, involve them. Make it a game between your other kids, they will catch on. We could go on and on, but I think you get the point, teach and train them. I now have an almost 10, 8 and 6 year old and I hear them do this with other people’s little ones. We did it over and over and over, again and became our rhythm and norm. I was adamant about not handing over my phone. I wanted to address the issue itself, they needed to learn how to behave in certain settings and keep entertained without a device, just like in the real world. And on another note, I didn’t have 3 phones, and if you know anything about people, fairness matters, and someone will be bound to feel injustice if they too didn’t get a phone and that’s a whole other topic that I’ll get to later. Keep it consistent and predictable!
I could go on and on, but start with choosing one or some of those tips. Hang in there, you’re not alone. And give grace to others who are ‘in training’ by giving an encouraging word when you’re witnessing the mama in that moment. Give yourself, and your babes, credit when even baby accomplishments are made. You’ll make it past this season, keep it in perspective.