How to Turn Shopping Trips into Teachable Moments

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Shopping with young ones can become a stressful battle of wills. Two minutes in the door, and the whining and begging begins. Fatigued and stressed parents find themselves saying “˜yes' to small concessions just to keep the peace. Not only is this unhealthy for the budget, it can be counterproductive to developing positive character traits. We long to instill admirable character qualities in our children, but it can be difficult when frustration takes over. It doesn't need to be. Use commonplace situations, such as shopping, as your classroom. And startbeforeyou leave.

Character Traits 1 & 2: Responsibility and Resourcefulness““ Get children involved in the family shopping process. Even very small children can help put groceries away on low shelves; older children can help clip coupons; capable children can help load the cart and check out. As you go through the process of preparing, explain the deals you are getting, why it's important to save, what it means to stay in budget, and how to stretch those precious dollars.

Character Traits 3 & 4: Self-Control and Obedience““ Avoiding whining and begging starts before you leave. Involving children in the planning process gives them a better picture of the funds available, and that those funds are already spoken for. As you are driving to the store, remind them of the decisions made at home. You may need to mention more than once that there will be no candy and toys ““ milk and bread are more necessary today. Be careful not to use words like “we can't afford it”. This will only make children more lack-conscientious. Instead, remind them of the discussions you had about making wiser choices with the money you do have to spend.

Also develop a reminder method for use once in the store, such as quietly counting or a gentle hand to the shoulder. This will trigger the memory that obedience to do as told, without whining and begging, is expected – without making a scene. If obedience is not observed, consequences will follow. Any consequences should already be fully understood before setting foot in the store.


Character Traits 5 & 6: Friendliness and Courtesy
““ These are more “caught than taught”. Make the effort to be friendly and courteous as you move through the store. Give a cheerful smile and an “˜excuse us' when squeezing around other shoppers in crowded aisles. Thank the cashier after your order is complete. If difficulties or frustrations arise, speak gently and remain grateful for the assistance given. Most children will naturally follow this behavior model. If you are concerned about safety, or have a very withdrawn child, talk about it at home ahead of time. Let them know it is not dangerous to be polite and that they will not be forced to say anything. Reassure them that you will be with them and simply smiling, as well as being courteous in a crowded store, is enough.

Character Traits 7 & 8: Generosity and Hope““ If you can spare even 50 cents, you can teach generosity and hope. Each time you shop, plan to pick up one extra item. Decide together what you will choose, talk about why you will pick it up just to donate, and explain the hope it will bring another family. Generosity and hope are best learned by actually giving, and understanding the significance, so be sure the children are also included in dropping off donation items.

Character Traits 9 & 10: Contentment and Thankfulness““ Two of the most valuable character traits ““ and two of the most difficult to master. Don't be afraid to talk frankly (age-appropriate, of course) to your children about what they have been blessed with ““ and that many do not have even the smallest comforts. Be specific. Children can grasp that others have much less than them, especially if you use a current want to your advantage. Mention that the new toy or latest fashion they desire is not a need. Explain what true needs are, how some do without, and how the child is not really sacrificing as others must do. Not giving your children every whim serves them far beyond the brief pleasure a new gadget brings.

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