There’s been a spate of recent articles (here and here) about how men are doing more of the shopping and the cooking. There are other articles out there since things were spurred on by a research firm faxing poll results to various media outlets, but you get the drift. Several of the articles even mention that some of these men are fathers who do most, if not all, of the cooking and one article even shows a young father carrying his preschool daughter in his arms as he rolls the cart down the aisle. Which leads to the topic at hand, what are some things to remember if you go grocery shopping with the kid(s)?
Having been the stay-at-home since Eldest’s birth (she’s now in college) and with others at intervals back through elementary school, I’ve been the one who’s trotted through the grocery aisles across the years. The majority of those years have required that I take one or more kids in tow and for several, all of them were along for the excursion; what are some things to remember and consider when the kids are along at the store?
- Understand that your child is now a living, crying, potentially bleeding egg timer that’s set to ring when the patience is exhausted. Having a plan and list is crucial since your freedom to browse is now as limited as the attention span of a Labrador Retriever on meth; planning is crucial for both economic and behavioral issues. What do you need to buy and where is it located?
- Before you even leave the house, consider how much has to be accomplished and whether it can even be accomplished in the framework of your child’s body clock. Children require structure and that means a nap for most kids age three or younger so trying to accomplish a large shopping trip immediately after lunch is setting up for unpleasantries as the child simply tires and becomes unable to handle waiting in the cart. Even kids who no longer nap still tire and are subject to the stresses of the late afternoon witching hour when their energy ebbs and they become crankier and less patient. For me, late afternoon grocery trips were minimal and solely for emergent reasons (dammit, I thought that I had that…); some shopping was simply done in the evening by myself because it was obvious that one or more of the kids was not able to handle it that day.
- Set the stage for the behavior by stating your expectations prior to even entering the store. Talk to your toddler about what’s going to happen and gently let him know what you want to see in terms of behavior; you can also let him know the consequences of misbehavior which is important if you employ the three-count method of discipline (which I still do even today, to the kids’ general annoyance, because it continues to work).
- Understand that distraction is as good as discipline for keeping small children in line. : Eldest had a toy phone that beeped and Middle had a keyring with useless keys, each of which was kept in a pocket for the moment that their patience began to wear thin.
- Consider the shopping experience with your child to be an excellent teaching opportunity, particularly when they’re preschoolers. The grocery store is a great place to work on colors, shapes and names of items when they’re very little and counting when they’re a bit older. How many yellow bananas are there? One, two, three…
- Let the kids help as they age; you can even turn it into a game by asking them to find certain things with prizes for reaching a certain number correct. That said, don’t send preschoolers to the other side of the store for that item that you forgot…
- Make a conscious decision whether or not good behavior will be rewarded with a physical treat, such as a donut. On the one hand, you can argue that good behavior is simply expected and shouldn’t be rewarded as though it was out of the norm but on the other hand, can you really turn down the opportunity for a shared donut?
- Understand that you’re going to be multi-tasking and that the intensity of the multi-task will rise with the number of children along for the jaunt. Expect to be tired when it’s finished and don’t be surprised if your patience is tested.
Shopping for groceries and cooking is just one aspect of how men are continuing to step up and take a greater role in the family just as women have stepped up to take a greater role in the work force. The experience of taking the kid(s) can be a challenge and a great shared experience and the difference between good and bad will depend upon what you expect and what you do to prepare. Once men are more fully established in the kitchen and store, it’s only going to be some years longer until they’re also taking more responsibility for the housework.