By the time children reach school age, they can at least be reasoned with in regards to a trip to the grocery store.  My son, though, still has his “moments” where grocery shopping is the last thing he wants to do, and he will try his best to make it as miserable of a trip as he can.  So, here are some pointers to avoid the conflicts (or at least some of them):

  • PLAN AHEAD!  As with any aged child, make a list and go into the store looking for specific items.  Aisle shopping is not nearly as efficient or successful with children in tow, so when at all possible, write down the things you need before you go to the store.
  • Give older children ownership.  Arm your older child with a list of their own of things that are needed from the store.  Allow them to find the items on their list and put them in the cart.  If you don’t have time to create a separate list, hand your older child any coupons you plan on using.  They can use the coupons as their list.
  • Turn it into a nutrition lesson.  Have older children compare sugar content on cereals, the difference between milk percentages, and which yogurt is the best for them.  Allowing them to help make decisions on brands to purchase can be a valuable lesson in cost comparison, too. 
  • Lay your cards on the table.  Tell your child exactly why you are going to the store and how much you plan on purchasing.  I found that when my son knows we’re there for a cart-full of groceries, he at least understands that it will be a while before we check out.  Likewise, if I am only picking up four or five things, I have him hold me accountable to that.  It keeps me from impulse shopping.
  • Our store now has an automated checkout area, so if we are only picking up a few things, I use this as my Secret Weapon.  Nothing smells more grown-up than scanning stuff at the grocery store.  If my older child is able to behave and be helpful while we’re shopping, then he gets to scan all the items from our cart (with my supervision).  The little one is the money-handler unless he’s had a particularly rough go of it at the store.  Knowing that they will get to do something a little different at the end of the trip is oftentimes the only incentive needed to behave.

Of course, an ideal shopping experience is one on your own, at your own pace, but more often than not, that isn’t an option for me and my brood.  Taking a few steps and being prepared will pay off handsomely in the long run.