Category: Raising Kids

Shopping with children…

Shopping with young children can be incredibly… well, you know the drill, or do you?

To make the shopping experience more fun and relaxing, we did a few things. Now, mind you this will take some time, effort and commitment on the part of you the parent. The first thing we always suggest is “DO NOT BLUFF”.  Every child at some point and time will have a meltdown at the mall, and you’ll hear the parent saying something like, “If you don’t stop we’re going home” and they repeat this a dozen times until finally the kid gets a chocolate bar or something to shut them up, or they just let them wail. We say, take them home. Yes, it is very inconvenient to leave the mall and have to do it all over again some other time… But a one time inconvenience is worth a thousand silent trips. Think of it as short term pain for long term gain.

Here are some of the things we used to do with our kids pretty much from the time they could walk and crawl. The first thing we did, was go straight to the toy section. We would set a 15 minute time limit on our watch or phone and when the alarm went off, we’d tell the kids that it was time to go. This was a look time, or as my wife taught the kids, it was “window shopping”; you look at all the stuff and then we talk about what we’d like to have and why. 

Rule 1 to doing this is never buy a toy when you’re window shopping.  Rule 2, spend those 15 minutes talking with your kids about the toys. What you like about them, what you don’t like etc… when the fifteen minutes is up you tell them to put what ever they are holding back on the shelf and while you’re walking away you talk about some of the stuff that you’ve seen. At the beginning the child will most likely ask for more time in the toy section. Just tell them that you’ll come back next time we come shopping. If they argue, ask them if they enjoyed the time looking, and then ask if they would like to do it again next time they come back. That’s the rule of window shopping.

The impulse aisle; all the colors, gum, candy, chocolate mmmmm…. I used to love watching people look at my kids in this aisle. I remember telling the kids it was time to go and they came without a word of protest, and there was a lady there and she asked, “How do you get them to leave without a hassle?” I told her that 1, we never ever buy anything from the impulse aisle and number 2, we told the girls that they could play a game in the aisle while we waited for our turn. The game was simple… find all the candies that were not in their proper place and put them in the right area. Sometimes it would be one or two pieces, other times it took a little longer, but they had fun doing it.

Remember to let the kids know when you are window shopping and when you are not. When you go to the toys, you say, “OK, we’re gonna window shop for 15 minutes, then we are going to go buy you some clothes” or what ever you have to buy.

If you want this to work you have to be consistent; do it every time the same way and watch the magic. When you’re in a rush, let the kids know a few times on the way to the mall that today you don’t have time to window shop, that means you won’t be stopping by the toys and most times they’ll be cool with it. Another important thing is for parents to be prepared for switch-flipping. If you’ve been out for a while already, there’s a good chance a young child will reach a breaking point and suddenly be ‘done’. Just done. A meltdown ensues and there’s no consoling. The best time for shopping with all its sensory overload is early on or right after nap time. Also bring a snack and a book or favorite toy.

Hope this works for you.

The value of Time & Money.

When my kids were little they thought we bought stuff with a card. “Can you buy this or that Dad?” my daughter would say; “No, we don’t have the money for it.” I would reply,  “Just use your card” she’d say. Turns out the card is not a magic buying utensil. My girls were about 1 and 3 at the time I started to explain the value of time and money.

Let me start by saying that at this time we were a one income family. I was working for a thrift store making minimum wage, and thank God for Canada and the Child Tax Credit, otherwise it would have been even tougher to make it than it already was. My wife and I had agreed that one of us would stay home to raise the kids, at least until they were in school.  Back in 2002 our grocery budget was about $400.00 a month. Our friends wondered how we could survive on such a pittance? Well, it wasn’t easy, but we bought things in bulk and made a lot of food from scratch. The cookies, the pizza, the mac and cheese what ever we could make we did. Once in a while we came into “extra” money, like a birthday card from my mom, or my wife’s parents would give us a little cash to help us out. Years before I would have taken the handouts as an insult to my manhood and my pride, but I knew that it was given out of love, and we appreciated it. Those times of “extra” money we would go to the store and let my daughter pick one thing that she wanted and could share with her little sister. It was usually some bright package of instant meat/cracker/cheese something or other, and they really enjoyed the snack. My wife and I chose a bottle of the highest alcohol content for the lowest price on our monthly date night, usually a sherry, but when the “extra” cash came in we splurged for a nice bottle of Vodka.

My kids didn’t realize we were poor at the time. How could they? They had no concept of money. So how did we teach them the value of time and money? Well, we started by explaining why I left home every day at 8am. Dad is going to work and when he works, his boss gives him money for that work. When we went shopping and my daughter wanted a toy or what ever, I would tell her how long I would have to work for said item, and at $7.50 and hour, that could be a lot of work. I would say to her, “Daddy has to work a whole day to buy you that.” and I would explain that it would mean cutting costs other places. Every couple of weeks my wife would pick me up at work, or go for a walk with the girls and pop by my work. This gave the girls an opportunity to see what I was doing during the day, this was Daddy at work making money.

This was the beginning of helping them understand the value of time and money and the relationship they have. It wasn’t like they got it the first day, but after a while they started asking, questions differently… When they wanted us to buy things, they would say, “How long would you have to work, to by this for me?” I would tell them, and sometimes they would surprise me by saying “That’s a lot of time”.  Today, they’re teenagers and young adults living on their own, and I often like to joke about how they’re beginning to realize how far money doesn’t go… I do see, now, that the lessons of childhood, still play a part of how they see time, money and the value of both.