The season is upon us! For many busy parents with young children, it is sometimes necessary to bring our young ones with us to the mall. With this reality in mind, we offer the following suggestions on having successful outings. Whether it is holiday shopping or long car trips to see relatives, preparation is the key to success!

The following suggestions come from the Triple P Positive Parenting Program which offers concrete strategies on how to set yourself up for success in potentially challenging situations.

  1. Pick a good time! While it might seem that the only option is a pre-dinner Target run, you may be setting yourself up for failure. When you or your children are tired and hungry you’re all more likely to be ill mannered, and you’re more likely to give into your child just to keep them quiet and avoid a tantrum. Be strategic and realistic about how long your child can be successful. If there are no other options at least remember to bring along some healthy snacks to tide kids over.
  2. Review expectations in advance. Remind your kids about staying close to you and not touching things without permission. If this is a shopping trip for gifts for others then make that clear in advance and then don’t cave in when your children beg for items that aren’t “on the list.”
  3. Don’t forget to catch your child when they’re doing well. It’s easy to ignore good behavior when you’re focused on getting through your list but whatever behavior gets the most attention is likely the one you’ll see more of. Attend to them when they’re doing well with smiles, hugs, or even stickers and they’re more likely to keep it up.
  4. Avoid escalation traps. If children are rewarded when they begin to act up or get loud, they learn that behavior is the best way to get their needs met. While it may feel daunting in the moment, make sure not to give in to your children when they are at their worst. If you do, you’re much more likely to see that behavior again in the future.
  5. Involve your child in the experience. Ask your children for their opinion on gifts, or for young children, build in games such as “I Spy” or “Count how many red things you see.” Let children help choose gifts for others so they feel the joy of giving and are less focused on themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about Triple P workshops and individual consultations, please contact us at Parents Place.

Happy holidays and good luck shopping!

Rebecca Wood, LCSW, is the Director of Parents Place in Marin County. Contact her for in-person or phone consultations to address challenges and concerns about your children.