Before I begin this post, let me apologize in advance because I may end up sounding a little judgmental. I have very strong feelings about this issue and though I do believe that my opinion is the right one (of course I do!), I do encourage respectful conversation in the comment section, from both sides.
I would guess that every parent in the world (except for Madonna, I’m sure) has had the experience of bringing their child(ren) along to the grocery store. It’s not always a fun time, especially when the child is very young. (I always found the toddler age to be most challenging because I had to focus on my grocery list while keeping my boys entertained and busy at the same time.)
I would also guess that every parent in the world (except for Madonna, I’m sure) finds that it’s necessary at some point to deal with a child who is hungry while at the grocery store. Even if you pack a diaper bag, purse, or pocket with some kid-friendly snack like Cheerios or crackers, there will come a time when your child doesn’t want that because he or she wants a Fruit Roll-Up or a handful of grapes or cookies, all things that–coincidentally–happen to be readily available in mass quantities on the shelves surrounding you. Your kid, depending on his or her normal M.O., might even throw a tantrum over the issue.
So what do you do in that case? Do you grab the package of Oreos and open it up, feeding your kid what he wants and paying for the entire package at the checkout?
In my opinion, NO.
This is a huge, teachable moment that no parent should pass up.
My kids were always hungry and “in need” of snacks just like their counterparts. They eventually expressed their desire for snacks off the grocery shelf rather than the backups I brought along. I told them, “You can eat that, but you have to wait until we pay for it. We have to pay for it first.”
I can still hear D’s little voice repeating, “We hafta pay firr it first, Mom.” He used to take great joy in slapping his chosen item down on the conveyor belt at checkout, stating “We hafta pay firr it first!” over and over, like a parrot. (Actually, he still loves slapping items on a conveyor belt, because he’s now a college student who loves going shopping with me partly because I pay, but that’s another post.)
OF COURSE my boys weren’t happy the first time I told them this. OF COURSE they didn’t understand. Imagine how it must be to not understand the concept of having to exchange money for goods and then being exposed to aisles and aisles of all of your favorite foods, plus many other exciting things you haven’t seen before! Tough, right?
Parenting is tough.
If you’re a long-time reader, you already know very well that Jim and I have never shied away from the tough part of parenting. You know that I firmly believe that consistency–which can be HARD–is one of the keys to raising great kids. (Want more on my parenting philosophy? I laid it all out in this post, “Parenting Secrets From Behind the Tiara”, one of my faves.)
One of your main goals as a parent is to teach your child about that which he doesn’t understand.
If your child is hungry in the store and doesn’t want what you brought, he should wait until you’re done. (Trust me, if he’s hungry enough, he’ll eventually eat what you brought.) If your child is hungry in the store and you didn’t bring anything, in my opinion you have two choices once you assess if he’s truly hungry:
1. If you accidentally took too long on your morning errands and now you’re grocery shopping during the time you should be feeding your kid lunch AND you don’t have a snack in your bag for him, then you made a tactical error. You should either save the grocery shopping for later OR show your kid what a responsible citizen you are by purchasing his snack before you allow him to eat it, and then you can continue shopping in peace.
2. If your kid is just hungry out of habit, tell him that he has to wait until you’re done grocery shopping to get a snack. Done. I know, I know: this can be hard. You might be subjecting yourself to incessant whining, and possibly a tantrum. Guess what? You should bring ear plugs or learn to tune it out. With consistent parenting, this won’t happen too many times before your kid figures it out that you’re not giving in.
Society has rules for a reason. When we enter someone’s business, we pay for items before we consume them. Period. I believe that allowing a child to eat his way through the grocery store can lead him to have blurred vision when it comes to other rules.
What do you think?