By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
"I'm not taking my kids shopping. It's too much of a hassle."
"Shopping with my kids takes too much time. I can shop by myself a lot faster."
"My kids just want to look at things that they'd like. They are not interested in shopping for others."
There are a lot of reasons to shop by yourself this holiday season. Yep, it is faster. It is easier to maneuver. You don't have to deal with little ones who have to go to the bathroom. Whining will be eliminated unless you originate it yourself. Consensus is not necessary so decisions are easier to make.
Clearly, shopping without children offers specific benefits. So does shopping with your children. If you structure the adventure to be a success, shopping with your children just might be the most valuable gift you give them this holiday season.
Preplanning is critical. Decide before you go what gifts you are going to buy and for whom. This requires discussions about what Grandma and Grandpa might like to receive. "What do we know about Grandma that might help us choose an appropriate gift?" "What does Grandpa like to do in his spare time?" Children often know what they want to give, and their desire to give does not always match up with what someone might enjoy. Help them narrow that gap.
Make choices based on a budget. Let kids know how much you have to spend. Invite them to invest their own money in the process by joining resources with you or making their own purchase.
Leave with a list. Explain ahead of time that you are on a mission to purchase only gifts that are on the list. Your children will see other things that they want. Talk about this temptation before you go and explain how it will be handled. This eliminates the chance of a big surprise when you say "no" to a request to deviate from the plan.
Decide where to go. "What store might have the items we have on our list?" Brainstorm with your children so they are included in all the important decisions. Set a direct course of travel that is time efficient and traffic conscious.
By preplanning and shopping with your children you are gifting them in many ways. You are giving them the gift of your presence.Being with is as important as doing for. You are making a memory. Build connectedness by generating a shopping ritual of stopping at a juice shop to share a smoothie. Take the time to debrief the experience. You are building family connectedness that will last beyond the season.
You are also gifting your children with the opportunity to learn important life skills. They help you plan, make decisions, budget money, reach consensus, evaluate ideas, prioritize, and problem solve. They are experiencing responsibility in action.
Another gift you are presenting to your children is that of experiencing and understanding the process behind gift giving. They will now realize that a gift does not just appear on an important occasion. An entire process was necessary to get from no gift to one wrapped lovingly, attractively, and ready for opening. They will better understand what it takes to be a giver as well as what others went through to give to them.
Chances are you will also be gifting your children with the notion that you mean what you say. By setting up ahead of time what happens when they see something they want for themselves, you have enabled yourself to follow through with the exact structure you previously created. Most likely one of your children will see something they want. Store personnel are skilled at placing those things at children's eye level. You now have the opportunity to handle this typical parenting situation with dignity and firmness.
We suggest when your child says, "I want that," you grant in fantasy what you won’t in reality. Respond with, "Yes, that would be nice to have, wouldn't it? There are a bunch of things we could get for ourselves here." (This verbalization grants the child's wish in fantasy.) "Remember, we are on a mission today to shop for Grandma and Grandpa." This lets the child know that only gifts for Grandma and Grandpa are being purchased today. (This denies the request in reality.) An appropriate conclusion is to say, "Let's write that item down along with the price. Perhaps you will want to add it to your personal list." This allows the child to see it as a future possibility. In this way you have honored your child's desire for an item and followed through with the plan to purchase only items on the list.
Holiday shopping with children can be stressful or enjoyable. You can experience it as drudgery or a celebration. How you structure it and how you choose to think about it will help create what it is for you. Happy shopping.
Thomas Haller and Chiick Moorman are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com