You are going to take four-year-old Adam to the mall with you. So you make sure to remind him that you want him to behave. Every time you go out, whether it's to the store, the park or to visit friends, you make sure to remember to tell him that you expect him to behave himself.
So why is it that he never seems to be able to handle himself when you are out in public?
The problem is that he has no concept of what it means to behave so he simply does whatever he feels like in the moment.
You need to explain what you mean, what your expectations are of him on this particular outing.
The first step is to use simple, clear words and try to keep the message short. Kids just don't listen to a long lecture.
So you say something like: "We're going to the mall. I am going to get some stockings and we need to get you some new shoes. I expect you to stay by my side and speak quietly when we talk to each other."
Now he knows exactly what you need from him and what it means to behave.
When you talk to him about what you expect, make sure you have eye contact. You may want to sit across the table from him or squat down so you are at his eye level.
If you are both standing, you will be talking over his head and he will not hear a word you say. Let him know where you are going and why.
I once knew a four-year-old whose behaviour was disastrous whenever his mom had to take him shopping. And this was unusual because in all other circumstances he was a very easygoing youngster.
Then one day his mom told him exactly why they were going to the mall and what they would be doing. It was like a miracle cure.
In previous trips he was out of sorts because he had no idea why they were there and how long they would be.
Think about it, how would you like to be taken somewhere for an undetermined amount of time, doing heaven knows what and for no reason you can determine?
So let your child know the plan and then explain what behaviour you expect. If you aren't sure whether he got the message, ask him to repeat it back to you.
When you are going to be taking a child out shopping, choose a time when she is more likely to be accommodating.
Bringing a child who is hungry or ready for her nap is just asking for trouble. But if she has had lunch, a nap and a small snack she is now ready to handle herself in public and you will both have a better day.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that even though it's lunchtime you can hold your child off for a half hour while you run your errands. That simply never works.
Before you leave make sure she gets a chance to prepare to go out. She may need five minutes to finish a game or she may want to ensure that her stuffed monkey is tucked into bed.
If you just rush out without considering her needs, you are more likely to have a problem.
Decide ahead of time whether you will let her buy a treat. She will want one and let's face it, the mall is full of temptations for shoppers of all ages. So, plan ahead.
Are you going to stop for an ice cream cone or not?
With a little planning and clear communication shopping with kids can be a pleasure.
. Tri-Cities resident Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.