Make Your Kids Better Americans: Take Them to the Store
Taking kids to the store with you has never been more of a challenge. In this article, we'll give you five reasons why we think it's worth the effort.
Regardless of where you personally stand on wearing masks, business owners have the right to decide if they want you -- and anyone older than two years -- to “mask-up.” If your kids are like mine, it’s hard enough to keep them from licking the handlebar of the grocery cart (ugh, no kids, we lick ice cream cones, popsicles, lollipops . . . not grocery carts), let alone keeping a mask on successfully. Add to that these various phases of childhood: kids who are potty training, buckling in and out of car seats, getting the inevitable case of the gimmies and tantrums and potentially schlepping multiple kids. Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the littles at home with your spouse or a babysitter. We don’t blame anyone (including ourselves!) for choosing that route. Wandering blissfully through the aisles of (name your favorite store), chai latte in hand, sans kids, is quite nice and quite necessary every so often!
Admittedly, I remote shop via Instacart quite a bit. Though I realize that when I do shop #IRL it becomes a developmental experience when my kids tag along. They learn SO much when they’re at the store with me: from academics to citizenship, from common courtesy to emotional affirmation, and more intangible social cognitive qualities I’m probably not even picking up on. So read on, Neighbor, for at least five reasons why, if you’ve had your cup of coffee and ready to take on the “task,” you might want to take your kids to the store today... or maybe, tomorrow ;).
They learn SO much when they’re at the store with me: from academics to citizenship, from common courtesy to emotional affirmation, and more intangible social cognitive qualities I’m probably not even picking up on.
When your kids are with you at the store, they observe and learn:
1. How to treat strangers with kindness
Simply by holding the door for a fellow customer or greeting someone with a “good afternoon,” you model to your kids how the little things can go “above and beyond” the call of kindness. In a world that has gone overboard with cancel culture, judging others, and criticizing even the most innocuous-seeming toys and books, common courtesy seems to have become a lost art . . . but YOU can bring it back!
A recent poll found that 64% of Americans think cancel culture is a threat to freedom, so we want to know what freedom-loving parents of American’s next generation are doing about it. Primerrily thinks it starts, primarily, with you: how your kids see you treat others. You can do your small part to reduce the tensions of cultural controversies provoked by the woke; for instance, you can ask your cashier how his day is going, compliment the custodian in the bathroom for keeping it so tidy, offer to help an older woman reach the pasta sauce on the top shelf, and generally practice your “pleases” and “thank yous” in front of the very little people you want to hear say those very same words and do those very same deeds.
If someone treats you well, point out his/her “good behavior choice” to your kids. If someone doesn’t, point out that “bad choice” to your kids, too, and do your best to explain why with respect and grace. You can teach your kids critical thinking skills (sorely lacking in today's world) by raising questions about their fellow shoppers. Ask your kids, “Why do you think that person used her words like that?” You can note that “maybe she was in a grumpy mood because she didn’t get enough rest the night before, or she just heard some bad news. Maybe she was sad about something, and didn’t have anyone to help her talk about her feelings. Maybe her mama and daddy didn’t practice their manners with her when she was little, and it’s hard for people to be kind if people don’t show them what it means to be kind. Maybe there is another reason, but whatever it is, we’ll continue to treat people -- even those who choose to be unkind -- the way we want to be treated (enter: the Golden Rule!). Then, talk about how you would have acted differently if you had been in her shoes. By doing so, we prevent the destructive and ever-encroaching “us vs. them” tribalism mentality that is seeping into some parts of our society’s culture. We also, of course, cultivate empathy in our kids, all while holding them to high standards of kindness and respect.
You can teach your kids critical thinking skills (sorely lacking in today's world) by raising questions about their fellow shoppers.
2. How math works in everyday life
The other day my five-year-old daughter was sitting in the shopping cart at the grocery store when she asked what the little box hanging next to a bag of chips was. I told her it was a coupon holder. She said, “What’s a coupon?” Wow, I thought. In this era of so much online shopping, she doesn’t have a clue how hard I try to hunt for deals or wait to purchase something until it goes on sale. I explained how this powerful little piece of paper worked: If each of the yogurts we eat costs one dollar (we counted out loud as we put 10 single-serve yogurt cups into the cart), then mama has to pay $10 on yogurt. But with this coupon, the store will let me pay this much less (I point to the discount amount). Voila, I teach my daughter and I save money . . . talk about a win-win! As another anecdote, when picking produce, my three-year-old son can tell me which watermelon is lighter and which one is heavier, and connect that to which watermelon costs less and which one costs more money.
Kids don’t need to be doing multiplication and division to appreciate how math is everywhere, and they certainly don’t need to wait until they get a checkbook (or access to a Venmo account!) to get a head start on financial literacy. Financial readiness is at an all-time low in America. College debt is sky high and personal savings are abysmally low. This is not a healthy or sustainable way to live. Introducing concepts of saving and spending in these small yet tangible ways may seem like small potatoes, but as Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” Teaching your kids to take an interest in math and finances at an early age will pay dividends later.
Introducing concepts of saving and spending in these small yet tangible ways may seem like small potatoes, but as Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”
3. How to ask for help
On a grocery store run, inevitably there is something that I cannot find on the shelf. This is a prime opportunity to teach your kids to learn how to ask for help. Modeling your humility
to your kids just may save you some of their hubris later. When finding myself in this common conundrum, rather than wander the aisles, I find an employee to direct me to the right place. When I’m with my kids, I actually talk out that step: “Mama is having a hard time finding the olives. She’s tried checking a few aisles already, so she’s going to ask someone who works here for help. Smart people don’t know everything; they know there is always more to learn, and one of the best ways to learn is to ask other people who do know. That’s called being resourceful!” Then, they observe me ask an employee for assistance: “Excuse me sir, would you please direct me to where you stock the olives?” The next time my kids drop to the floor and whine, “I can’t get my shoes on!”, I’ll reference our trip to the store and say, “What did mama do when she couldn’t find the olives? Did I fall on the floor and start crying about it, or did I go ask someone who could help me?” Often, this reminder corrects their behavior instantly, and we end up resolving the root of the situation rather than going off on tangents, distressing over their newly stained white shirt that got dirty as they were throwing a temper tantrum over their shoes (please tell me I’m not the only one with a story like that . . . ).
Modeling your humility to your kids just may save you some of their hubris later.
4. How to get what you need (not necessarily what you "want")
How many times have you heard your kid say, “I need this, I need this!” and the “this” is a box of Tic Tacs (darn those checkout aisles lined with kid eye-level sweets, or some kitchenware tchotchke dangling on the shelf right next to the loaf of bread you’re about to reach? Personally, I have lost count of my kids’ “I needs!” Instead of blurting out an immediate, “No,” I’ve started redirecting the conversation by saying, “I think you want the Tic Tacs, but what you need is a toothbrush,” or “I think you want the mini Nerf gun (that will be forgotten in a day), but what you need is a hug from me.” I explain to my kids that “wants” are the things that make us smile and laugh; they can be toys, treats, or special experiences that bring us happiness, but we don’t need them to survive. “Needs,” on the other hand, are the things that we absolutely must have to live and grow healthy. We need food, air, water, a bed, a house, clothes, and love. And we’ll toss in toothbrush and toothpaste -- to keep the cavity creeps away! I’ve used our discourse as an opportunity to have my kids list some of their needs and their wants. This also makes for a good time to explain how blessed they are to be an American and live in a country with many little luxuries that other kids don’t necessarily have -- like running water, the opportunity to go to school, and a TV.
I explain to my kids that “wants” are the things that make us smile and laugh; they can be toys, treats, or special experiences that bring us happiness, but we don’t need them to survive. “Needs,” on the other hand, are the things that we absolutely must have to live and grow healthy. We need food, air, water, a bed, a house, clothes, and love.
4. How they simply want to be with you
I am still amazed how much my kids want to be with me -- even after they’ve been with me A LOT, without a break. Even as I write this, my son has tracked me down in my home office so he can play the harmonica for me. If your kids are in the “golden years” stretch (often described as 5-10 years old), let’s become “gold investors” by savoring the precious time-turned-memories of these years. That doesn’t mean you have to buy an annual pass to Disney. In fact, it can just mean creating “special” routines, such as going to the grocery together every Saturday (and if your kid behaves, he/she can earn a cookie at the end!). Even if what I want at that moment is a little peace and quiet, I try to remember to make “special” out of the everyday ordinary. I lean over the cart while we’re strolling the cereal aisle and whisper in my daughter’s ears, “I just love being with you. It doesn’t matter where we are. I’m so glad you’re my girl” (cue this Daniel Tiger song!). When we’re bagging groceries and my son does his part, I affirm him: “You are such a good helper. Look at those muscles working hard for our family! I appreciate you so much.”
I try to remember to make “special” out of the everyday ordinary. I lean over the cart while we’re strolling the cereal aisle and whisper in my daughter’s ears, “I just love being with you. It doesn’t matter where we are. I’m so glad you’re my girl.”
5. How to encourage other families to do the same
When you take your kids to the store with you and things don't go as planned, you actually give permission to the parent who avoided taking their littles to choose differently next time. You show that children ARE welcome in our society, and it's the grown ups' job to find ways to teach them as they make room for them.ar to account for a toddler foible, other eyes are watching. We often feel like those eyes are judging us, but we suspect there are far more eyes of mercy. When you take your kids to the store with you and things don't go as planned, you actually give permission to the parent who avoided taking their littles to choose differently next time. You show that children ARE welcome in our society, and it's the grown ups' jobs to find ways to teach kids as the adults make room for the adults of the future. When I exit a store, and I see a mom or dad with a cart full of bags and kids, I like to shout a "Good job mom! Good job dad!" to them across the parking lot. It's amazing how far a little parental solidarity can go across some asphalt.
So, when you take your kids to the store with you . . . you show that children ARE welcome in our society, and it's the grown ups' jobs to find ways to teach kids as the adults make room for the adults of the future.
Two of Primerrily’s primers are “Raising children is not a task. It is our mission,” and “Families thrive when they are a part of community.” The next time you’re faced with the decision to take or not-to-take your kids to the store, perhaps these two ideas might help you choose your course. While it might feel like a task at the time, if we think about getting our kids buckled up in the shopping cart as part of our greater mission to raise respectful American citizens, perhaps we can catch a glimpse of glory in the mundane. While it might feel simpler to leave the kids at home, if we think about showing them how to properly interact with strangers, service providers, and neighbors as a way of demonstrating that they are part of a community of noble standards, maybe we can -- one family at a time -- experience a restoration of not only local civil interaction, but a wider “neighborly” kindness to our fellow countrymen.
“Raising children is not a task. It is our mission.”