Going out with kids doesn’t have to be a nightmare

Silly toddler boy upside down hanging off couchI’ve got an active little guy and for a while there, it was getting tough to go out with him. Strollers, shopping carts, high chairs and being carried doesn’t contain him for long. He just wants to GO and so he starts acting out. We stopped going to restaurants. Grocery shopping felt like a race from the show Supermarket Sweep! Visiting relatives not used to kids is stressful (“Oh, that’s a pretty vase! And how much would it cost to replace it, in theory?”)

Then we changed our tactic, because it dawned on me. My little monkey was just being himself, and while I would never want him to change, he does need to learn HOW to act in certain situations. This tip works beautifully with kids of all ages, in pretty much any situation.

Before you go out, outline a few very simple rules they can follow, which tell them what they can do. When kids know how to act, they will be more likely to behave! Deep down, our kids really do want to please us. When we tell them what NOT to do – “Don’t play in grandma’s china cabinet!” it leaves them hanging. They don’t have the experience to know what an appropriate activity is.

Next time you head out with your child, picture what a successful visit or trip out looks like. What is your child doing? If “nothing,” then it’s time to come up with something! Is there a job he can do? Will there be books or toys to play with? Have a plan and communicate it to your child.

Mother Helping Her Son and Daughter With Their Colouring In Books at the Kitchen TableFor example, before visiting grandma’s house you could say “At grandma’s house, we use our walking feet, and we will play with the toys we bring. What toys would you like to bring to Grandma’s house?”

Before going into a store with breakables you could say, “We are just looking with our eyes at the pretty things. You need to keep your hands to yourself. Ask me if you want to look at something closely and I will help you.”

In a parking lot: “We hold hands in the parking lot and look out for cars. Otherwise mommy will need to carry you.”

Nobody is perfect. When your kids start “straying” from the rules, keep calm and give them a gentle but firm reminder, focusing on what they CAN do. “Remember, we walk in grandma’s house.”

It may not ALWAYS work, but my husband and I have been amazed by what a difference it has made with our little monkey. When kids know what to expect and what’s expected of them, they are much more likely to make you proud.

Have you tried this strategy with your kids? How did it go? We would love to hear from you:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
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