We weren’t the worst kids terrorizing the store clerks but we were the loudest. My kids could be heard screaming across the store because I put them in time out buckled into the cart. I could be heard three aisles away saying “don’t touch that, put your hand on the cart, and stop running” all in one breath. There were minutes where the plastic front car got us through the produce section and the cookie got us through the unbearable wait at the deli counter. But no amount of Starbucks double shot lattes could get me through those aisles and out the door with a smile.
We have all been there. The drive to the grocery store was full of complaining over the music and which way you chose. They have already started fighting about who gets a little cart and who is riding in the car part of the grocery cart. Getting everyone out of the car without their stuffed animals, purses, wallets and other accessories was an argument. It is too close to lunch time to be starting this endeavor and the parking lot is so full you are parked in the back of the lot which is too far to haul three kids in rain!
We get into the store and want a break from the questions, the opinions and the constant teaching correct behavior so we hand them a cookie, our phone to play games on, or a lollipop buried in our diaper bag. Moms, some days is survival. But this is also bribing!
So often, in my circle of friends there is a joke about this. A mom begging to not be judged and to find compassion over her nightmare grocery trip and the other moms who also quickly bestow anything requested just to get in and get out of that store where all screams echo and running leads to broken jars.
For years this was my tactic too. I didn’t call it bribery because I thought I was a better mom than that. BUT I WASN’T! The free kid’s cookies were expected by my little ones and were eaten faster than we could get down the bread aisle. They did not enable calm or quiet. They produced an expectation. They created more arguing over who got the last chocolate chip one and threats that “if there aren’t any with icing and sprinkles than I’m not eating one”. To which I always responded with an eye roll because no kid turns down a cookie.
Bribing is giving treats to make bad behavior stop. The dirty secret is the bad behavior does not in fact stop. It continues and grows. We, the parents have to invoke the change. They aren’t going to grow out of it. We need to reverse the cookie hand-outs. The opposite of bribing is motivating so that good behavior continues. It takes work. We can’t tune out, pop them in the cart and sail down the aisles and out of the store in twenty minutes. But, despite being in the store for an hour with three kids and a not-so-short-list we all left with smiles. We didn’t come home and require forty-five minutes of Netflix because I gave them a few small rules:
#1 hands on the cart
#2 no touching
They were simple and easy to repeat. I used a few other tactics also. Each kid got a list with four items on it that they were allowed to take off the shelf and put into the cart and we grocery shopped backwards so the cookies were at the end. We didn’t all walk out with cookies, only one of my children earned the privilege. But, the reward was very obvious to them all and the method to get the reward was able to be achieved. The next time we went to the store they all got the cookie at the end!
The behavior that I had been screaming for over the past years was within my reach if only I had been motivating them instead of bribing. If I had chosen to teach them instead of wait for them to grow into it (which is another dirty secret: they won’t). Sometimes we need to change instead of expecting them to. They needed to earn it on their own and feel pride. They needed to see me smile and I needed to be excited to give them a cookie and not wish I could shove a box of cookies at them to make them be quiet!