I'd like to think I have a pretty good handle on wrangling two curious children in public. In 3 years I've had a lot of experience being out with them completely alone and have learned a trick or two to avoid having a mental breakdown immediately upon returning home. Thought I'd share with you what works for me.
-Make sure you're completely ready to go before you tell them you're going anywhere. If your kids are like mine, if you tell them we're going somewhere, they want to go immediately-not in 10 minutes after you finish getting everything together.
- Let them bring something they love. For my boys, it's little cars. They're each allowed one or two cars to carry with them. Wearing clothes with pockets helps so they can store their cars when we're out and about. (They think they're pretty cool using pockets.)
- SNACKS. I always, always have bribe food in my purse.
- Front facing kids carts. Target is one of the only places around here where they can face forward and watch as we roll around.
- Have a game plan. When we go to Target, or the grocery store (the two places we go most often) this is usually how it goes:
* We go directly to the carts, get in and head for snacks. In Target we get a bag of crackers or something they can munch on through the store. We also go to the little Starbucks for a couple of waters. I can't tell you how much food helps to distract them. Yeah, I could bring stuff from home, but buying it there, getting a special treat, is much cooler.
* Get what I need to get, and quickly. If the boys are good, we'll stop in the toy section to look at stuff. To get them back in the cart I tell them we're going to go look for (insert whatever they want here) so they need to get back in. Usually it does the trick. They eventually forget about it.
So what happens when your kids start freaking out? Because they will. I've dealt two screaming newborns in Target to two tantruming boys in the grocery store. I can usually manage to keep my cool by remembering these things:
- Don't worry about anybody else. Who cares if your kid is loud? People can mind their own business unless they want to deal with your crazy child.
-Bribery is ok. Seriously. I bribe all the time. And usually they forget about the bribe. But if that's what it takes to get your kid down from freak-out-mode, that's what it takes.
- Do NOT lose your cool. Getting pissed off isn't going to help anybody. The more your force your kid to do one thing, especially when he's already being a crazy person, it's just going to make the situation worse. And that's usually when people start staring at you...when you're being just as crazy as your kid.
- Time outs. You bet your little hiney we do time outs in public. In grocery store isles, outside restaurants. Even when I'm standing there next to my angry, yelling child while people walk by with "I feel bad for that kid" look on their face. Your kids need to know there are immediate consequences to behaving like a little a-hole, and being in public isn't protection against those consequences.
When you have help
Another thing we like to do, when Chikezie and I are out together with the boys, especially at a restaurant or store- he'll do the paying/buying of the items while I take the boys outside to either wait or go to the car. I'm usually better with both of them, they're not stuck standing in a line where all they want to do is push buttons and tear things off shelves, and we're getting some fresh air.
When we're at restaurants, we order food for the boys immediately upon sitting down, before we do even our drink orders. The faster they get their food, the better.
Just remember to have patience with your kids. They're small. They're still learning the rules of the world. Most of the time they're just so darn excited they don't know how else to process their emotions than to touch everything/run/be psychotic. One thing I can definitely guarantee though, is that taking them out more often will help give you some extra confidence and make you more comfortable with being out with them alone. Start with small, quick outings and build your way up to whatever your goal may be.
What are some of your tried and true methods of keeping your cool while out with your kids in public? Please share-we could all use the pointers!