Nice Kids in Nice Stores: 3 Tips To Help Toddlers Behave Well

Do you love taking your toddler into stores?  How about NICE stores, with breakable things and sample lotions and tiny stuff at their little kid eye level like jewelry racks, ceramic tea pots and lip balm samples?  Me, I love it.  After getting complimented once again by a few boutiques in downtown Valparaiso, Indiana where we live this post was born.  Thank you, Lifestyles, thank you Ivy Boutique and others for telling me not once but several times how delightful it is to have my TWO YEAR OLD in your store.  You said you’ve never seen anything like it.  You said she is adorable and so well behaved.  Then...
Ivy Boutique in Valparaiso, Indiana

You asked me how I did it. 


I’m a marginal mother in general and as I often say: I will never get the coveted (and ever elusive) Mother of the Year Award.  BUT:  I will proudly say my children generally have good behavior.  AND I will warily state I’ll accept half the credit for this because I only want half of the blame when they do not behave well!  

I explained to these precious ladies who made my day with their high praise that my children behave well because my dog does not.  I explained that they behave well because I am lazy and wouldn’t have it any other way. I explained they behave well because we pray together for that outcome, and when they do not behave well we pray together again.  

We usually follow Love & Logic parenting styles and I think that feeds into everything else-- including their good store behavior.  Love & Logic is always my top parenting tip.

Next, I offer three tips to get your tot to behave nicely in nice stores...try them and tell me what you think.  I am happy to talk with any of you more about it and would LOVE to hear your tips and feedback.

1) Outline Your Expectations before you go.  I got this priceless tip from my Mother-in-Love Monte Novak.  My girls Portia and Libby are 4 years and 2 years old.  I tell them before we go into a store or restaurant I expect them to behave nicely, to use their manners and be sweet to people. I treat them respectfully and include them in the conversation about behavior in advance (Yes, even at their age!) and so they are better about following the directions.  Give your child more credit...yes they are little, but skip the baby talk.  They are people perfectly capable of being treated like...people.

2)  One Finger Touch.  Kids want to touch things.  Part of the joy of a store for anyone is touching new sparkly shiny breakable things.  Our fear of them doing damage keeps us chanting “Don’t touch don’t touch don’t touch....” which is not relaxing for us or anyone within earshot.  Can you imagine how frustrating that is for a person(especially a little person who already feels a lack of control over EVERYTHING) to hear over and over?  I came up with and taught the girls “One Finger Touch” and they are very good about it most of the time.  They get to touch the pretty stuff, but it is hard to pick up (and then drop) something with only one finger.  I keep my eye on them and we keep up a conversation, but they have freedom in the restriction of one finger touching.

3)  Wave a Carrot for LATER.  I often dangle a treat or a special activity after our outing.  The girls look forward to it and I can remind them in Love & Logic style “I take little girls for smoothies who behave nicely in stores” or “I allow TV watching for girls who take good naps” for example.  We often have a treat to eat when we are out shopping, but framing it as a reward instead of part of the errand helps keep the girls focused on behaving well.  If food or cost is an issue for you make it TV time, doing a craft together or a small prize like a new coloring book.  I also do not do this every time so they do not EXPECT it or feel entitled to a reward for good behavior.  

Back to the dog training comment;  I made all my parenting mistakes with my two dogs.  Anything I didn’t teach them consistently they did not learn and that is my fault.  When I became a mama this previous failure helped me learn to be consistent and frankly relentless in working with setting rules and expectations for my children.  I want to have fun and enjoy life with my girls and my awesome husband, so good behavior is important.  Don’t get me wrong...we have terrible days too, with everyone, including me, in time outs every half hour.  There is crying and time alone in rooms and lots of prayers for help from God, the Ultimate parent. BUT.  Most of the time Portia and Libby are well behaved.  And most of the time, due to their diligent training,  their Mama is too.

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