It’s that time of year again, the back-to-school shopping whirlwind. You’re up against a hard deadline and the pressure is on! How do you avoid the endless shopping, schlepping, negotiating and exhaustion?
Create and share reasonable expectations that keep your sanity in mind, too.
I’m reminded of a mom whose daughter had to have the ‘perfect’ jacket. Mom was okay indulging this purchase. They went from store to store to store, getting crankier by the minute. There was no end in sight, and mom was calling it quits. It did not end well.
What was missing from this shopping trip? Preparation with clear and realistic boundaries. The key is to decide beforehand what you will and won’t do; who’s responsible for what; time limits; dollar limits; and anything else that is relevant for you.
For the mom in the example, here’s what it might sound like:
Hey, sweetie. I know you want to get a special jacket, and I’m happy to take you shopping. Here’s what you need to know before we go.
I have two hours to do this with you on Thursday, and your budget is $100. It would be helpful for both of us if you do a little research beforehand. What stores have the best selection for you and are within the budget? Can we get to all of them in two hours?
Just a reminder that when the two hours are up, we’re going home… I hope, with a jacket. Any questions?
There’s no criticism, ultimatum, or emotion. It’s pure fact and optimism. What’s beautiful about this kind of boundary-setting is that everyone knows what’s expected.
A few specifics about the points covered:
Money – Don’t have an open-wallet policy, even if you can afford it. Kids need to know about limits, finite resources and making thoughtful choices.
Engagement – Making them part of the process is crucial! It’s time for them not to always be on the receiving end. Help them become active participants in their own life.
Time – This one is about you and it’s a personal boundary. You are offering your time to provide something to your child. Your time is a gift (although you’d never say that outright). You’re not supposed to give and give until you’re depleted. It’s bad for you, and sets a poor example for your kids.
Responsibility – In this scenario, you have given them a variety of opportunities and tools to shape the outcome in their favor. Without saying “Do this or you might come home without a jacket,” you’re making it clear that it’s in their hands. This will (often) motivate them to do the prep work and be more efficient shoppers.
These strategies work for back-to-school shopping and all year long. Your child can optimize experiences by preparing for a positive outcome, and a mom who’s not cranky! You don’t feel taken advantage of and know you’ve set the stage for a realistic, collaborative outing. (Almost) aggravation-free.