Parenting On the Go ~Car and Store Struggles | Teaching Self-Government

Parenting On the Go ~Car and Store Struggles


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Hi, Nicholeen,

I have a quick question for you.  I'm struggling with what to do for discipline/consequences when we're away from home.  (Specifically in the car or in a store.)   My kids tend to pick at each other, fight, kick, etc., in the car and to run away from me or do other annoying things (push the cart the wrong direction, touch things they shouldn't, etc.) at the store.   The younger ones especially (age 2-4ish) don't really care enough about what's coming in the future for them to care if I give them a consequence that will be carried out later, when we get home.   Even with the older ones (5-7) they'll be upset that they earned a consequence, and stop the behavior for a few minutes, but then they usually go right back to it.  Do I keep adding on chores/consequences every time they repeat the bad behavior?  Or should I escalate consequences?  Any suggestions?  I hope you're doing well!  Do you know when your book will be out?  I can't wait to buy a few copies and share them with friends!  :)

It sounds like your synthetic consequences aren't effective when you are in public places.  Either because you forget to follow through with them or the children don't have enough foresight yet.  This is probably the case with the younger two for sure.  Foresight comes with maturity and experience. 

I have two suggestions.  Either change your synthetic consequence to something that matters to the children when the children are away like losing snack privilege, or switch to emphasizing the natural consequences which accompany their behaviors.  A natural consequence for this situation is probably something like; you don't want to take the children places when they act this way right?  Just guessing here. 

This is how I handle these two kinds of situations.  I will share multiple ideas.


If my children start being mean in the car, I calmly pull the car over to the side of the road and say, "Do you feel that?  We don't have the Spirit of a happy loving family right now.  We are supposed to 'love and support one another' remember?"  Then we talk about the situation and pray and sing for the Spirit if love to be with us again.  My children that we will not go anywhere without that Spirit if love.  They know that if we ever don't feel the Spirit, we have to stop and fix our actions and hearts until we feel it again.  This is what I do in the car.  On occasions children will still choose to lose privileges in the car too, but often those privileges are things like snack privilege.  Usually when our family is on vacation, or out of the home, the privileges we feel are best to lose are snack and friend privilege for 20 minutes.  These things can be immediate.


***No matter what, before you go into the store, PREP your children!  Tell them exactly what will happen if they choose good and what will happen if they choose bad.  Maybe you will be buying a special something for children who follow instructions and accept no answers on the shopping trip.  Maybe you should start roll playing the four basics while you shop to keep them focused on their good behaviors.  Make sure to cheer for them in store just like you do at home.  This will make them happy and think you are a fun mommy to go to the store with. 

Regarding consequences.  Make sure you mention in your pre-teach something about how you can't take children to the store who (whatever it is they do... because it bothers other shoppers at the store etc.)  A natural consequence for not following instructions in the store would be for the child to not be able to come shopping with you another time.  Maybe you start going shopping at times when you take a certain child on a Mommy Store Date.  Pick all the children for the dates who have been good at the store in turn.  Then after a few weeks of that the child who hasn't been able to go will be ready for a second chance at the store.  You can take him alone, on a date, and praise him for all his great store behavior. 

Praise is a really good thing to remember to do in the store and in public.  When one child gets praised or rewarded for good behavior, the other children will want to seek negative attention to.  Lastly, don't forget to be consistent with your government system even at stores.  If someone is out of instructional control, then quickly go through the rule of three (in private if possible)  and then finish the shopping trip. 

I hope these ideas help.  :)  Nicholeen

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