Night patrols in a combat zone require the utmost in radio silence and secrecy. The instant you or a member of your fire team makes a noise, your cover is blown and aggressors have your location locked in. While it is impossible and developmentally inappropriate to silence a child while you’re out on the town, there are ways to prevent big blowouts.
Here are some Marine Corps principles that can be applied to your shopping experience:
Family shopping as a Fire Team
Marines don’t patrol alone and typically move in a 4-person fire team which is the smaller unit within a squad. Your job is to enter the store with your list of goods and then give your child some active responsibilities. Older children can, within visible distance from you, search for items in an aisle and place them in the cart. Younger children sitting in the cart seat can take the item from the shelf, look at it to absorb the stimuli and then place it in the cart. Make sure you positively praise your children for playing a role in the experience.
Maintain your Bearing in the Line
We have all seen the child in the check out line who is kicking, screaming and melting as they wait for their turn. Grocery store lines and candy companies do a great job of enhancing last minute marketing and “unsat” behavior by strategically placing their wares on your flanks. Pincer attack! Avoid the obvious trap of rewarding bad behavior with candy. Unconsciously, giving them candy to calm them down is psychologically reinforcing bad behavior. According to acclaimed psychologist B.F. Skinner, kids in this situation are positively reinforced and parents are then negatively reinforced to continue the silencing behavior for short term problems.
Firstly, keep calm and maintain your bearing. There are plenty of parents and grandparents who have been in your shoes once before. Next, keep your children engaged and involved in the activity of shopping and social engagement. Have a favorite book on hand or play with your child while you wait.
Remember, the mission is shopping and you have a partner by your side. Keep your sidekick in the loop and you will find that shopping with children will meet both mission accomplishment and troop welfare for the long term!