I have finally solved one of the world’s greatest dilemmas.
If you have a child like my son, you’ll appreciate the following tips.
Does your son/daughter hate shopping for clothes? I don’t just mean hate, like they hate but begrudgingly eat their vegetables. I’m talking about the kind of hate that leads to a complete loss of all good sense, where you find yourself offering to sell your child to any random gypsy walking down the street. When you’ve lost your patience and your tone of voice has gone sonic – you know you’ve gone over to the bad place.
That was my experience last year. I wanted to tear my hair (or Charlie’s) right out of my head and throw myself on the floor kicking and screaming. In public. Humiliation be damned.
Thankfully, I put some real thought into this year’s excursion, and we had a true success thanks to my savvy planning. Here’s what I did.
1. Know your child’s weaknesses. What form of bribery will get their little heart’s pumping so that they’ll fall under your woven spell and submit to the dreaded activity?
2. Broach the topic with said child in a way that you know they’ll respond positively to. With Charlie I brought up the fact that he was going to need new clothes for school, but that I wanted to have a better day than last year, and to accomplish that, I was going to make it fun for him.
3. Be clear with your expectations – make sure everyone knows going in what the plan is, and then by God STICK TO IT!
4. Weave together an outing that includes something fun before hand and again afterwards. Our plan of attack happened to fall on the day we were celebrating Charlie’s birthday with family, so making it a day “all about him” was easy.
a. First, we let him choose the restaurant of his choice for lunch. This happened to be IHOP for us – he loves breakfast for lunch or dinner. Protein never hurts, either.
b. Next up, the shopping. Noelle and my mom went to the girl’s section to have a fabulous time while I joined Charlie in the boys department. I had been very clear in advance that we would pick various pants so that I could find his size. Once his size is known, he knows he will be free to browse the funny shirts and won’t have to darken the dressing room doorway again. Knowing this, his attitude was great and he never even flinched when he had to try on clothes. I think he might have even laughed a few times.
c. As long as the shopping was a success, Charlie knew there would be a final stop at the local chain store with a toy section. This was going to be his big chance to pick out his gift from Gramma and Grampa – he spent the entire week before scheming about what his choice would be. In the end, a great shopping trip led to a great Lego set, which he absolutely loves. (Noelle may have walked away with a new Barbie and puppy set. Thanks to Gramma, she also walked away with a fabulous new school wardrobe. Thank you Gramma!)
My final warning circles back to point number 3 – stick to the plan!! Right after the clothes shopping and before heading to the toy store, we got caught up in all the success and made the suggestion that we stop in at the shoe store next door and pick up some new shoes, too. You could actually see a physical reaction in Charlie. His body’s ease and flow became riddled with anxiety at a change in the agenda, and his attitude became one of someone who had just had the rug pulled out from under him with everyone standing around saying, “What?” You just can’t mess with a kid like that. We quickly discovered our error and started backpedaling – he recovered fast and on we went to the toy shopping.
Whew! That was close.
Perhaps bribery shouldn’t always have to be a part of going through the necessary motions of life, but I know I can get through doing something I don’t enjoy a lot easier if I know there’s something to look forward to. Whether 9 years old or 34 – a little incentive never hurts. And who knows? Maybe we’ve started a fun tradition of school shopping that will go on for years. I wouldn’t mind that at all.