There was a time in every parent’s life when going out was fun: a trip to the grocery store was enjoyable, maybe even an enjoyable activity to spend with a spouse. The cinema, then a stop for a drink afterwards. Go out to dinner anytime, whether it’s 6:30 on a Friday night or 10:00 pm on weekdays. It seems that back then there wasn’t really a care in the world.
And then the children came.
Now, an outing is a planned, restless and cumbersome task, which is sure to be full of stress, disorder and the need to change clothes. Go to the grocery store? He might as well be packing up and going to war. The bookstore? A sedative might be in order. Some kind of social gathering? I better hope Grandma and Grandpa are there too, or there is NO WAY you’re going to socialize at that gathering!
But when it comes down to it, parents have to get out of the house. Outings with the little ones are inevitable. So why not make them manageable? There are a lot of things to remember when planning and executing an outing with young children. These are some of the things I’ve found to get everyone home in one piece, and we’re staying a little crazy, rather than completely crazy, all the way to the bottom, read about it in the paper the next day fan.
o Pack of snacks and drinks. These should keep them busy for at least a few minutes, and maybe all that whining is because they’re hungry!
o Don’t have high expectations. If it’s the grocery store, only buy what you need if you’re alone.
o Always have toys stored: in the car, in your purse, in the diaper bag, under your shirt. You never know when or where you will need them.
o If possible, tag team. One adult for each child. If possible…
o If it is a single adult, have a double stroller ready. It may be huge and painful to push, but you have kids! Who said this was going to be a walk in the park? Double strollers keep multiple children in one place, much easier to manage.
o Go in and out, especially if the kids seem a bit fussy. Sorry, leisure shopping days are over!
o Pay attention to naps and plan accordingly. Children are creatures of routine, regardless of age.
BE FLEXIBLE! Enough talk! If the outing doesn’t go as planned, just get over it and don’t freak out. Leave that for the little ones.
o Give them a reward when your children behave appropriately in public. It could just be a lollipop or a sticker. They will feel important.
o If your little ones are upset, remember the obvious “stressors”: diapering, feeding, comfort. Is one of these things the problem? Those are all pretty easy to fix.
o Did I mention snacks?
o Tie them in some way. A kid who goes crazy is just looking for trouble. In a stroller, a cart, a front bag, maybe even one of those kiddie straps. And if he has two, more reason for contention. Don’t forget that you were born with only two arms.
o Incentives to behave: “After the supermarket, we can go to the park!”
o Madness from time to time. If you act silly, children tend to laugh. Laughing is much better than yelling. People will look at you and smile, instead of looking at you and shaking their heads disapprovingly.
o Stimulate them! It’s okay to walk past the toys, the ice cream, that dog in front of the store. Give the little ones something to watch and enjoy.
o Keep talking. Hold on to the attention of your little ones.
o Use positive reinforcement. Instead of just yelling and saying ‘no’ when little ones misbehave, why not praise them when they do well?
o Get a babysitter from time to time. Sometimes you really need to book some of the outings for adults only. This includes dates with your spouse, if you are married. Very important!
Bottom line, outings with little ones can be a chore, but you can make them less hectic, maybe even fun. After all, you are a father, so you must have some supernatural powers. Think of something your child likes to do outside the house and use it on the way out. If you go shopping at the supermarket, stop by the park. If it’s a stop at the shoe store, maybe go to the mall and then stop at the pet store. Enter the children’s section of the bookstore. A doctor’s appointment can be followed by a stop at the ice cream parlor. Why not reward your little ones when they exhibit appropriate exit behavior? And why not reward yourself too? Who doesn’t like ice cream?