I don't know about you but every time I go to the shops with my two boys, they run amok. For some reason someone, somewhere has taught my kids that the supermarket is a boxing/wrestling ring, playground, sprint track, skating rink (to slide around the floor on) and generally a great place to yell as loud as you can, run as fast as you can and play fight with your brother.
This makes for a very stressful shopping expedition where I am splitting my attention between actually getting the shopping down, pushing the damn trolley (who also has a mind of its own) and making sure that my children aren't breaking anything or getting in other people's way.
Yesterday we went shopping together (hubby too) and the kids were doing their usual energetic thing, and as I stood next to this lady I jokingly said to her, "Crazy kids, you would think that mum would discipline her children'.
The lady glared at me in a disgusted way before she realised that I was talking about my own children, then she laughed. She said that she was just about to say that clearly I didn't have children and had no idea what I was talking about. She was about to give me a serve about my comment.
She went on to tell me that neither of her two sisters had children and would make comments about her as a mum, when clearly they had no experiential idea of what it was like. We had a bit of a laugh and then went our separate ways.
But it did make me think though. That mum could totally relate to my kids running amok, and over the past few weeks I have seen a lot of proof that there is nothing wrong with my kids, nor my parenting abilities, because most kids are the same when it comes to behaviour.
A friend of mine was telling me of a similar event where he took is two daughters (2 & 5yo) and his son (7yo)grocery shopping and how they were all running off in three different directions while he was at the cashier, and my other friend was telling me how she had gotten her kids' ears checked for hearing because they never listened to her.
Now I'm usually at fault for habitually thinking that I am at fault for my child's behaviour, thinking that I should be doing something different, or that they should have been taught better than to be running around like this in public, or that there is something wrong that they are not listening when I ask them to do something.
However, by shifting my attention away from what I'm perceivably doing 'wrong' and looking at the reality of the behaviour of children of this age by comparing it to other children around me, it is becoming more and more apparent that I AM NOT ALONE!
Kids are kids and they all go through stages of not listening, being energetic and crazy in public, giving us backchat and being rude and this is not a reflection of our parenting abilities, nor an indication that you have a bad child. They simply don't have the reasoning skills yet that our adult minds have and they are only going to learn that over time.
We can't expect them to behave like adults because they aren't adults yet and they have a lot of growing up to do, yet sometimes we expect them to behave the way that we would behave with our older, more developed brain and reasoning skills.
I mean sure, we still need to teach them over and over again the appropriate way to behave, however when they don't we can stop seeing their behaviour meaning anything about you (I'm not doing a good job etc) and simply see the reality of our kids learning how to live in the world. It will dramatically reduce the stress that you feel.
So next time you are in the shops, take this perspective with you. Set some boundaries and consequences for inappropriate behaviour, make sure the rules are clear and then leave the rest up to them. If they run amok, then administer the consequences and keep going, because that is them learning how NOT to behave in public.
Remember that this is normal behaviour and that if anyone around you is judging you, then they probably have no idea what they are talking about, or have been unnaturally blessed with perfect children (highy unlikely).
Start observing other kids in shopping centres at similar ages to yours and what their parents are saying to them and you will soon realise that they are having the very same experiences as you (and don't compare it to the parent who has just one child with them. We all know that it can be much easier to shop with one child, then multiple children - not always, but most of the time.)
When you expand your attention in this way and start to see what's really going on, you will soon see that there is nothing wrong with you or your child because of this behaviour. It is all normal. If you try to fight it and get angry over it, it doesn't change anyway, so just let it go and calmly administer the consequences as discussed.
Do this and your stress over this kind of shopping experience will reduce because you are aligned with the bigger picture of what this event means, rather than being consumed by the small picture.
For a simple 5 step way of changing the way you think about the parenting challenges that come your way, make sure you get your copy of The Happy Mum Handbook.