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Published on December 10, 2019

boy being naughty in store

When Your Child Gets the “Gimmes”

Having a child that suffers from the “gimmes” can be very frustrating. This is a child who presents negative behaviors when told “not today” for something they see in the grocery store, gas station, department store, etc…that they want. Being prepared is the first step to decreasing unwanted behaviors.

Here are some helpful tips for different places you may go with your child.

The Grocery Store

Have your child help make the list. This will give them a sense of ownership in the experience. If they are able, have your child look at the ad and cut out what is on the list.  Provide your child with scissors, paper, and a glue stick to create a visual list of things they can help find. Be sure the items are relatable to them.

If they pack a lunch for school, have them look for items that will go in the lunch box. If they are responsible for bringing snack to daycare that week, have them pick out from a provided visual list of what they can get. Making a menu with your child is also a great way to keep them motivated while shopping for groceries. This will provide them with an idea of what is needed to make a meal and can lead into a further experience when you have your child help make the meal. Keeping them engaged in the experience will lessen behaviors because they have a meaningful and purposeful task at hand.

The Park or an Event

Bring any snacks, drinks, special cuddly bear, or anything your child may need. If your child sees another child having a snack or drink, they will automatically one too. It is very age-appropriate for a child to respond this way. Sometimes a child will respond with anxiety because they may have the same toy or treat at home and may think it’s theirs. A great way to be prepared is to have a small tote or bag in the vehicle at all times with “just in case” items.

The older a child gets the harder it is. It’s no longer about the snacks or toys but clothes or phone accessories. Having conversations about expectations may go a little easier with this age, but it doesn’t take away the urge to have the “gimmes” in a store. With emotions changing and the need to eat every five minutes, tweens come with their own set of challenges.

Having set guidelines about purchases is key. Allowing your child a set amount of money when walking into a store is huge for them. They get to control what they spend it on but it also helps them to see the value of things. If they only have a certain amount of money they will also see how one item may cost just as much as five lesser expensive items. Even at this age the “more is more” theory still exists.

Changes with Age

Another approach would be to allow the child to pick out purchases they have interest in such as the kind of cereal they will eat for breakfast. Giving your child the ability to choose flavors or colors helps to increase the sense of ownership in the purchase without providing an extra dollar amount to limit expenses.

As your child ages they will be able to grasp the concept of what a need is versus a want. Children as young as age 4 begin to understand there are certain things that we need in order to function in daily life such as food; something such as a toy is a want and should be reserved for a special occasion or holidays. Conversations when an item is received about how it was a special treat, birthday gift, or to celebrate a holiday increases understanding in children and better prepares them when in a situation where a “gimme” would occur.

Setting clear expectations and knowing the consequences for breaking expectations is vital at any age. We as parents set those expectations and they only work if we stand our ground and follow through.

By Karen Rieck, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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