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The holidays are getting closer. My shopping list is somehow getting longer. And I think “wouldn’t it feel so good to get the holiday shopping done early for once?” But there’s one thing standing in my way. One menacing, adorable roadblock …. my kids.

Let’s face it, shopping with kids can be tricky, but during the holidays it can be outright daunting. The kids are already so excited about presents, fun events, and sticky treats, it’s hard to get down to business walking down those store aisles without getting sidetracked by their enthusiasm (and occasional bad behavior).

So from the unique perspective of always looking for opportunities to improve emotional intelligence, here are some tips for taking your little peeps with you on those holiday shopping missions.

Set expectations.

Let the kids know in advance that you’re shopping for cousin Asher and Emma and Aunt Natalie, not for them. This will help curb their expectations so it’s not an “I want” free-for-all.

Task them.

My kids love to help, and I find that the more tasks I assign to them, the more cooperative they become. If they’re little, ask them to find things, carry things or load your cart. If they’re bigger, they can push carts, find store clerks, load the car and even save time by calling stores on the way to ask if they have what you’re looking for.

Set a reward.

While I don’t typically reward good behavior or helpfulness with goodies, let’s call holiday shopping a perfect opportunity to practice self-control. If you let your kids know there will be a treat after errands are done, and help them to wait patiently for it by distracting themselves, you’ll actually be practicing delayed gratification, a major component of their emotional intelligence! Think of it less as a bribe and more as something to look forward to.

Make it fun.

Kids are far less prone to engage in self-pity or nagging behavior when they’re making fun family memories. Blare Christmas music in the car and play games to see who can spot the best outdoor lights along the way. If there’s a quick stop where I only need one item in a store, I challenge the kids to do a “mad dash” and we run through the aisles like a pack of lunatics. Warning: This is not very popular with store clerks.

Arm them with a sense of purpose.

Kids have more depth and understanding than we sometimes give them credit for. Explain to them why your family gives gifts during the holidays and how you want friends and family to feel upon opening them, and shed some light on what those loved ones mean to you. Your daughter doesn’t know that Uncle Freddy stayed by your side when you had an ancient virus called chicken pox or that Grandma once marched into the principal’s office to fight for you to enjoy longer school recesses. There’s a history of love here, kids!