Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guest Post: Taking Littles Out In Public

Hello there, I am Sherry, mother of 14, soon to be 15 children. Jen has asked that I share a tip or two about parenting. I thought I would take the opportunity to write about taking lots of little children out into the public.

Back in the olden days, when I had lots of littles and only two hands, there was so much charm in my life. My whole world was encapsulated by the boundaries of my home, and what a wonderfully cozy world it was.

Going out for the necessary things in life to the grocery store, or the bank, or the doctor's office often posed a challenge. It was my unfortunate observation that children, by definition, acted like apes in public.

But I didn't want to raise a group of apes. For one thing, I didn't appreciate the ape-like creatures from other families when I went out, and ape behavior in my own children wore me out; "GET off of that! No, don't pull that off of there! What ARE you doing now?"

It occurred to me early on that, instead of trying to solve this problem from an adult viewpoint, I needed to look at it through the eyes of a child. I also tried to remember being a child in such situations myself, which reminded me that small children rarely know what to do with themselves. I know I didn't. While I, as an adult, knew where I was to stand, and then who to talk to and what to do with my body and my hands, my children had not a clue.

This is when I got the wonderful idea to give my children something to position themselves with. When they got out of the car, they were to stand with their backs against it--this kept them from running out into traffic while I unhooked the baby from the car seat. When we walked together, holding hands was a must--I would quote the line from a Three Stooges movie, "Hold hands, you lovebirds!"

If we were to enter into a store, they were to "glue" to the cart, at least one on each side, with a hand firmly grasped to the plastic or metal basket. If I had more than two walking young ones, one would take the front, the other the back, in order to keep them from stepping on each other.

If there was no cart, and my hands were full with a baby, they were trained to hold onto my skirt, back pocket, purse, etc.

Whenever in a store or other place filled with "breakables", etc., they were taught to have their hands either clasped together behind their backs or in their pockets at all times, with an understanding that we look with our eyes and not with our hands!
If I were at the bank conversing with the teller, they were to stand against the counter directly beside or in front of me. I always referred to these things as "gluing".

Of course, before we ever piled out of the car, I gave a lecture about how to act like ladies and gentlemen in public--no loud speaking, how to address people, and anything else pertaining to the particular situation. There were also sometimes warnings of correction for bad behavior or promises of rewards for good behavior, but I did not always employ either.

As the years have progressed and I had older children, they helped hold hands, etc., but the younger children were still expected to act politely, etc. I still have my little ones "glue", but the older ones are allowed to follow behind, or even push a cart or two--especially when we are doing our big shopping once-a-month and might end up with 4 carts to push to the car!

It is also nice to have an older son or daughter who can watch the little ones at home when there are some really grueling errands to tend to. With the advent of cell phones, we are only a call away should any crisis arise.

Life with littles has gotten easier over the years, but the principles I learned early on still help me today, and they are helping my children raise their own. I hope these tips can help other parents as well!


  1. Bravo! I am so thrilled to see that this is not an article about letting children explore their environment (ex: play in clothing racks, climb shelves...etc).

  2. Wonderful! I have two little boys with special needs. So structure, rules, and guidelines are huge to them. They can't work in the willy nilly world of whatever. It honestly is very confusing to them. My oldest (3 1/2 with Autism, SPD, and speech issues) knows that when he is waiting for me to get baby brother out of the car, his hand goes on the car. This gives him a rule to understand what's expected and it helps me. I am able to see his hand all the time and if it moves, I know he's possibly running as we have elopement issues (something he can't control and something very common with kids with Autism). Since starting the "hand on the car" or "hand on the cart" rule, those issues have lessened. I think it grounds him. He realizes where he is, where he should be. He's safer, I am not panicky that he might run at any second, and it teaches him boundaries.