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Lessons of an Abandoned Grocery Cart

wire-shopping-cart-180LIt’s amazing how we can make life lessons for our children from the smallest things – life lessons for the positive… or not. When I was walking across a grocery store parking lot the other day, I saw the mother of a five year old who was loading groceries from the shopping cart into her car while the little boy was watching.

After she finished, the mother put the empty grocery cart by a median in the parking lot next to her car (not in the designated space for empty carts). At first, I thought that, since she was the mother of a little boy and she didn’t want to leave him at the car to stow the cart away appropriately, it made some sense. It certainly made sense on the surface from a safety perspective, but what was the message that the little boy received when he saw his mother abandon the cart? (NOTE: While he may not have been consciously observing what his mother did; it nevertheless made an impression unconsciously because that is the nature of the young child’s absorbent mind – it takes in everything!)

As I thought more about this, I realized that taking the extra minute to return the cart to the appropriate place would have provided the child with three very important lessons. The first is the mother modeling how to walk safely and look vigilantly when walking with the empty cart through a parking area. The second is to reinforce the child’s sense of order (something was taken out and needed to be put back in its appropriate space – just like in the classroom!). The third lesson is a bit more profound.

Rather than abandoning the cart, she could have returned it to its rightful place, and said to her accompanying child how good she felt for putting the cart where it belonged. By doing this, she would have modeled closure of a task and the good feeling of accomplishment she had. This small point is the essence of developing motivation in your child. Our human brains give us a “good feeling” when we complete a task, and this is what motivates us to take on other tasks. By finishing a task and describing to your child how good it feels to have done so, you will help your child develop his or her sense of internal motivation – a valuable lesson for life!

So, next time if you’re in a similar situation, don’t abandon the cart – use it as a life lesson!

Thanks for reading.

 

Warmly,

Fred Catlin, Director, AMCC

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