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Black Friday shopping with kids: All you need to know, you learned in kindergarten

Nov. 28, 2013 at 7:20 AM ET

Black Friday Rule No. 3: Don't hit people.
Alex Slitz / AP file
Black Friday Rule No. 3: Don't hit people.

Stampedes, fistfights, shouting matches and tears—a glance at Black Friday headlines can leave you wondering whether such tantrum-laden tales are coming from the aisles of an electronics store or from the carpet of a kindergarten classroom. 

Still, despite the craziness, lines, and crowds, some parents still wonder: Should you take your young kids into malls and stores on the busiest shopping day of the year?-

In Robert Fulghum’s 1986 essay, “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,”the author credits basic social graces learned in early education with being keys to success as an adult and he cautions parents: “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

When it comes to Black Friday and the associated bad behavior of grown-up shoppers, Psychology Today blogger and University of Santa Clara professor Dr. Thomas Plante agrees.

“Children will do what they see, not what they’re told,” said Plante. “Black Friday can be an opportunity for parents to teach kids how to behave, and how not to behave.”

Plante says parents have to assess their own child’s sensitivity level and their ability to handle chaotic situations before including them.

“It’s not so much about an age cut-off as it is about how well you can nurture, protect and supervise your child in the midst of the wackiness,” he says.

So, which rules from the kindergarten classroom should parents remember while searching out steal and deals with their little ones?

Rule No. 1: Share everything.
We’ve all seen news coverage of adults rushing into stores, storming into aisles and grabbing the year’s hot items off the shelves – even out of other shoppers’ hands! Plante says that, while it can be easy to get caught up in the moment, parents should avoid behaving in a way they will regret later.

“Kids are watching and will model what you do,” said Plante, who suggests using your behavior as a teachable moment for your child.

Because frustration is bound to occur during Black Friday shopping, Plante suggests having back-up plans in place for times when the items on your list are not available, such as being prepared to ask the store for a rain check or shopping for the item online later. Knowing in advance how you’ll handle being beaten to the last Xbox One can make the difference between setting a good example for your kid and leaving a lasting bad impression.

Rule No. 2: Play fair.
Tricking other shoppers, pushing and shoving and masquerading as a store employee are all strategies of die-hard Black Friday shoppers. But those tactics send the wrong message – that dishonesty is OK as long as you get what you want – to kids.

Plante says it’s all about showing kids that you have integrity – on Black Friday or any other day of the year.

“It’s not always easy to behave in honest and fair ways when it comes to getting what we want,” said Plante. “However, our values and the resulting behavior of practicing those values say a lot about our character – or lack thereof.”

Rule No. 3: Don’t hit people.
On Black Friday, stories of violence among shoppers are as plentiful as deals on HDTVs. Stampedes, fistfights and other altercations can leave parents wondering if it’s even safe for kids to be out there.

Plante recommends going into Black Friday with the mindset that no deal is worth getting injured over, especially if there are small children along for the ride.

“Things do get out of hand when people get carried away, but you don’t have to stay around and become a victim,” said Plante.

Rule No. 4: Clean up your own mess.
While no one can be expected to clean up the war zone that other shoppers make of store aisles, Plante says parents can create another teachable moment by pointing out to kids that it’s important to always clean up after themselves. Also take the opportunity to remind children of the importance of treating other people and the store’s property with respect.

Rule No. 5: Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
In the chaos of Black Friday shopping, misunderstandings can occur. Whether you’ve bumped into someone, knocked over a store display or unintentionally held up the checkout line for a price check -- always be aware that emotions are running higher than normal. It’s important to put your best manners forward and apologize if you wrong someone or cause them physical pain.

“The Golden Rule is a good one to practice here,” said Plante. “Treat others as you’d want to be treated.”

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