Do The Right Thing; Your Children Are Watching


We’ve all heard the stories of little mouths repeating curse words they overheard. Parents typically try to censor television and movies, so their kids are not exposed to anything inappropriate. But the reality is that kids are watching us all day, every day. In all our actions, they are learning how the world works and how humans interact with one another.

They are learning how to do the right thing.

The tone in which you and your spouse speak to each other sets your kids up for expectations of future relationships; the way you handle frustrations and anger models how one should respond in such situations. When you show kindness by holding a door, donating to a cause, volunteering your time … your child is taking it all in.

So put your shopping cart back where it belongs.

I’m going to try my best not to rant here, but this is one thing that gets under my skin. I have tried to pull into a parking space before, only to find it blocked by a stray cart that a former shopper neglected to return to either the cart corral or the store. I’m sure people have had their vehicles scratched by runaway rogue carts on a windy day. I imagine the cart wranglers sigh heavily when they come to the corral to collect them, only to spot a lone cart shoved up on the curb. 
I’ve heard a lot of arguments. And as a parent of two children who both cannot walk through a parking lot safely, I can shoot a hole in just about any of them.
The simple answer is to park near a corral. No, there will not always be a spot RIGHT NEXT to one. But across the aisle is fine. Four spots down is fine. I have heard (what feels to me a bit sanctimonious) “my child’s safety is more important than making the day better for someone whose job it is to collect carts.”
First of all, your child will not die if you leave him or her in the car for 15 seconds to run the cart back. It’s hot? Leave the door open. Or even better yet, take your kid with you. I am confused how you managed to get your children TO the cart to begin with, if you feel incapable of getting them from the cart corral back to your car. I can carry both kids. I don’t work out. It can be done. Worst case, I could drag/lead my older one while carrying the baby.
Second, those people’s job is to get carts from the corrals and return them to the store, not go on a scavenger hunt through the parking lot to collect them. It may be extremely hot or extremely cold. They are likely getting paid minimum wage. I will gladly take less than one minute to save them the hassle and make their job easier. My time is not worth more than theirs. 
While it’s not the law, the bottom line is that it’s a societal expectation. Do you leave your trash and tray on the table at fast food restaurants? No, because that’s rude. This is your responsibility. Your mess, if you will. By leaving the cart on the curb, you are saying, “someone else will take care of this for me.” Do you know what you’re child is learning? I don’t have to put away my stuff. I can use it and then leave it for someone to put away for me.
When we lived in Germany, shopping carts required a coin to unlock them from the other carts. You got your coin back when you returned it. Aldi, a German company, brought this practice to the U.S. While it’s not a foolproof method (I watched a man shove his cart onto the grass at our local Aldi), it would at least give the cart wranglers a tip for cleaning up after lazy people. 

There are plenty more examples of when we should do the right thing because it’s an expectation in our society — shopping carts just happen to grind my gears the most. 

We shouldn’t cut in line. We shouldn’t change our mind about a carton of eggs in the store and leave it on the end of the conveyor belt at checkout. We shouldn’t litter. If our toddler throws 50 percent of her dinner on the floor at a restaurant, we should make an attempt to pick as much of it up as possible — or leave a generous tip. 
The other day I was snuggling and whispering sweet nothings into my 7-month-old’s face. I told her “I love you so much. I will love you no matter what. You can be anything you want to be. Just not a jerk.”
I want to raise my kids to be kind, considerate, thoughtful people. I must have learned that from my parents. They took in foster children when I was a kid. My dad loves to pay for the person behind him in the drive-thru or for random people in restaurants. My mom gleefully hid $10 or $20 bills in my bag when I was headed back to college after a visit. They taught me how to tip generously. They never spoke ill of people.
As a result, I have learned to be kind. I compliment strangers. I tip well. I tell people “I appreciate you” when they help me with mundane tasks by simply doing their job. I donate. I paid for a woman’s groceries once when she couldn’t afford every item on the belt. I’m no saint; I have definitely honked my horn angrily. (Side note: Once I saw the same person two days later in the grocery store, and I apologized. No this is not the only time I have ever honked my horn angrily. But, long story short, after I honked, it was clear this guy was having a rough day and my urging him to hurry up was not helpful.)
Every action of our day is an opportunity to be kind, considerate and a good human. Your kids are watching you.
Do the right thing.


  1. Well said. I make it a point to smile and say hello/good morning/… and look the sales person or cashier in the eye. More often than not, the person is taken aback or just surprised. I get a totally different tone of voice back from them.

    • Yes, I’m sure it’s nice to get recognized after XX people just go through the motions with them.

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