Tantrum-free Shopping with Your Kids

Tantrum-free Shopping with Your Kids

Recently we had a customer who called in desperation about how to handle their child in the checkout line at a store. Many parents have experienced embarrassing episodes such as this, causing them to feel anxious about going to the store with their kids. They simply dread what will happen when the screaming and temper tantrums erupt again!

Every day, otherwise strong adults are brought to their knees, desperately attempting to extract their whining, screaming little ones from toy and candy aisles. In thousands of stores, adults who are normally calm and collected find themselves resorting to various forms of begging or bribery, trying in vain to preserve their dignity in the checkout lane.

This stress level is elevated because parents feel the judging eyes of other store-goers. Such pain and humiliation can be avoided by using the simple techniques of Love and Logic. With the following tips, shopping with small children can be joyful rather than jaw-clenching.

Practice the “Uh Oh Song” at home.
Practicing this skill at home is important because it will get kids used to the idea that you will take action when they cause problems (versus giving them endless empty warnings).

Give them a mission prior to leaving home.
Find pictures of the items you need to pick up at the store. Have your child use these images to be your helper at the store. As they get older, perhaps the mission is finding the best deal on baked beans.

Set positive expectations in the parking lot.
“I know we are going to have a great time shopping! I’m sure glad you’re here to help me find what I need!” Statements such as these are far more effective than, “If you’re really good, then I’ll get you….” or “If you don’t behave I’m going to….”

Keep the pace quick, snappy, and fun.
The faster you move through the store, the fewer problems you’ll have. Give kids the idea that it is their job to keep up with you—not the other way around.

Let them learn from the cashier.
If your child grabs something they can’t have, experiment with saying, “You may have that as long as you can pay for it.” Let your child visit with the cashier about how he or she plans to purchase the item—with no money. Some kids only need to have this experience once (without their parents rescuing or bailing them out) before learning not to grab unauthorized items for purchase anymore.

Remember that fits now are better than fits at age sixteen.
Every good fit that our kids throw when they are small is one less fit that they’ll have when they’re teenagers. And fits at the end of a shopping trip are better than fits at the beginning (see allowing kids to learn from the cashier above).

With these ideas in mind, you can keep your next trip to the store more enjoyable and less stressful. For additional tips about how to get your small child to listen the first time, watch our Painless Parenting for the Preschool Years II webinar. 


Dr. Charles Fay

Painless Parenting for the Preschool Years II

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