You know how it goes. You’re halfway through the store with a cart full of stuff you really (want) need. And then, it happens.
Your kid throws the tantrum to end all tantrums. Maybe because you didn’t buy that box of sugary cereal he really needs, maybe because nap time was an hour ago. Whatever the cause, you have a choice to make. Abandon your perfectly filled cart and head for the car, or snap your kid out of it and continue shopping.
Believe me, I’ve been there. I understand the frustration you’re feeling, and the desperation to get through the store, just once, without getting dirty looks from childless shoppers. These tricks have gotten me through years of shopping with my two kids. Hopefully, they’ll work for you, too.
1. Offer food
Every experienced mom knows weapon number one for child breakdowns is food. I always keep a bag of crackers, cereal or whatever treat they’re into at the moment, and offer it up at the first sign of tears. It might ruin lunch, but they tend to stop screaming when their mouths are full of something yummy. Totally worth it.
2. Put them in the cart
You know how cranky you get when your feet are tired? Same goes for your kids. If we’ve been hitting the stores for a while and I can sense they’re starting to turn on me, I offer up a seat – even if it means rearranging my entire cart just so they have a place to sit. The chance to rest their feet is sometimes all they need to calm down a bit.
3. Hand over your phone
If your kids are anything like mine, they can operate your smartphone just as well (if not better) than you can. I keep mine loaded up with a few kid-friendly apps and let them play games while I peruse the store. It helps that I don’t let them play on it at home, so this rare treat works miracles. If you can’t bear to place your precious phone in those sticky toddler fingers, pack a children’s tablet to hand over when needed.
4. Play a game
You need a diversion, and fun little games are the perfect way to get your child’s mind off of whatever caused the meltdown. When I get desperate, we play I Spy, or see who can find the most products that start with the same letter as their name. Since I’m usually busy looking for groceries, they tend to win. That always helps.
5. Let them help
Get your kids involved in grocery shopping and they might find it to be a little more bearable. I pick out the items on my list and hand them over to them for placement in the cart. When they get older, I’ll let them find the items on my list. As much as it drives me crazy, I’ve found that just letting them push the cart (as long as no other shoppers are in their path) goes a long way toward delaying a tantrum.
6. Turn it into a learning experience
Keep their minds busy and they won’t remember what they were mad about in the first place. When we’re grocery shopping, my kids and I like to talk about which foods are the healthiest choices, and my oldest child has started helping me figure out which item is the best deal. It may make our trip take a bit longer, but that’s worth it if it’s a quiet trip, right?
It’s not my favorite method, but if all else fails, it works. When the going gets tough, I promise my kids something small, like stickers, a cookie or an extra hour of TV time if they manage to make it through the store without any major infractions. If they make it, they learn that good behavior has rewards. If they don’t they learn about consequences. Win-win.
8. Keep your calm
As hard as it might be, try to keep your calm while your kid is totally losing his. I know that if I’m visibly upset, they’ll feed on that and things will only go downhill. Take deep breath, envision the giant glass of wine you’ve earned after bedtime, and approach your child with a calm voice and level head.
This post is brought to you by BJ’s Wholesale Club and Procter & Gamble.