Every parent dreads negative behavior and/or tantrums in public places. It happens (yes, to everyone!), but they can be embarrassing and frustrating. Grocery stores seem to be “hot spots” for tantrums – maybe because of boredom, lack of attention, and tempting objects in the toy/candy aisles. Tantrums/meltdowns may not be completely unavoidable, but there are some things you can do that can help prevent them from happening.
- Pre-teach before heading into the store. Your rules might be different than other parents, but decide what they are and make them very clear to your kiddos. While driving to the store, remind children about the expectations for when you are in the store. Also remind them about any consequences (positive or negative) that might happen.
- Use PRAISE and REWARDS. Praise your child often while at the store for sitting still in the cart, walking right next to you, using an inside voice, etc. Keep a lollipop, sticker, or some other small reward in the car or in your purse. Have clear expectations for how your child can earn that reward while in the store. For example, your child might earn a reward if they can use an inside voice. Or they might earn a reward if they can accept “no” appropriately when asking for something.
- Get your kiddo involved – think of a way to engage with them while you shop. Challenge your kiddo to help you find the items on the list. Have them cross off things on the list as you find them. Create a guessing game for what aisle items will be in or how long it will take to find something. This will make the trip more fun (possibly for both of you!) and provide your kiddo with the attention they crave.
- Keep them occupied. If getting them involved won’t work, give them something to keep them occupied. Let them bring a toy to the store or give them a book to read in the cart. Tablets and phones can be great entertainment, if you’re OK with screen time at the store. This will help prevent any boredom.
- PRACTICE! It might seem silly, but practice truly does increase your kiddos’ chances of success. Go to the store when you only need a few things and practice appropriate public behavior with your children. Going when you only need a few items means you can spend more time praising your child while they practice, and means they get to practice for a shorter period of time.
- Don’t be afraid to leave the store, if needed. If your child becomes too disruptive or you’ve had enough, but haven’t checked out yet, leave your items with an employee and get out of there. You can also try taking your child to the car to calm down, then returning for your items once they’re calm.