A few months ago I was finishing up my shopping at Sam’s Club, standing in line waiting to check-out when I heard a child screaming at the top of his lungs. (By the way, I no longer stand in line at Sams, I will tell you why a little later) It was nap time for this little person. Of course it was annoying, but my mama heart went out to that poor mother. I’ve been there so many times. She was probably sweating like crazy, feeling all eyes on her and trying hard to concentrate on what she needs (unsuccessfully) so she could out of there ASAP. This child continued to cry, loudly, and I could tell what part of the store they were in as they did their shopping.
As I stood in line I heard the clerk talking to the woman in front of me that she was checking out. She said something like, “people should not shop with their children when they’re screaming like that. If my child was doing that I would stop everything and leave. I would not put up with that behavior.” Well, my guess is that this clerk doesn’t have kids, or it has been a long while since she took one shopping. Anyone with children has probably had an experience like this shopping with their child, I know I have.
I thought I would share a few ideas with all those new mothers out there. I am now 40 with 5 children and my youngest just turned 5, I still get a tantrum every once in a while. I feel that I have learned a few things over the years about how to avoid tantrums or dealing with them. I have tried many things as well. Every child is different, so what works for one may not work for another. Also, I’ve noticed that every day is different so what may work one day may not work another.
First you need to think about what causes tantrums. Children that are tired, hungry, or they just feel entitled to everything around them.
Have snacks on hand– I remember a time when one of my boys (not quite 2 years old), about half way through a shopping trip, was suddenly tired AND hungry and started throwing a fit. This caused me so much stress and anxiety and made it hard for me to concentrate. I moved quickly through the store to get to check-out, grabbing things along the way, hoping I wouldn’t forget anything. As we were in line to check-out, and the fit continued, a sweet mother behind me asked if she could give my son a Dum Dum sucker. At that point I didn’t care that it was going to make my child sticky from head to toe, from the drool draining from his mouth as he ate it. I was just grateful for a way to make him stop. It’s amazing what a simple Dum Dum can do. So, I began to keep some kind of snack in my purse for my children between 6 months to 5 years. The Gerber puffs for little ones, Dum Dum suckers, fruit snacks, fishy crackers, smarties, bread…anything that won’t make too big of a mess. With that, a small package of wipes is great as well. A sippy is nice too, but most stores have a drinking fountain and kids love those. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just take my diaper bag along every time. Well, I did for only so long. Once my children hit a certain age I didn’t drag my diaper bag along. Who wants to have the big diaper bag as well as their purse, along with dragging a child around, possibly holding them half the time. NOT ME. Some people use the backpacks for their diaper bag which I bet work awesome, keeping their wallet in their diaper bag. But I liked having my purse to keep my stuff separate from the baby stuff.
Give them incentives- If your child has their eyes on a prize it will give them something to work towards. Maybe you allow them to pick a treat at the end, stop at the park on the way home, do a fun activity when you get home etc. Praise them at the end of the shopping trip when they have behaved. Give them specifics of behovior that made you happy. The only thing with offering incentives is you don’t want them to expect a treat or “prize” every time you go somewhere, so be careful how you use this one.
Let them earn and bring their own money -Another time, I had taken my daughter ( about 3 or 4 years old at the time) to Toys R Us. Being child number 2 I hadn’t learned much about fit throwing at the store. My first child was very easy going and I only remember a few tantrums from him at home. Anyway, we were likely getting a birthday gift for someone and I didn’t have money to buy my daughter something as well. That or I just didn’t want to give in to her “need” for everything in the store. She wanted something and I told her she couldn’t have it. She began to cry. That crying quickly escalated to her dropping to the floor kicking and screaming. I wasn’t putting up with that so I started walking away with the cart, she grabbed hold of the cart still on the floor, being dragged, crying, slowly to the check-out. Something I have tried that works, for the most part, is that I allow them to earn money so then they have the responsibility. If they want to buy something, they have to bring their money. Then they are limited to certain things in their price range. So, when they want something I ask, “do you have money?” If they don’t, they usually leave it at that and make sure they bring it next time.
Let them know your expectations- Over the last few years when we go to a store and I know my 5 year old doesn’t have money and I am not willing to buy something, as we are walking into a store I say, “today I am not buying you anything ok, I don’t want any fits” He says, “can I tell you all the things I want for next time?” Getting down on their level and looking them in the eye when telling them what you expect is ideal. After I tell my child this, he goes through the store and tells me all the things he wants, and by next time those wants have changed or he completely forgets what it all was. Around Christmas time we even do the list for Santa. Rather than buying things I let him take my phone and he takes pictures of all the things he wants, so I can “send his list to Santa”. Again, many things are forgotten but it helps me out because I can choose, from that list, some things I am willing to get him for Christmas. I do still get a fit from him every once in a while, but over all this one works like a charm.
Nap Time, avoid it or come prepared-Another thing when taking children shopping is avoiding nap time. If possible, don’t take your child shopping during nap time. BUT, there are times when going shopping during nap time is unavoidable. Something I liked to do on days like that was make sure I had a blanket or pillow to take with us. When they are little and still fit in the carrier car seat, it’s great because you can keep them in the seat and let them sleep. But when they get bigger and you can’t do that any more, letting them sleep in the cart is great. For a while I would hold them throughout the store as they slept. It killed my back and slowed me down so bringing something soft for them to sleep on in the cart saved me. I can’t count how many times I had a child sleep through a whole shopping trip in a cart on a blanket or coat.
Shop early without kids- The type of shopping I hate the most with children is grocery shopping. Grocery shopping isn’t fun anyway, but to add a tantrum to it can put you over the edge. For a long while I would go shopping at 6 am. No children, no crowds=pleasant shopping experience. This school year has thrown me for a loop though, because my first child to get out the door is at 6:30, I’m back to grocery shopping with a child. Another plus to shopping so early is that I have it done before my day really starts.
Take a deep breath and allow the tantrum– Sometimes a child just needs to throw his/her tantrum, get it out and move on. I’ve hit a point in my life-maybe I’m just getting old and tired, without the energy to care – where, when my child starts throwing a fit, I just smile and keep moving on. Of course I acknowledge him and his feelings and talk through it with him, “I know you want that toy, do you have money? Well, if you don’t have money then you can’t buy the toy, right? I don’t have money for toys today. I know you feel angry when you can’t have what you want. It’s hard when you can’t have the things you want right now…” But even this doesn’t help sometimes. So, the fit is thrown and I do my best not to let it get to me. If people around me don’t like it, I am so sorry. I know it’s hard to hear, like nails on a chalkboard sometimes, but every now and then kids are going to throw fits and they just gotta get it out. If my husband is with me (which rarely happens) and a child starts throwing a fit, he gives them a warning and then if they choose to continue, he takes them to the car where they can get it all out.
Allow them to learn a lesson-Lessons can be learned when fits are thrown. I remember when my oldest was throwing a fit (this was at home, not shopping) and I put him in his room, giving him his own space to get it all out. He continued to throw his fit and was banging on the door. I gave him a few minutes to finish his fit, then checked on him. This is what he looked like when I found him. He had been banging his head on the door and gave himself a bloody nose. I think he learned something from that.
Last summer, child number 5 was throwing a fit while shopping and was trying to get me to “go back” because he wanted something. After letting him look at the big ginormous swing set and explaining to him that I didn’t have money for that, I decided to ignore him and let him throw his fit as I pushed through the shopping trip. At this point I was pulling the cart from the front and he was pushing the cart the opposite direction, you know, feet sliding as I pull the cart forward. Well, somehow his hand slipped and …I don’t even know how it happened but he suddenly fell to the floor crying, a painful cry. I thought his finger got pinched or something as he was holding it so I picked him up, ready to kiss it better. NO his finger didn’t get pinched, his little thumb nail had been ripped off…COMPLETELY!! Somehow as he pushed and I pulled, his hand had slipped and gone through the cart or something and it just ripped his nail completely off. I felt like the worst mom EVER. For a few days I played it over and over in my mind and tried to imagine how it happened. It was awful. I didn’t think the nail would grow back as even the part under the skin had come out. Well, it grew back and he was fine but when he started throwing his fit again, in the very same way, at that very same store, I reminded him what happened before, and he chose not to continue with his tantrum.
Distractions-I admit that as much as I get tired of “screens”… on those days that I just don’t want to deal with the possible tantrum that may be thrown, usually days when I’m in a hurry and want to get in and out as fast as I can, I let my child bring his tablet and play games. Back when I only had one child, I was lucky if I had a flip phone, but today “screens” are so common and if we forget the tablet, he can always play on my phone. EASY OUT!
Giving your child responsibility while shopping CAN distract them from fit throwing or needing everything they see. If you have time before a trip to the store, write a list of items for your child to gather. Because they don’t read, you can draw a simple picture so they know what the item is, have them check off the items as they go. Some stores have the tiny shopping carts perfect for a child with this responsibility. We have even brought our own little cart from home for my child to use.
Use conveniences available- I’m not sure if any other stores offer this but Sam’s Club has an app called Scan & Go that has changed my shopping experience immensely. I love it because once I’m in the store I pull up the app and start scanning everything I put in may cart. It gives me a running total so I know where I’m at with my budget as well. When I’m finished scanning (something else the kids can help with, even if it is just to help find the bar-code on the package) rather than go stand in line to unload my groceries and have a checker scan them, and put them back in my cart, then got through the process of payment, I just push a button and it charges my card and I walk past the checking lines and go directly to the exit to have the associate scan the bar code on my phone, showing her what I bought. Then I’m on my way. This can save me up to 15 min, and for ME every minute counts. By the way, this is not a paid add for Sams, it is just something I love and want to share.
Here in Utah I know that some locations of Smith’s Marketplace and Walmart offer online grocery shopping for curbside pickup. I’ve never tried it before and really should, but I have friends who have and swear by it. It eliminates shopping with kids at all.
So, after all the years, and all the kids, and all the shopping that I have done, I’ve decided that I am going to be that “old lady” to save the day with a Dum Dum (maybe something less messy) or some other relief for that mother, like talking to the child or playing peek-a-boo (that will shut them up sometimes, the whole stranger danger thing. I’ve had children freeze like a statue just because I look at them and smile) rather than judge and be annoyed.
I hope these ideas help someone out there. I would love to hear what has worked for you, maybe it can help someone else. Please share in the comments below what has helped you in avoiding or dealing with tantrums while shopping.