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Avoiding Meltdowns

Ah, the sound of young ones screaming in grocery stores, malls or other retail establishments…those of us who have at one point or other discovered that the toddler we have in tow is really too tired for public appearances do have a bit of sympathy for the poor parent or nanny, don’t we? Of course, some of us with selective memories fool ourselves into thinking, My children never behaved that way!

A couple of my friends, though, gave me great advice while my little ones were still in the cradle as to how to avoid tantrums in grocery aisles, toy stores, and even when the jingle of an ice cream truck comes into hearing.

  • Use rule reminders. While adults assume that by their umpteenth trip to the store with Mom or Dad, a child should know the rules, young children truly need reminding. With the under-six crowd, each time you head to the store, pause before entering and remind your charges, “Remember, we use inside voices. We only buy what is on the list or on sale. If I say no to an item, don’t ask again. Got it?” Substitute your own non-negotiables, but keep your list to three or four. With slightly older children, ask them to tell you the rules—they respond to this better than to lectures.
  • Watch your child’s clock. This may seem obvious, but naptime, mealtime and bedtime are danger zones. Yes, it’s convenient to pop into the store after you pick up your children from day care, but it seldom becomes quality time. Plan in advance to avoid these hazard zones. Remember that by definition, children are immature; exhaustion makes it even harder for them to disregard their natural impulses and be sweet shoppers.
  • Involve them. When you’re making your list (and please invest time in this—to save time and money and eat more healthy foods), let your children add a few items. This introduces them to the skills of planning ahead and resisting impulses.

There were a few months, shortly after my second child started walking and detested sitting still in the cart, where I chose to hit the grocery store at 5 AM while my husband could cover the home front, rather than teach proper store behavior. Tough times call for tough choices! While it might take some time to remold habits using these tips, it’s worth it. Grocery shopping can become as fun as any field trip if you and your children are prepared.

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is