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What to do when shopping is a nightmare

Q: My child had a complete meltdown in the store yesterday. At home it is easy to put her in a timeout, but when I am in public it is much harder to do. Sometimes I just give in to get her to stop screaming. Are there any ways to cope with this?

 A: Children will test the limits when you are in public with them. When kids are in the store they see a variety of things they really “want and need.” They see you shopping and feel as though it is unfair that they should not get something as well. Explaining that toilet paper is something you are buying for the whole family and not just for yourself will fall on deaf ears.

To alleviate some of the pain of shopping with kids you can do the following:

  • Before you go in the store, remind your children that you will not be buying anything for them.
  • Let them know there will be a consequence if they scream about it. This consequence may be not getting something later, a timeout in their room, not being able to shop with you the next time or leaving the store.
  • If you are going to allow your children to buy something, be sure to tell them ahead of time and give them boundaries. For example, “Today you can pick out a pack of gum to share.” If they whine that they want more, you can tell them, “If you continue to complain about wanting something else then you will lose your gum as well.”

Finally, don’t give in! Walk out with a screaming child and carry her, if necessary. Plenty of parents do it. You may find other parents with sympathetic smiles for you because they have been in the same situation. If you give in, there will be another episode the next time you shop.