You’re in the supermarket, working the aisles as fast as you can so you can get home in time to make dinner. Then it happens: your child throws a tantrum. Not just whining (somehow, you managed to ignore that for the last half-hour) but a full-blown, ear-shattering shriek. And she’s sprawled on the floor, blocking the way of the other shoppers who are now glaring at both of you. You can almost hear their thoughts. ‘What a brat!’ Or worse, ‘What kind of a mom can’t control her kid?’
Don’t be embarrassed—millions of moms have gone through this, and it’s not a sign of bad parenting. If you’re tired, think of what your child feels. Supermarkets are often crowded, uncomfortable, boring (she can only see rows and rows of canned goods). and full of tempting food that she can see but can’t have. Being a child, her only outlet for her boredom and frustration is to cry. Loudly.
But never fear—these solutions, tested by child psychologists and moms just like you—can help ward off most tantrums and even turn your next supermarket trip into a fun and educational activity.
1. Timing is everything
You probably want to get in out and out of the grocery as fast as possible, and that includes doing anything to get your child to behave: bribing her with food, giving in to her whimpers. Your child senses that weakness and (remembering the last supermarket disaster) escalates the tantrum, knowing that she’ll get what she wants.
To avoid this, schedule your trip when both of you are calm, rested, and free of any pressure to be home at a particular time. Ideally, your child should just have had a nap and a snack (nothing sweet, or she’ll be running wild on a sugar high before you hit aisle five). This will also give you more time to do our second tip, which is…
2. Get your child involved.
Bored children are cranky children. However, supermarkets are ripe with educational and entertaining activities. Teach her the names of fruits and vegetables, ask her to help count the items you need. Or, make her a special grocery list. This list has the name of the food and a picture, so she can spot items and check it off when she finds them. It’s like a supermarket treasure hunt! (Tip: download pictures from the Internet—like milk, eggs, bread, etc.—and save on a word document. Print out a fresh copy every time.)
Young kids like being Mommy’s little helper, and you’ll like how they’re learning how to count, read, and even follow directions.
3. Recruit older kids.
Give the older kids the responsibility of entertaining their siblings or keeping them well behaved. Tell them that they only get their ‘reward’ if everyone behaves. So instead of you nagging and screaming at everyone, they’ll remind the others: ‘Be good or we won’t get any ice cream!’
4. Bring a snack.
Don’t get kids used to eating food you haven’t paid for yet. This will only encourage them to throw a tantrum when they see something delectable on the shelf. Instead, pack a few crackers, raisins or bread with peanut butter (filling, but releases energy slowly, so she doesn’t get even more restless).
5. Pack boredom busters.
Save the toys you get from birthday loot bags and Happy Meals. Hide them away in a ‘boredom emergency kit’ that you only bring out during moments like these. Since these were small, cheap and free toys you won’t mind if your child accidentally drops and loses them in the grocery.
6. Lead them not into temptation.
Steer your grocery cart clear of tantrum zones: aisles filled with toys, candy, chocolates. If you really need to get something, park your cart at the end of the aisle and make a very fast dash.
7. Don’t stretch your trip…or your luck.
The younger the child, the shorter your trip should be. Instead of shopping just once a week, consider making two trips (your fruits, vegetables and meat will also be more fresh!) If you really don’t have the time, shop more efficiently by making a meal plan and a shopping list the night before (this also saves you a lot of money!), going to the same grocery regularly and memorizing the aisles, and scheduling your trip when there are less crowds and checkout lines.
8. Praise her for a good job.
If your child behaves, praise her lavishly and give her a treat after you put the groceries away. How is this different from bribing her? Bribes pacify bad behavior: ‘Please stop that, and I’ll buy you cookies!’ Praise rewards good behavior: ‘Wow, you were so helpful today. We finished so early, we have time to play in the park!’