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How to Survive a Grocery Store Tantrum

How to Survive a Grocery Store Tantrum

We've all been there. The shopping cart is full of groceries and you're just a couple of shoppers away from the checkout clerk when your toddler goes ballistic. A minute ago she was nibbling on a graham cracker, but now she wants "wa wa NOW," and is out of control.

You want to disappear through the floor. The thought "Should I stay or should I go?" flashes through your mind. Should you make a beeline for the door and abandon a grocery cart full of groceries, not to mention your relationship with your local clerk (who will have to retrace your steps and return all the perishables)? Or, do you let your kid scream on while you try to ignore the vicious glares of strangers?

When my three kids were toddlers, I always fled. I did so frustrated and frazzled, knowing full well that if anyone in the house wanted to eat, we'd have to return for round two later that day. I preferred the disappointment of a job left undone over withstanding the stares of other shoppers and the misery of soldiering on with a tight grip on my wailing child's arm. (One older relative actually told me that she would keep a hard pinch on her kid's arms through the whole store. This was obviously before the days when bruises on your child's body were grounds for a visit from Child Protective Services.)


I've come to the conclusion that as much as we try with various tactics - making sure they've napped, are fed and have their favorite toy with them, we can't always control when toddler tantrums happen. At least there's comfort in knowing you're not the only mom whose toddlers go crazy in public. Many Circle of Moms members have shared tales of grocery store meltdowns -- as well as great ideas for handling the shopping store meltdown without melting down yourself.

Jennifer, for one, says she simply ignores the stares of fellow shoppers and tries to find the humor in the situation. "When my 5-year-old was younger and she used to throw a tantrum, as long as it wasn't on the concrete or something, I would let her have her tantrum and stand or sit nearby," she says. "These people that stop and look don't usually have children themselves and have no idea what you're going through, but usually no one flat out stops."

Nichole I. agrees, saying bring on the stares. "My 19-month-old does it and I just let her go on with it and eventually they will tire themselves out," she says. "If people stare, let them. In most cases they don't have kids."

Some moms find that serving up choices mid-supermarket works. "I tell my kids that their behavior is unacceptable and then I offer them a choice," says Karli B. "They can choose to behave properly or they can choose to go home and I will come out without them at a later time. I find that giving them a choice, even at 2 years old, puts the responsibility for their behavior on them and they will usually choose the right one. I give them three chances and then I tell them that they have made [their] choice to leave and we are going home. "

In an attempt to keep her own composure, Karli B. says: I just stay focused and concentrate very hard on staying calm, taking deep breaths and no matter what they say or promise I just keep walking. I follow through with what I have said and they learn very quickly that I mean what I say and they usually don't push too much anymore."

But like me, there are many moms out there who just panic and flee.

"I usually give my son a VERY stern word and pick him up and leave," says Circle of Moms member Carmina B. "I hate the embarrassment of looking like I have a naughty child, especially because I'm a young mother and people are extra judgmental."

And Andrea E. says she leaves too, but not before she smiles at the people who are staring. "When people stare at my 'awful' child, judging me, I nod and smile. If I feel like I might lose it, I pick up the child and leave the store. It's inconvenient, but they get the message that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated and if they want to act up they can do so in their room at home. Then I sit down and have a glass of wine."

How do you keep from losing it when your toddler melts down in public?

Image Source: MaxsMom via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
MichelleFord81074 MichelleFord81074 5 years
I'm only 20 and have a 2 year old daughter and most people are a bit shocked when they find out I have a daughter so I often feel I am being looked upon worse than an older lady. To make it a bit harder I can't just leave as I don't have my licence and even if my partner is with me our car is broken and we can't afford to fix it or purchase a new one, so I have taken the approach that I feel is my best option, I simply look at her and let her chuck her tantrum, smile at any lookers, when she is finally done I get down to her level and tell her it was naughty what she did and that she is a good girl and good girls shouldn't chuck tantrums, or I pick her up move her off to the side and try to get her to calm down (this is usually the method I try first. If all else fails and Im losing my mind I simply go wait for the bus and when we get home she goes for a nap, or goes to her room to play or do something quiet.
KristineTennyson KristineTennyson 5 years
My daughter decided to throw a fit in the store and I just picked her up and placed her on the bench, sat down next to her and said " we will wait til you are done then finish shopping" It took about 1 minute then she realized I wasn't going to give in and was very good the rest of the trip.... I don't care about the other people in the store staring I just do what I need to do.... Sticking to your word is the biggest thing you can do when teaching your kids... And going home is usually what they want to do so doing that is just giving in and letting them run the show... in my opinion you need to be in charge and if you need to shop thats what you should do...Letting other people or your child run the show will only get you in trouble later....
CyndieLerisseMarco CyndieLerisseMarco 6 years
i have 2 kids, 5 and 3. I tell them before going that we will not buy what we have at home and what we do not need.I will let them choose 2 things that they want and we will buy only if i think that it is okay for my purse. It always work for me. Usually they choose very little things which i can afford.
ShelleyVice ShelleyVice 6 years
well i have a 3 yr old, 7 yr old, and a 9 yr old, so 90% of the time i wait until there father's home to do groccery shopping so i can go alone or have him go with me. But there have been times i really needed to go to the store n had to take them with and just about every time one of them have a melt down, the older two i can usually say if you are not going to behave then you will not come with me no more and when we get home you can be grounded to your room the rest of the night. When it comes to my 3yr old though that's not even an option lol, he throws temper tantrums i can usually get through it until im at the check out waiting to pay and people stare and make observe faces but i just keep sitting him back in his seat telling him to be quiet and when ive had enough of the faces n stares i say loudly enough for them to hear, "You need to sit down and be quiet so these rude people will stop staring at you" they usually tend to mind there own business and my son turns to see them turning away from staring and it quiets him up for bit. Then i wait patiently while he stirs up another tantrum and let him scream, when we go to the store we always buy a dessert like ice cream etc. and when i get the car i let him know when we go home to fix dinner afterwards you will not be getting a dessert because you were misbehaving.
DennaGuilbeau DennaGuilbeau 6 years
I have a six year old and a three year old both girls the oldest i can let in on the stunt unless she is the one also pitching a fit sometimes I tell them if they do not stop mommy will take them home or sometimes i tell them If you dont stop crying like that Im gonna leave you here for people to look at and I slip around the corner just out of reach where i can still see them and grab the cart but where they think oh no i was being so naughty mommy left they yell and i tell them if they do it again we will leave that useually nips it in the butt,,,,, other times i stright out am honest and say do you see all these people they have had little kids just like you and they are all stareing at you i reverse the embarrassing roll onto them so they look around and usually all it takes is them catching the eye of one onlooker they stop also i found the paper towle isle at wal mart makes for an awsome time out spot But other than that I will pick something out once and a while to keep them occupied like a book or mag or a note pad and pen let them color (thats from home) and it keeps them busy : )
RebeccaWilson RebeccaWilson 6 years
The thing I have found that works with grocery store tantrums is to let my son hold on to something that he has picked out at the store. If you do this whenever the child picks something out that he/she likes. (Just make sure it's not something they can get into and spill everywhere....made this mistake with some donuts once!) They went everywhere. Just pick what they can hold. Most of the time I let my son hold the applesauce or the juice that I normally pack in his lunch. try this approach and it may have success for you :) has worked so far for me!
AnnieCatling AnnieCatling 6 years
My son has meltdowns because I am being a GOOD PARENT and stopping him from having anything he wants. He's good as gold in the supermarket if I let him have chocolate/icecreams/cakes/biscuits/crisps. Frustration is the main cause because, like many tantruming children, he's intelligent, inquisitive, curious and wants to control his environment. I, apparently, never had tantrums myself. But then, I'm boring, quiet and want to be liked by everyone. I'm just different to my son. I had lots of strategies to deal with him depending on the situation but mostly making sure he was safe and then ignoring it as he soon stopped then. Whatever you do, do it consistently and with love (I never found slapping makes any impact on Alex but movement restriction works wonders - still use that now)
WandaThibodeaux WandaThibodeaux 6 years
The issue isn't whether to stay or go. The issue is whether to enforce rules that have been established PRE-grocery store. I do not hesitate to make my children take a time out right in the store. If people look, I make sure they hear me tell my child that the home rules still apply when we are out in public, and that I'm sorry they are unhappy. I don't raise my voice, but I'm extremely firm and don't change my mind or try to pacify them. I don't ignore them, though. Sometimes kids throw tantrums BECAUSE you don't look or talk to them, so I find acknowledging them helps.
KrystelKereama KrystelKereama 6 years
I remember when my precious 2 yr old was having a meltdown in a store and getting stares, headshakes and filthy looks from on-lookers, and I just looked at them and nicely said "its worse for me than it is for you" and patiently waited my turn to be surved at the counter. I got some agreeable headshakes after that.
PattiBrown51349 PattiBrown51349 6 years
I used to scream with my kids when they were toddlers and now I do it with my grandkids. Not real loud,mind you, but just a little scream. Then I asked my kids, "is that the loudest you can scream? Come on you can do better than that!" Usually they're so confused by my actions, they shut up right away or try to out yell me, which never worked. Even if I just barely yelled, they thought it was loud enough to out do them and it kept them quiet. If nothing else, stick a sucker in their mouths. :)
antoinettecolley antoinettecolley 6 years
I have an 3 year old boy and I never got to the point where I would leave the store unless I was getting something meaningless anyways. Now I learned a lil trick that work every time... My son will start his hollering and putting on a show and instead of getting frustrated I'll park the shopping cart and I tell him well since ur so upset I guess I can just leave and by the third step away from the cart his response is always so mommy I'm ready to calm down now. So I get my groceries and a happy child on the way home. I think children sometimes need to understand if they act a certain way it's gonna drive ppl away to a certain extent of course I will never leave my child in the store but he doesn't know my bluff :)
TelishaLee TelishaLee 6 years
I agree with Ron!!! I do have children a 4 and 3 yr. Old. There is NO WAY I am leaving a basket full of food b/c my child decides to act out. If the talking doesn't work than I am more than certain the "seat of understanding" will!!! If you cater 2 their tantrum once it will happen again.
nichole69799 nichole69799 6 years
I let him throw the tantrum and tell him he won't be allowed to play with one of his favorite toys, I go check-out and I don't care one TINY bit that people are staring. I'm doing the best job I can and if they think they can do better I want to see them have a child and go through the same thing.
HeatherCollings29411 HeatherCollings29411 6 years
What I do is get my cell phone out and start video taping them. They usually stop immediately. When I did it the first time, I was in shock that it actually worked but it did.
JillReed JillReed 6 years
Food for thought: it's easy when you can just pick up and leave the grocery store, as per this article - but what do you do when you are trying to leave somewhere your preschooler wants to be? And you have a small toddler with you. Try that one.
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