You can hear them aisles away. They release an outburst of deep emotional trauma, easily confused with heinous child abuse, incurring a "do something about that kid" stare from everyone in the store. Your three-year-old wants the bubbles and you dared to deny him. Maybe this is your kid. At some point it's all of our kids--so what should we do to prepare for it?
Thanks to clever marketers, everything your child could ever want is strategically positioned at their level. The cereal aisle is a parent’s purgatory, featuring rows of brightly-colored, cartoon-laden sugary delights that even the most mild-mannered child cannot resist. If a good chunk of your shopping cart is cluttered with your child’s must-haves, you need an intervention. Here goes:
1. Be truthful to your child.
If you tell your toddler tyrant he may not have the coke (conveniently located) near the register, you need to follow through. If you say no, but then give in after your public embarrassment meter starts to blow, you made yourself a liar. The next time you say no, kiddo will know at exactly what decibel he or she needs to wail for your white flag to go up. And if that won't do it she'll ratchet it up a couple notches for good measure.
2. Don't be afraid to leave the store.
In a perfect world, you could tote your screaming kid down the aisles, ignoring him until he stops. At home you'd probably put him in his room until he chooses to quit throwing a fit. But you are in public, comrade. There's an entirely different dynamic at the store. Don't rope innocent bystanders into your family drama. Apologize profusely to customer service for your unpaid cart and get that kid home. They'll secretly thank you for it anyway.
3. Stage mock shopping trips.
There's nothing more stressful than shopping with a fit-throwing child while you absolutely have to buy the goods that day. This almost always leads to impromptu, peacekeeping kid victories that teach stressful mommy = carte blanche. Plan a couple of trips where you need nothing from the store other than a good learning lesson. As soon as Princess starts her thing, turn the cart around and leave without a scene. Keep your blood pressure under control while proving yourself truthful to her--you will indeed leave to a less desirable location when she attempts a coup.
4. Enlist your child to partake in planning.
As soon as your little one can identify different foods, make the shopping list with him. He will enjoy checking to see if there are any eggs in the fridge or bread on the counter. Review your list with him and even practice some reading skills. Before shopping, remind him that we can only get what is on the list. Give him the marker to cross off items as they go in the cart. If he starts to protest the denial of sugary cereal, look for it with him on the list and empathize with him. "Oh man, I'm sorry. It's not on the list. Let's look for something that is." The list becomes the bad guy, not you.
5. Limit the marathon shopping expeditions.
Some children have a rough time with transitions and need some time in between stores to destress. There is an intense amount of sensory overload in most places that adds a huge amount of tension to young children. I even get overwhelmed after an hour. So take it easy and break up the week's shopping, if at all possible. You'll avoid an overload of images and subsequent meltdown.