Parenting

What to Do When Your Kid Throws a Tantrum in the Store

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So you’re shopping with your kid, and he asks you to buy a toy for him. You say, “Absolutely not,” but he throws a tantrum that would make the Tasmanian Devil cringe in shame: What do you do about it? A bunch of parents explained how they’ve dealt with this annoying scenario when their own kids went ballistic in the toy aisle, and they’ve got plenty of excellent tips for parents dealing with this embarrassing phase:

Lights! Camera! Action!

Physics professor Richard Muller wrote: “Take out your smartphone and take a movie. Tell him you want to preserve this precious moment. Tell him you want to show everyone how he acted. Tell him you want to show the movie to him when he grows up.”

“I did this to one of my children when she was throwing a tantrum at about age 4. She stopped immediately, but there is a potential downside: to this day she still resents what I did. It seems to be one of her earliest memories.”

Turn it into a priceless lesson in economics.

Engineer Mathew Georghiou said: “When our daughter was young (age 3 – 7) and we would go shopping, we would tell her ahead of time that she could buy one thing that was less than $5. At first, she did not understand how to read a price tag, so we would say to look for a 1, 2, 3, or 4 on the price tag.”

“This empowered her to feel that she was part of the shopping experience and turned her attention to assessing the products, comparing prices, and replacing one product with another whenever she found something that was more desirable. She learned to become a discerning shopper and it provided a good foundation for her financial literacy education.”

“Now that she is a bit older and ‘making’ her own money, we allow her to spend her own money by setting a shopping limit, like $10 or $15. It seems to still work well (fingers crossed).”

“Over a few years, this might have cost us a couple of hundred dollars total; a small price to pay for such valuable experiential learning.”

High stakes negotiations.

“My older daughter was very smart and was a pragmatist from the day she was born,” Vicki Robinson wrote. “I told her when she was three, that crying and screaming would never change my mind, and in fact, would just make me more firm in my decision, but that sometimes, rarely, I might change my mind if she took my ‘no’ with calm, good grace. I think parents should change their minds sometimes, but never in response to bad behavior.”

“Shortly after that discussion, we were in the grocery store and she asked for something. I said no. She opened her mouth, started to yell, then cut it off, looked at me, and asked ‘Did I blow it?’”

“I laughed and laughed, and bought her the thing she’d asked for, and we rarely had problems after that.”

I think every parent has wanted to try this!

Patricia Parten-Charcap has an especially fun and effective way of quickly stopping an outburst:

“Personally, I’ve done the following: as people were gathering around to see my screaming child throwing a tantrum, I pretended to be just another person watching the scene unfold, ‘My, I wonder who the mother is? She must be hiding, I know I would! That’s embarrassing!’”

“He saw what I was doing, stopped, and as I pretended to leave, he came running behind me. Never tried it again! True story!”

Seriously, money doesn’t grow on trees, kiddo!

“I found this problem continued even after the five-and-under years,” said Kerry Flatley. “My kids just wanted things and didn’t understand why I was able to buy whatever I wanted, but they couldn’t get whatever they wanted.”

“So I gave them an allowance. A meager allowance that meant they had to save for whatever they wanted, and it was now up to them to buy non-essential items, but they also know that they need to pay for library fines, special treats (when I allow it), etc.”

“Now when we go into a store and they ask for something, I just say: ‘That’s something you can get with your allowance.’ It’s been interesting to see their interest wane in many items now that their own money is on the line. They also simply don’t ask as much, and now realize that money doesn’t just magically appear, and that sometimes it takes work to save for something they want.”

Ace Russian advice.

Cassella didn’t waste any time when it comes to dealing with a tantrum: “Stop what you’re doing and take him out of the store immediately. Go outside and wait for him to stop before re-entering the store. My son used to do this, but I always removed him.”

“It didn’t take too long before he realized it didn’t work. If you cave, he may continue doing this until he leaves home, in different, and ‘more mature’ ways. There’s an old saying from Russia, ‘Train the child how to act when he can still lay across the bed. By the time he has to lie the long way, it’s too late.’”

Meh.

Craig Good has an interesting battle plan: “The correct response to a tantrum, no matter what the occasion, is to do nothing.”

“Do not react to it. Any reaction is positive reinforcement of the behavior.”

“Children are the best applied psychologists anywhere. They are smart, fast learners. Very quickly they will realize that nothing is to be gained by this tactic.”

“In certain situations, where it could be disruptive to others, simply take the child elsewhere. I remember standing outside a restaurant in Mexico City holding a screaming child. I just waited her out.”

One simple, yet effective rule.

Wisnu Nugroho, an IT analyst, said “I had a simple rule for my daughter when she was little: while asking nicely doesn’t always get you what you want, demanding with a tantrum guarantees that you won’t get it. This rule applied to everything.”

“When she asked nicely, we always took our time to gently explain the reason, if we couldn’t give what she wanted. When she threw a fit, she simply got a short reminder that the answer for bad behavior was always no.”

“We never broke the rule. After several failed ‘tests,’ she learned the lesson. We never had a problem in the store, because she had learned at home that tantrums didn’t work.”

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I’m definitely impressed with the ingenuity of these parents, especially since their techniques have all been successful in the end. Unless your own child is a perfect little saint, you’ve probably dealt with an in-store tantrum at some point; how did you handle it?