It’s a scenario many parents dread: Your child throws a major temper tantrum in the middle of a store, because they can’t have a toy or a treat or even a random item strategically placed on a low shelf. What if I told you there’s a way that prevents this from happening (almost every time)?
Think of it like this: Even as adults, we don’t like to be blindsided or be hoping for one outcome only to get another. It’s similar for your children: When you make them a part of the planning process so they’re not (unhappily) surprised, they’re able to better cope when things don’t go their way.
To prevent a meltdown, I advise parents to follow this easy three-step plan with their children.
Step 1: Tell them the plan the day before
Advanced planning is key! Share your “mission” and let your child actively engage in creating the plan.. You can say: “We’re going to Target tomorrow. Would you like to help me make the list?” (This works great for grocery shopping as well.)
As you make the list, explain how the trip will go. “We’re going to get these five items on our list, and nothing else. Will you help me remember the list and stick to it?”
Step 2: Remind Them in the Morning
The morning of the trip, reinforce the message before you go: “Let’s make sure Mommy’s list is in her purse! Remember you’re going to help me get these five items and nothing else. I’m so glad I’ve got you as my helper.” You can repeat the plan again in the car on the way to the store.
Step 3: Find Other Ways to Make the Trip Fun
At the store, make shopping a game. Say, “How quickly can we get the five items on our list? Let’s go!”
If your child mentions wanting to stop for a toy, validate and relate to their feelings. “I’d love to get some fun things, too; but today, we agreed we are sticking to the list.”
If you take this approach each time, your child will learn what happens when you go shopping, and not be surprised that there isn’t a toy involved. And if they do have a meltdown once in a while? Make sure to validate how hard it is not to get something you really want when you want it. And add: “I’d like to buy something new too, but I’m not going to either.” You can even take a picture of your child holding the item and say, “Let’s add this to your birthday/holiday gift list.”
The more you practice this method, and the more you repeat the plan, the easier it will be for all involved and those dreaded shopping trips will be efficient and may even save you some money in the process!