10 Ways to Prevent Your Child From Having a Meltdown While Shopping


The best way to prevent your child from having a meltdown while shopping is absolutely foolproof and it works every single time without fail – for all parents. Don’t bring your child with you when you go shopping. Unfortunately for most of us, that’s not an option every single time we shop. That leaves parents wondering what we can do to ensure our kids don’t have a meltdown while shopping. And while I’m not an expert on the subject, I do have four kids, 3 of which have never had a meltdown in public. My almost 7-year-old and my 1-year-old twins can go anywhere, anytime and never act up, cry or even misbehave in the least. None of them ever have and none of them likely ever will. But my 4-year-old is a different story. She’s what we like to call a strong personality and she’s not easily bribed, swayed or affected. That sometimes makes it hard for her to go shopping with us when we tell her no, when she becomes bored or when she’s set on something impossible (like seeing an elephant and a tiger when we were at Sea World over the weekend). So here are 10 ways you might be able to prevent your kids from having a meltdown in public. Some might work for you, some might not. Good luck and here’s to all us parents without perfect angels.

Give Them the Talk Beforehand

What always works for me with my kids is talking to them before we go into a store. A simple talk before anyone is upset seems to do the trick more often than not. All we do is sit in the car on the drive over and talk about our expectations and good behavior. I ask the kids what they want to do when we get home and they give me an answer. I tell them that if they misbehave in the store, we will not do that activity at home and suddenly they are a little more inclined to behave appropriately.

Bribes Work

My toddler loves a good bribe, and I am not above using them on her. We can tell her that we’re going to give her a big cookie with M&Ms (forget that tiny free cookie the bakery offers) if she promises to behave. If she does behave, we will give her the cookie. It’s that simple. She sometimes likes a bribe. Now, she’s not a cookie fan and she’d rather go to the sub shop in the bakery and get a bag of green bell peppers and pickles, but you get what we are saying here.

Bubble Wrap

This is, hands down, the best item a kid could ever have in the store. It keeps them too busy to want to have a meltdown, and it makes them happy. It’s not noisy and annoying, so you really don’t have to worry about anyone becoming offended or anything. Just hand it over and let the kids have a good time while you shop. It’s a good way to ensure that everyone is happy with their trip.

Involve them in the Shopping

My kids love to help. They love to read the list, check things off and tell me which aisle has which items in it. We read signs; we get very involved in the shopping process together. It’s something that keeps them very distracted and unable to have a meltdown because they are far from bored. Sometimes I even let them make their own little grocery list and we get things from it, too.

Offer a Treat

If your child has a favorite snack, bring it with you. Don’t offer it up until you have to, though. You want to make sure you have something that will entice them to behave if their behavior begins to worsen, and this is a great concept. We like the idea of bringing a favorite item to offer when things are looking down.

Bring Distractions

What makes your kid happy? Playing with your phone or on a tablet with games that are quiet and entertaining? Do you have headphones you can put on a tablet to let your kids watch a favorite show or movie? Some people might not believe this is appropriate for kids to be entertained by electronics, but we think that it’s more fun than listening to them have a meltdown in the store while you shop.

Follow Through with Consequences

If you have to issue a consequence to your kids in the store, follow through. The more you do this, the less likely your kids will be to misbehave when you shop. It might not work this trip, but it’s more likely to prevent poor behavior in the future.

 Cheerio Necklaces Work

If you have some string and some cereal shaped like an “O,” you have a great way to prevent kids from becoming bored. Make them a necklace and let them eat it as you walk through the store. It’s such a good way to prevent them from misbehaving because it’s fun and it’s something you can’t buy at the store, so it’s distracting.

Go for the Balloons

My kids love balloons and will cooperate with just about anything if a balloon is the prize offered to them. Every time we get to the end of an aisle at the front of the store I remind them that they’re being awesome and awesome behavior warrants the balloon of their choice. They love that.

Encourage Good Behavior

Instead of being so negative as to only talk about and acknowledge poor behavior, we make it a point to encourage good behavior. Kids really do respond well to good behavior and they are more likely to continue to do something that makes you happy if they think that it will work. Attention is attention, and some kids look for it anyway they can. Make it a point to encourage their good behavior and you might be surprised just how much more of that they exhibit.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images


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