Dear Pat,
My three year old, whose usually pretty easily redirected when he is upset, saves his absolutely worse tantrums for the supermarket. While I try to involve him in the shopping, it seems we can’t last 5 minutes before he falls apart and starts screaming. The last two times this happened I took him out of the store and brought him home. His tantrums lasted the full fifteen minutes it took to get home. I then went back to the store alone to complete my shopping. I’m embarrassed and frustrated that something as routine as grocery shopping can be such a nightmare. How can I turn this situation around?

Dear Frustrated,

Three year olds, especially those who are three and a half or older, can easily become tired, bored or even anxious at times. It is always helpful to know what situations, including the times of day, cause the most problematic behaviors. Given that your child has had temper tantrums on more than one occasion, and some of the major ones have occurred in the grocery store, it is reasonable to avoid shopping with him, at least temporarily. Not only is it stressful for you but it is also stressful for your child as well as the other store patrons. If you have no other alternatives for child care you might consider taking turns with another mom caring for the children while the other shops. When the tantrums have lessened to a point where you feel more comfortable taking him shopping be sure your child is well rested and in a good mood. Begin by taking him on a brief excursion to the store and go prepared with water, a bag of snacks and a favorite toy or two to offer as a distraction. Also, be sure he does not become overheated in the store. Another suggestion is to have him be your helper by picking out the foods or even colors that you name. Finally, if all goes well and the shopping is a positive experience for both parent and child you might reward him with a food treat or a fun activity, such as a trip to the library or the playground, and, of course, give him praise and affection.

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