Parenting Tips Wanted: Shopping with Toddlers

by jessicaturner on September 25, 2013

ToddlerShoppingY’all, I need your tips.

Shopping with Adeline these days is a nightmare.

She is like the Tazmanian Devil everywhere I take her. She wants to run from rack to rack, destroying everything in her path.

I’ll try to convince her to ride in the cart, and sometimes it works (usually at the start of the trip) but it never lasts.

I don’t know what is worse – the meltdown from the cart because she wants to get out or the destruction from her trying to pull down piles of clothes wherever she can find them.

Elias was not like this at all. I try to avoid doing errands with her because she has gotten to be such a mess in the stores, but sometimes this isn’t feasible.

So, I’m curious. Have you/do you have a child who is a bit wild in stores? What are your tactics?



{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

cindy September 25, 2013 at 5:39 am

My children are now 26 and 25 years old. when they were toddlers there was just one rule. You have “no choice”. It was either stroller or cart. Period. If they wanted out or down the answer was a kind but firm “No”. When a tantrum came about, as it sometimes did, we left. I left several grocery carts full in stores because I had a zero “fit-pitching” policy. This time will pass. It seems to last forever but it doesn’t. Remain kind but firm….you are the Mommy.

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 5:47 am

I think part of the problem is that she wants to be just like Elias and since he is walking, she wants to walk. If they are both in the cart, it is less on an issue. And yes to leaving. I have been very close several time. She usually doesn’t pitch a full on fit – just lots of crying/whining/mad faces – ha! :)

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Beth September 25, 2013 at 7:38 am

I did the same thing as cindy with my oldest — let her know ahead of time that she had to stay in the cart (until she was old enough to be trusted to walk around, which wasn’t until at least 4) and if she wasn’t good, we would leave. And I did leave more than once – the grocery store (she was very upset and asked “what about our food?”), the library (not a cart issue, but a behavior issue), and other places. It honestly didn’t take her long to figure out that if she wanted to have fun in the store, the fun was in the cart (I let her hold our purchases, made sure she had snacks and toys from home to play with that were only used when we were out). If she’s not pitching a full on fit, then you’re halfway there. My second one seemed to learn by observation – I never had a problem with her because she knew she had to stay in the cart like her big sister. And I did, more than once, have to sit through screaming fits in check out lines. I just kept telling them we were almost done and we would soon be home. You just have to grin and bear it sometimes.

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Tracy September 25, 2013 at 6:10 am

When mine were little and wanted out of the cart the “rule” was that they had to hold onto the cart. Wander off and you’re back in the cart. Eventually they got to the point where they didn’t need that rule and wouldn’t wander off. Running wild through the store and messing up things was never an option. :) If you do all your errands without her she’ll never learn how you’d like her to behave when you’re out. Hang in there & stick to your rules, whatever you decide they should be. Oh, and I’d also tell my children ahead of time how I expected them to behave (usually in the car on the way to wherever we were going). They are teens now and usually behave in public! :)

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Lauren October 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

We do the “hold onto the cart” thing, too. And if he wanders away from me (and my issue is more of a wandering and getting lost than destroying things) he goes right into the cart, no questions.

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MamaBear September 25, 2013 at 6:19 am

I feel your pain! Our girls are the same age and we deal with this too. I try too keep realistic expectations – is it too close to naptime? Have I been running too many errands in a row and she’s bored? As much as we try to find the ‘ideal’ time, it’s just not always practical if we want to have food in the house or toothpaste in the medicine cabinet! So here’s a tip that I use….use that time she’s at eye level with you in the cart to REALLY see her. Elsa and I talk eye to eye in between grabbing the different things off the shelf. I might look like an idiot to other shoppers, but my baby girl and I are in our own little world. She might pull my hair with every hug she leans in for while I push the cart, but she’s happy and we’re making it through. Hang in there!

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Katy September 25, 2013 at 6:25 am

I always have my boys THE SPEECH before going into a store. The speech takes place in the car. I address my expectations of how they are to behave while we r in the store. I also address what the consequences will be if the rules r not followed. Rarely had an issue.

They r 14 & 11 and I still give them the speech before going into a public place. They usually know what the expectations are and how to act while dining out etc.

I work with autistic kids and when they r told what the expectations are when moving on to the next event they usually do well because they are told and they have time to process it.

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Rachel September 25, 2013 at 6:28 am

I totally agree with Cindy.

I can’t truly empathize with you because I only have my son. I understand that it’s different with 2 children. BUT I can speak as a licensed therapist who has dealt with many young children with varying behavior issues over the past few years.

You are the mom, so you get to decide what she does and does not do in stores. It honestly sounds to me like she has too much freedom and is acting out because she doesn’t feel any boundaries. Children tend to “freak out” (to varying degrees and in totally different ways, depending on the child) when given too much freedom. For example, I know of a person whose 3 year old daughter would go into her room when asked to pick out her clothes for the next day, and completely tear the room apart. Clothes were everywhere; the closet and drawers completely empty. My first question was, “why is your 3 year old picking out her own clothes by herself in her room?” The answer I got was “she wants to. she insists on picking out her own clothes.” That child was the boss of that situation. When it came down to it, she was 3 years old. 3 year olds can’t handle limitless choices. Once some limits were in place such as “mommy helps pick out clothes” or “you have a choice between these 3 outfits, the problem was solved.

My next question for this particular mom (and my first question for you) is: What are the consequences for this behavior? If there are none, she will continue to do it. Children are sweet and joyful and a blessing from the Lord. But they are manipulative. They don’t MEAN to be, but they want what they want, and they figure out how to get it. And then they keep doing that thing that gets them what they want. You have to be firm and stick to your limits.

Here are some specific ideas:
1) You can give her the chance to behave, and if she does not, she has to sit in the cart. She can scream and cry all she wants, but she has to sit in the cart. If she refuses to sit in the cart, you and her go outside and sit in the car until she stops. Then you can go back inside.

2) You can skip the cart step. If she doesn’t behave, she goes outside with you in the car until she stops.

2 a) yes, if you go back inside and she throws another fit, you go back outside to the car.

3) She starts out in the cart (this is my favorite option–I think she may be a little too young for the freedom of walking around with you in the store) and stays there. And if she throws a fit, here are some responses:
a) Go outside and sit in the car until she stops
b) ignore it and just let it happen

**I think it’s important to prepare kids for things like shopping at the store. Have a talk with her in the car: “Adeline, we are going into the store. There are going to be lots and lots of clothes and things there. You are not going to touch those things (or whatever), and you are going to stay in the shopping cart. If you are really good for 5 minutes, you can get out of the cart, but if you can’t have good behavior you will go back in the cart.”

**My favorite technique with store situations is the “one finger” limit. Zeke was allowed to touch ANYTHING in the store he wanted (nothing dangerous of course!), as long as he touched it with one finger. We turned it into a game sometimes, and it was really exciting for him to feel like he had all that “freedom.” For the longest time he’d ask “Mommy may I touch one finger?!”

The key to any of this is to stick to whatever you say the consequence is and follow through. She’s got to believe that you are going to enforce whatever limit you’ve set, and pretty soon you won’t even need to “enforce” it.

I HIGHLY recommend the book and video series “1, 2, 3 Magic.” It’s very simple and practical and helps parents regain control of discipline situations.

GOOD LUCK! And please feel free to contact me if you want any specific advice. I’m really passionate about helping parents be the best they can be.

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 8:51 am

So many good tips here. Thank you for taking the time to be thorough and provide so much wisdom. I ordered the book 1, 2, 3 Magic. :) Adeline is definitely a child that needs boundaries – and pushes them every chance she can. She is SMART.

I am definitely going to try the one finger rule. I think she will really dig it.

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Jenny B. September 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

This is good advice. As a classroom teacher, I loved and used 1,2,3 Magic. As a parent, I’ve used it with mixed results. I really love the book Don’t Make Me Count to Three (I know… conflicting advice, right? Ha!). It’s by a Christian author, and everything in the book really hit home. I think I might need to go re-read it right now. :)

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Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life September 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

We do fairly well with taking the “variety approach”. I put her in a carrier on my back to start, eventually she gets tired of it and wants out – if I’m almost done, she just stays in but if we have a while to go, we’ll switch to the cart, then eventually to walking. The “switch ups” seem to help. But I only have one and I can imagine how wanted to be like an older sibling might add another level of difficulty!

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Nikki September 25, 2013 at 7:20 am

I will be a mommy in March, so don’t have my own opinion to share. But I read a really neat idea years ago that has stuck with me. I’ll try it one day! Kids are curious and like the freedom to make choices. That’s probably why she wants out….to explore in her own terms. Obviously you want to give her some healthy boundaries and teach obedience (otherwise you wouldn’t have posted!). Try the “one finger rule.” It gives her the satisfaction of freedom and choice, and she’s learning by touch. And she will get to feel older like her brother. But you don’t have to frantically run behind cleaning up! I know my mom left carts full in the grocery when I was young, so it may get to that point too sometimes! You’ll figure out what works for you and what she best responds to. Good luck with your cutie!

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Sarah September 25, 2013 at 7:21 am

I have two kids (2 and 4), and double carts are definitely the best option for us. (Also, dum dums. I know there are all these life lessons that could be taught in these circumstances, but seriously? At two years old, I get why he just wants to get out and run around, so sometimes a sucker will just have to do.)

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Amanda September 25, 2013 at 7:50 am

“At two years old, I get why he just wants to get out and run around, so sometimes a sucker will just have to do.”
- and this mama said, AMEN!

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Jenny B. September 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Dum-dums are the only way we made it through haircuts for the first three years! :)

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Mindy September 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

haha! yes!! dum dums have been a life saver to me for SO many situations!

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Heidi September 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

We use the ‘one finger’ limit too. Our almost two year old had gotten pretty good at it on the days he’d prefer to be out of the cart.

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Amanda September 25, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’m right in the trenches with you on this one–we have a 2 and almost 4 year old. Many times Ellie, our 2 year old, ends up on my hip or on my shoulders, which was less problematic before she weighed 23 lbs :) One thing that sometimes works for us is to give the girls a task–help us find the spaghetti, pick out the apples that look best, etc. When we can actually get Ellie to sit in the cart, giving her something to hold helps, too. Hang in there, Mama!

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Meredith September 25, 2013 at 7:55 am

I agree about the advice about keeping the child in the cart, laying down the law, etc. and have tried all these tactics myself. (By the way, walking out of the grocery leaving a full cart behind is NOT necessarily a one-time event for one of my kids!)

But I think we must meet each other halfway in this situation. If you were a child who had been strapped in a car seat for a twenty minute ride to Target, how would you feel about being immediately confined to a hard metal cart? If you were a three year old, how would you feel about being assaulted by colorful stimuli in every direction…and not being allowed to explore? If you had a long day at daycare, how compliant would you feel for a Kroger run on the way home to get dinner supplies?

I think we ask too much of our small children in today’s world. Yes, they should behave…but in a developmentally appropriate way. I have started doing my grocery shopping at night. I have eliminated Target runs with kids unless absolutely necessary. I make sure they can get out and run around before having to sit in a shopping cart. And I have learned the hard way that giving them a snack is essential to getting out of the grocery store alive! Being a kid in an adult’s busy schedule is hard enough.

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

I agree with you and rarely do trips after day care, when naps are needed, etc. That’s not fun for the kids or mommy. :)

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Jen September 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

I go with the “cart toy” and “cart snack” approach. Bring a snack that you can dole out one by one as you go through the store, or one that lasts the whole trip (like a sucker). Same for toys – maybe put her in the basket of the cart (which my kids think is super against the rules and therefore awesome) to color or look at a book. Good luck!

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

Amen for snacks. :)

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Danielle September 25, 2013 at 8:37 am

I am having the exact same problem with Landry (almost 2 years old). I avoid taking her to the store with me at all cost but when I have to I try to keep her busy with popcorn from Target or when very desperate I have even opened powdered donuts at Walmart to get us through grocery shopping. I hate doing that but I can’t do the shopping and chase her around the store and if I don’t let her out of the cart she throws a HUGE fit and I am afraid she will hurt herself. I can’t wait to read the comments for some new things to try!

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’m thankful I’m not the only one. This community is full of wise women- I know we both will get some good tips. :)

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Susan V September 25, 2013 at 8:39 am

My 3-yo boy just stays in the cart and cries it out. Not pleasant for the other shoppers, but there is no way he is getting out of that cart. Sadly, sometimes I cave and give him my iphone to keep him occupied.

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Ginna Cumley September 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

“You Can’t make me…but you might be able to persuade me”.
I learned this strategy and mind set from a book by that title.
I have used this mind set with a very strong willed child and grandchild. I try and give them a choice…a say in what will happen, but the choices I give them accomplish the same goal…mine.
I think also since she is younger than Elias she wants to be allowed the same privileges he has. Talk to Elias and have him be the “big brother” and help you out. If you know that she is going to loose it in the store, ask him to help you by showing her that sitting in the cart is what we do in stores. She needs clear rules about what is ok and not ok in the store,the consequences and then you need to stick with the game plan. Carry through with what ever the consequences are & remember to reward good. One on one with her might also be easier to rein her in. Do some trip with just her and make a big deal of her “behaving well.” It’s a stage and this too shall pass. She is growing so fast, hang in there.

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 8:55 am

Yes, Matthew and I both remind ourselves, “it’s just a stage, it’s just a stage. It’s developmentally appropriate. This is normal. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.” :)

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Robin Troxell September 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I like the idea of enlisting Elias’ help

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beccarayle September 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

Bringing the iPad helps us but I’ll be honest, my latest thing is just going after they are in bed and hubby stays home with them while they sleep. We have a Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, Wal Mart and Target close enough and if I can’t run my errands there, typically I get what I need from Amazon. With a third baby due within a week, I just have to choose the path of least resistance right now.

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Kelly H September 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

My kids are 6 and 10 now, way past the cart stage but I remember when little brother wanted to be like big sister. Like so many others have stated, we told him the expentations in advance. Our 10 year old would do ANYTHING for some M & M’s or a dum-dum sucker, it worked wonders! For church, we used smarties, they were less messy. Our 6 year old doesn’t eat sweets (AT ALL) so bribing him wasn’t going to work. We always made sure we had a drink or some other snack he might like. At church with him, we used goldfish or pretzels. Fortunately now they don’t require busy work (read: bribing) to shop or attend Mass. :)

It absolutely will pass but the rules you establish now will follow you into the next phase. One thing having more than one child teaches us is they are each their own person. My kids are like night and day! What works for one, doesn’t for the other. Too bad we don’t get individualized instruction manuals for these blessings.

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Leah September 25, 2013 at 11:09 am

I know that this is a little different than the other comments but I try to pre-empt the acting out. (I have 2 sons, ages 4 and 6.) For a long time, I fought allowing them to bring a toy into stores with us. It would get lost, etc. However, one day they were playing together so well in the car with their hot wheels, that I let them bring it in. Viola! It has changed my shopping experience. They play in the cart together (or one in the cart, one walking along) and it makes the trip so much more enjoyable. I only let hem bring 1 toy and I get to approve it…a hot wheel, an action figure, etc.

Also, when I’m going to Target, I will stop and by a bag of popcorn for $1 and let them split that one bag (if you ask for an additional empty bag, they will usually give it to you). They eat that while I shop and I hurry!

Both of these tips have worked for me. I also don’t give them a choice to walk or ride. They ride unless I say it’s ok. And as soon as they act out, it’s back in the cart. However, I’ve found that the above tricks keep me a step ahead of them. :)

Hope that helps! Happy Shopping!

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Anne September 26, 2013 at 11:40 am

Will you please share how you use smarties at church? This is my biggest challenge and am wondering what I can do to make this better.

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Melissa September 25, 2013 at 11:13 am

Definitely a stage. :) Here’s what has worked for us: We have 3 boys (9, 6, 3) and a now a new DD. I guess with all of the boys, I didn’t give them the option of walking at all until they were 3 and they had to be buckled in the seat. I always calmly explained to them 3 times what I expected of them (once at home as we were preparing to leave, once when we were almost there and then again as we were walking into the store). At 3, they can walk (most times) only if they are holding onto the cart. If they start wandering and getting into things, they immediately go back in the cart and do not get out until we are done shopping. I explain the “why” to them calmly and matter-of-fact (at 3, it’s a little easier to do that). Once they got to be 2.5 to 3, I’d give them the choice of either sitting in the seat of the cart or going for a ride in the big part (they had to remain sitting, though). I always have a bag of Cheerios (or some other favorite snack) and a drink in my purse and it seems like all three did better if they also had their little blanket and small stuffed animal with the to “go for a ride” with them.
It will be a bit of a challenge now that she has been allowed out of the cart during previous shopping trips, but I’m guessing that if you are firm, matter-of-fact and keep calm (kids play on our reactions BIG time), she will learn that she has to remain in the cart/stroller for all shopping at all times and there is no other alternative. One other thing…I always try to make them feel like they are helping (hold the shopping list and even scribble on it like they were crossing things off, put (throw…lol) the lighter things in the cart for me, etc.) Distracting them with conversation and pointing out interesting things around us helps too. I know all kids are different, though, and I’m holding my breath as #4 grows! :) Parenting is no easy job! Hugs to you!!!

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Laura P September 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

Do any of your stores have children-sized shopping carts? My son is a few months older than Adeline, and he too wants to get out like his big sister. Our grocery store has kid carts with flags on them that state “Customer in Training” – they are too cute. My daughter thinks they’re for babies, so she doesn’t want one, but my son thinks they are awesome! When we do short trips, I don’t even get a big cart! He is ALWAYS well-behaved when he gets to take his own cart out. And, we actually rarely have issues with him running into things. He stays right by me and at the end of the aisle, he’ll point in a direction and day “this way, mommy?”. Plus, he wants to help put things on the belt at the check out – very helpful! :)

In stores that don’t have these little carts I usually let my kids carry a basket. That seems to help, too.

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jessicaturner September 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Yes, both my kids love those small carts, but they aren’t available in many stores. I don’t think either of my kids are big enough to carry a basket. Definitely not Adeline. :)

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Jules M September 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Oh I remember those days very well. I would say that we had 2 things that seemed to work. There was one trip to the grocery store & my son did not want to sit in the carriage. He was screaming & crying. I gave him his choices – He could sit in the carriage or we could leave & he would go to his room when we got home. He thought that I would not go through with it but I did & boy was he screaming to go back into the store & he would sit in his carriage. Never again did he fight me on how he could go through the store. Sometimes he had to sit in the carriage because we had little time & sometimes he got to walk. The other thing was letting the kids help. If I had a list, they got to use the pen & cross it off. As they got older, they could find the items & put them in the cart. It became a scavenger hunt sort of thing. It made things so much easier & they were loving it. They also were allowed once a week to pick something new to eat (if we were in the grocery store). It allowed them to make fun choices for the family & expand their tastes. Some things they loved & others not so much. Good luck. It does get better.

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Emily September 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I have to take my children shopping with me always and we never have just one stop, because we live an hour away from most of the stores I want to go to. We have meltdowns regularly in stores.

Here’s my tips:
Both Kids stay in the cart (I have a 3 and 5 year old). It just works better if everyone is corralled. I bring my ipod or iphone with us and they watch a show once they start getting antsy. I bring snacks in my purse to eat as we shop, too. Nothing too messy. At the end of our 5 hour long trips, we usually hit up Target last… so I hold over them that they can get something at Target- it could be popcorn or a small toy. But if it’s just a quick trip, I try to come up with something fun we will all do when we get home- watch a movie, have a special snack. It seems to work for my kids. I don’t think of it as bribery- I think of it as incentives to be good. :)

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Amie Lamm-Griffin September 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

The only way I can go shopping is to hurry, and to bring the kindle fire with a couple downloaded episodes of Curious George. Snacks are good too. He isn’t old enough to try to bribe yet, so CG is the only thing that works right now.

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Alyssa September 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

As a mom of 4 who had the first 3 kids in 3 years I definitely have been there. Again and again. I didnt give them a choice. The older 2 took turns in and out of cart and hanging on to the cart. I usually wore the youngest of the 3 (now the older 2 are in 1st and kindergarten and the 3rd goes in the cart and I wear #4) and we leave if there are fits. If its a trip I HAVE to finish I usually set a reward they can earn on the van ride there ( park after dinner, popsicle etc) Doesn’t work every time but I don’t expect it to. They’re kids and they have bad days.
I loved reading about the one finger idea. Will have to try that with #3 and eventually #4.

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Sheila September 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Well last time I took Eamon (a few weeks younger than Adeline) he wanted out of the cart (his older sisters were walking) and he proceeded to start running up the aisles and yelling “AAHHHHH” as he went. Of course if my daughters tried to go after him to “help” me he would just run more. So while most patrons in the store thought he was very cute & funny, I kept him in my sight and said to the other people in the store “gee i wonder who that boy belongs to, what awful behavior (tongue in cheek) his mom should probably grab him” :) ANd then when I caught up to him I said “here little boy, I’ll help you find your mom or dad” :) and everyone just looked at me like – “who’s kid is this”?

What also helps with Eamon is telling him we are leaving and that scares him enough to come to my side pretty quick.

So while I have no great advice b/c kids will be kids try to inject some humor into it and at least you can laugh about it later :)

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Amy D. September 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Set the boundaries, explain the consequences for pushing the boundaries, then FOLLOW THROUGH when she pushes. Be consistent! Do it now while she’s young. As a mama who didn’t do that consistently when my kiddo was young, I can tell you it will only get harder when she’s older. Much easier to draw the line now then at 8, 9, 10 – when they will argue you into the ground. Unless you want to be dealing with tantrums at those ages (trust me, you don’t). I’m not saying she’ll never argue with you when she’s older (she will), but if she learns at an early age that you will follow through with consequences, your life will be much easier. The therapist is right, kids kick and scream for freedom, but they really can’t handle it at a young age. When we finally pulled back on the reigns, it was a hard adjustment for all of us, but it also became so obvious that too much freedom and too many choices stressed out our daughter. There is calm in keeping the boundaries.

And as far as your son getting to walk. He’s older – there’s nothing wrong with giving your older child more freedoms as it becomes age appropriate, especially if he’s earned that through his behavior.

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Jenny B. September 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Haven’t read the other replies, so I apologize in advance if these are repeats. :)

-snacks (something non-messy… maybe fruit snacks if you allow her to eat those)
-a special shopping toy that she can only have if she sits in the cart (and/or a special grocery item she gets to hold – my son always wanted to pick out character fruit snacks and hold the box).
-a shopping list for her to hold so she can “help” you
-Get in, get out. Stick to your list and resist the temptation to start looking around when she’s with you. Even if she’s behaving beautifully, don’t push it.
-Avoid shopping when you know she’s going to be tired (or hungry).

Hope that helps! :)

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Nurse Bee September 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I have a five year old and a two year old (and a one year old!). I recently transitioned to letting my five year old walk in the stores. The two year old is always in the cart and the one year old is in the cart (I try to go places with two seats in the carts) or in a front pack. While my two year old always asks to walk, I tell her she has to be 4 to do this and I also bring snacks. I also almost always shop in the morning because I know my kids tend to be crankier in the afternoons.

Also, I tell my kids they get a treat (usually predetermined) if they behave in the store. If they don’t, no treat.

And I know it would be hard, but just to leave the store if she throws a fit and come back later (which as a fellow working mom, I know this isn’t always doable).

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Kristin September 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I dont drag my kids to stores unless it is an emergency; just like I dont bring my hubs along to Home Goods or Pier 1….its simply unfair to the non-interested shopper …. they are bored to tears! So if i have to go with them there are rules and if they behave they can stop and look at the toy aisle or pick out that weeks cookie treat or whatever. You have to give them a reason to want to be there with you! Would you wat to shop at the golf store or something when you have no interest in it? Kids are ni different!

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Amy September 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I feel your pain. My 2.5 year old is doing similar things at the stores. She likes to run through the aisles and hide in the clothing racks. In the recent past I have had to buckle the strap and let her scream while I finish but yet twice this week both kids (the 2.5 and 5 year old) were well behaved with a very full cart.

I also try to tell both of them beforehand that I expect them to behave. I am a SAHM but there are days that I do not go to the store at all or really limit the length I am in the store to just a couple items and leave. I often order groceries online (some local stores deliver in my area). I do not clothes shop for myself when I have my kids with.

Since it seems her issue is in clothing areas/stores would it be helpful if you explained to her the store is like her clothing closet and it would not be nice if someone came and messed up her closet, please don’t mess the “stores closet”? I like the one finger idea but I am often telling my kids to “look with your eyes, not with your hands” because they shouldn’t be touching things in the store because of germs, fragile items, etc.

Personally, I see no problem with avoiding some errands with her because of her behavior when she is in a phase like this. She will emotionally mature and she will be in plenty of other situations where behavior matters and will learn.

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Tanya September 26, 2013 at 8:18 am

I just don’t bring kids with me. Even if it means leaving them at child care longer. It helps with not going to the store too often, which ends up saving me money. My kids are 4 & 8 and we stay far, far away from ANY store as a family unit. :-)

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Anna September 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

So many wise, wise women in the world! Thank you, Jessica, for being a forum for great minds to share together (disclaimer: I do not claim to be one of those minds!)!

I agree with others in thinking that maybe she’s too young to be out of the cart? Up to the mom, of course, but my girl just couldn’t handle walking around near the cart at A’s age. Some kiddos seem more calm and less adventurous, aka will stay near the cart and are content to just enjoy time with Mom, while others (eh hem…our girls!) put their hands on anything and everything…run under the racks at Nordstrom Rack…play a game by hiding around the corner at the Kroger…you name it. I truly believe in my discipline program at my house and it works, but when my girl was 2-3 she might have been too eager to explore the great world around her to really understand the consequences that were ahead. She stays in the car unless she can behave, and has only been given the latter option since age 3.5 or so.

And oh, don’t I wish I could take the time to go out to the car, have her sit and finish her fit, and then go back into the store (and with us, it would take a few tries for the first few weeks!). It is definitely the best option…if you can take that time. There are alternatives. Long story – maybe try to keep her in the cart ’til she’s a little older? Snacks (of course), bribery (quick park stop on the way home, perhaps?), single bottle of wine for you? I kid. Maybe :) . Good luck!

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Anna September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

oh geez…she stays in the “cart”, not the “car”!! Hahaha. all of our mothers really got a pass being able to do that. what in the world was the world thinking?! :)

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Cara September 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I’m a few years past this (as my daughter is Elias’s age) and approaching it again as I have an 8 month old:)
With my daughter, we always discussed it before we went in the store — if we were in a hurry/it was a crowded store I would tell her ahead of time “You will be riding in the cart.” If it was a time I could take more time and let her wander with me, I let her know that ahead of time too. She had to stay right next to the cart or into the cart she would go for the rest of the trip. And running and destroying things was never an option – any toy taken off a shelf had to be put back before we moved on. And that worked for her and her temperament but it wouldn’t work for all!
The sole public tantrum she ever had was in Target when I asked her to pick up the clothes she had accidentally knocked on the floor. She threw herself down in the aisle and threw a fit — I moved her off to the side, so she wasn’t blocking the aisle and just waited it out, because leaving would have given her exactly what she wanted (to not pick up). I stood there sweating and thinking “What do I do?!?!” and eventually she got up and put the clothes back. Whew!
It’s never easy!
I think laying out the expectation ahead of time can really help – and then sticking to them of course.

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Kristi September 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I have a son just a few weeks younger than Adeline and an older son slightly older than Elias. I’ve never allowed my little one the choice of NOT sitting in the cart. He is just now starting to ask to walk like big brother but I always try to make sound like he’s getting “the special seat.” So far it works. I know once I allow him out of the cart, I’ll have a hard time getting him to stay in it.

However, when my older son needed to start walking, I always reminded him that we “look with our eyes not with our hands” when he tried touching things with his hands. It doesn’t always work but I was consistent in reminding him of my expectations.

Good luck with all the great advice given from this community. Got to love strong willed children :)

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Sarah September 27, 2013 at 7:42 am

Our two and half year old is does this almost every time we are in the store! Will read through the comments because I could use some advice. I feel so embarrased when she throws fits in public..and it’s heppened in church, too. :0 Glad to see we are not alone:)

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