We have all been there!
The horrific sight of a toddler lying on the floor in a supermarket; screaming away like there is no happiness left in her world! Initially I used to be a bystander to these tantrums and now I “own” one of these tantrum-throwers.
However, let me give some credit to my DD (Darling Daughter). I really have to jog my memory to remember the last time she put up a nasty show like that at the supermarket. And today I shall let you into my quick and easy tips of how I made our shopping trips to the grocery store fun for both her and me.
To begin with, we have to know why kids throw tantrums. Tantrums are a read out of the many questions, fears, reactions and imaginative outcomes going on into your little ones head.
Kids “lose their cool” because of 5 main reasons:
- fears- of unfamiliarity or the unknown
- break in their everyday routine
- inexperience at the current task
- feeling of not being engaged in what mommy is doing
So here are really great 7 easy tips that cater to all the points above and make grocery shopping (and life) really smooth for both you and your toddler:
- ALWAYS TAKE AT LEAST 1/2 HOUR BUFFER TIME
I call this the “smell the roses buffer”.
The top reason kids have a breakdown at the supermart is because the mommy is always in a hurry. Hurried herself and hence hurrying the baby to just zip past all the lanes, pick up the items in the list, get them billed and run back home.
That may be very well your agenda. But can you imagine the thousands of thoughts and imagination going on in your child’s brain with things she is seeing at all the aisles? So many colors, packaging material, textures, faces! It’s like a stimuli overload for her. She needs to grasp all this. In some sense, it’s her learning time.
But if mommy is flinging her on one arm and pulling her at what seems to her like “lightening” speed, the little toddler’s patience will give in at some point.
That’s where the ½ hour buffer that you have will help. Let her go at her own lazy toddler pace- stop at random aisles, see the babys photos pasted on the Parle-G biscuit packs and play with the rice (In India there are these huge drums of dals and rice at the mart that my DD loves putting her hand through. So many textures for her to feel there!)
So give your child this “smell the roses” buffer. They are going to get into the rat-race called life sooner than you think. This is the time to let her be.
My advice – you should also stop and just smell the roses with her sometimes!
- LET HER HAVE HER OWN SHOPPING LIST
Before you leave home, make her a real list too. On a piece of paper (preferable exactly like the one you have your list on), write down two/three things that she needs to find. Eg, brown bread and cereal.
This way she feels engaged and important.
To boost her ego a little bit further mention to her that you are giving her the two most important items on your list.
Of course make sure that the items on her list are something that she can pick out of the aisle and put into the shopping cart on her own. Eg Eggs would be a bad idea on her list!
Similarly, the items should be in her reach at the store. If you know the cereal boxes are kept at a level out of her reach, don’t include those.
- SKETCH OUT A TIMELINE FOR HER
Prepare her in advance about the schedule awaiting her.
Have a chat with her in the car about it.
“We are going to the supermarket for some really fun grocery shopping because there is no bread in the house and you know how much your daddy loves bread with his cereal.
We are going to be there for 1 hour during which you need to pick up the very important items you have on your list too.
After the supermart, we are going to come straight home as we both will be very tired.
You need to help me put the veggies we buy at the mart in the fridge when we get back because you organize them so well in the fridge that its so easy for me to find them later.
But you know the best part- I have a great game lined up for you at the supermart!! Its going to be so much fun. Mommy is so excited to go to the mart with you”
Agreed that your toddler may not have a sense of what an hour is. Yet I strongly advice you to detail out the schedule to her in real terms. I have been practicing this sketching out schedule technique with my daughter since she was about 9 months old! Sounds crazy, but believe me your baby grasps more than you think!
By telling her what she can expect from the upcoming trip, you are calming one of the biggest fears in a baby’s mind- fear of the unknown. Where is mommy taking me now? Will we go to the doc after that? Is it time for my vaccinations? Is there a chance to go to the park after that?
You have already addressed all these questions by detailing out the itinerary to her and also curbed any requests of going to a park or a friend’s house as you mentioned that you need to get home to put the veggies back in the fridge!
- HAVE YOUR OWN SHOPPING GAME
The two things on her list will be the first two things you will need to shop for once you reach the store! So how do you entertain her after that?
I find having a shopping game very helpful. Point out whenever you see a lady dressed in red! Or count the number of babies at the store.
This way you will cater to her “never to get bored” requirement.
She is engaged, not bored and enjoying a game. Your shopping mission accomplished!
Of course needless to say that you have to take the game seriously. When she does point out to the lady in red make sure you applaud and appreciate her great job and tell her to keep looking out for more.
- PICK UP THE NEAREST MOST FREQUENTED STORE
Go to the store that is the nearest and most frequently visited by you.
If your baby has already been to the store before, the fear of unfamiliarity will not be there.
You shall be surprised that your toddler will remember and mention what you did during your last visit. She is building up a memory system and she loves showing it off!
And of course nobody likes an hour long ride ending into grocery shopping! So take her to the nearest possible store with least amount of driving time involved. The more she sits in her car seat the more her expectations and imagination is building up!
- HAVE A DEDICATED SHOPPING SONG
I find turning everything into a song and dance sequence just so much more fun for both you and your toddler.
We have a song for everything! Poopy song, shopping song, school song, lunchtime song.
And there is no lower age limit for this tip! The earlier you start the better. I have the same poopy song since she was 6 months old. So she now knows the minute I break into the poopy song-dance, what is going to come next.
So make your own dedicated shopping song that you can sing in the car or the bus on your way to the store. Of course it should be something short and sweet and easy for her to remember. Its best to have these songs in your native language. My daughter relates English to school. So all these “fun” things are always in our native language. It just adds an additional layer of familiarity and “home” feeling to it. Of course, it will be easier for her to remember the song too if its in a language she is most comfortable with.
- END THE SHOPPING WITH A SURPRISE LITTLE TREAT
We all love movies that end on an unexpected high note! So to top the cake with some icing, offer a treat to your toddler as a surprise! She is sure to go all ecstatic and want to return to the store with you next time too.
However, this tip can lead to an anti-climax too. Your upto-now well behaved toddler might end up into a tantrum thrower because she wants a particular treat!The trick is to pick up the treat quietly while she is busy shopping her little list.
Do not, I repeat, do not offer her the treat by taking her to the candy aisle and asking her to pick.
There is sooooooooo much to pick from that the stimulus overload might be just too confusing for her. And the frustration of not being able to choose properly will end into what I like to call “on the back toddler”. (Toddler on her back on the supermart floor throwing an epic tantrum!!)
When you just get into the billing line, tell her you have a surprise and offer her the treat. This will be the high note end of her musical!
Of course as a parent I know that there are times that despite all these tips and tricks and efforts, you will still have a tantrum show.
How to control a tantrum is a huge topic for another post. However, some quick things to do especially for a supermart tantrum are:
Never pick up your crazy toddler and run just because people are watching:
The people who are watching most likely are sympathizing with you as they have been through a toddler tantrum phase themselves. So don’t worry about them. The others who have not been through that phase, well, won’t understand it anyway!
Never let your toddler feel that she is embarrassing you:
Again so many times you tell your toddler to stop or raise your voice at him during one of his tantrums just because you feel embarrassed.
If you let you toddler know what all embarrasses you, you have given him the reigns to your psychology. And toddlers- however tiny- are masters at playing the psychology game to their profit.
Next time he will make sure to throw a tantrum because he will know that mommy will get embarrassed and give in.
Don’t let an iota of reaction come on your face:
Let your toddler know that no matter what he does, he cant get any reaction out of you.
You have all the time in the world to let him run out his tantrum but will not give in.
Only if you could record your toddler’s supermart tantrum and play it later you will see that after every minute the toddler looks at you to judge how you are reacting and plays out the rest of his tantrum accordingly.
So if there is no reaction from you the tantrum will be shorter lived.
Convert the “smell the roses” buffer into “tantrum buffer”:
This is where you will thank the extra half hour because now you have extra time for the toddler to go through her tantrum. What seems like an hour of tantrum is actually not more than 5-7 minutes in real time. If handled well, no toddler in this world has the attention span of throwing a massive tantrum for more than that.
A toddler shall resort to tantrums only a few times before he realizes that they are in vain and not getting anything out of you. So no matter what it takes, if you have said no to a particular thing keep your stand. At the most you will have to be calm but firm through a 5 minute rocking epic tantrum. Giving in before the 5 minutes end might get you of the supermarket faster but you have dug a deeper pit for yourself as far as everyday life is concerned!
Follow these tips to ensure a happy store visit. Be calm. Be happy and be a NIRVANA- SUPERMART-MA.
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P.S: Just because i like to see the humor in everything, here is a very creative supermart tantrum ad made by Durex for one of their condoms commercial. Sit back and have a laugh!