Temper Tantrum in the Store!

I watched a temper tantrum  in the  store unfold before my eyes today. Involved were a bored little boy, and a mom who was trying to find shoes.


Who threw the tantrum? The mom!

She got very angry at her little boy who would run around the corner of the aisle, then come back.

After a couple times, she grabbed him by his shirt collar when he ran back to her, and  YELLED through gritted teeth, in an angry voice, “BEHAVE!! Stop running, and quit being BAD!”

I have seen this more than once at stores, and I always feel bad for the child who is the victim of the out-of-control parent.

Yes, sometimes the behavior of the kids would frustrate me too, but it’s up to the parent to be the one in control.

There ARE ways to minimize the chance of a temper tantrum in the store, while making shopping with a child or children less stressful. 


1. Tell the child ahead of time what the rules are.

Don’t expect them to just know what you expect from them. They need to be taught what behavior is acceptable, and what isn’t.

For example:

  • No running in the store (or the mall).
  • You need to stay with me and hold my hand.
  • You need to sit in the cart, or the stroller.
  • I want you to hold unto the cart, and walk beside it as we shop.

Keep in mind that if you haven’t trained your children in first time obedience. there’s a good chance they aren’t going to obey you in the store.

2. Let them know what pleases you.

  • Thank you for riding in the stroller and waiting patiently while I look at clothes.
  • It makes me so happy when you hold my hand and stay right with me as we are walking through the mall.
  • Thank you for standing and waiting patiently while I try on shoes.

(Letting your children know what pleases you at home is also important, and a great way to win their hearts!)

3. Be prepared.

  • Bring snacks they can enjoy while you are looking. (Box of raisins, bag of pretzels, etc)
  • Bring a drink for them – sippy cup, juice boxes, water bottle
  • Bring something to keep them occupied

For kids in the stroller/cart, I would bring a few books, or their favorite little toy.

For kids that are walking with you, bring little hand held toys, like a small etch-a-sketch, or their favorite little GI Joe or doll.

4. Choose the right timing.

Don’t go to the store with a child who is going to need a nap halfway through the shopping trip.

Don’t go when they’re going to be hungry, unless you plan to take a break and get food.

Many of the cranky kids I see at stores are just plain tired, and need to go home and sleep!

4. Promise something fun when you are done with your shopping.

At the mall, I would take the kids to the pet store if they behaved well while I was shopping.

At the grocery store, it was a penny horse ride.

Other times it was a trip to McDonalds playland when we were done.

This gives them incentive to be good, but also gives them something to look forward to.

5. Praise good behavior frequently.

Kids love to please us, and knowing they are making you happy will encourage them to continue to be good.

If you have two or more, frequently commend the older ones for helping with the younger ones, or for setting a good example to them.

They will feel important, and needed.

6. Have realistic expectations.

Don’t expect a trip to the mall or grocery store with your child or kids to be the same as when you go by yourself.

Know when you shop with a child (or children), there are going to be interruptions. It is going to take you longer than if you went alone.

You will have to know where all the bathrooms are, and will visit them at least once, if not several times! 🙂

Being prepared mentally for this, will help you not be frustrated when it happens.

(Being unrealistic in our expectations is one of the reasons we are frustrated as moms.)

Shopping with a child (or children) doesn’t have to be stressful, and unpleasant. Do some teaching, training, and preparing and you can turn those shopping trips into nice little outings, and avoid a temper tantrum in the store.[magicactionbox]

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12 Responses

  1. YES! Thank you Anna for bringing that up! Real life can’t always work out that perfectly. I’m a mom of 3, ages 6, almost 5, and 22 months. My two oldest do pretty well at the store, although they have their moments. My youngest, however, is a wild one. She is tenacious and she is convinced she is just as big as her brother and sister. Grocery shopping with her is a nightmare! She screeches, stands up in the seat part of the cart (despite being strapped down), grabs at my earrings/necklace/hair and screeches to get down if I’m wearing her in a carrier. Like I said, nightmare. I’m able to keep it together and not throw a mommy fit, but it’s so stressful and embarrassing. Thankfully the store I do my grocery shopping at has online ordering, where I just have to drive to the store and have them load up my car, which is what I do most of the time now to at least eliminate the long, full grocery shopping trips. Shorter ones aren’t always avoidable but are more manageable.

    And unfortunately, 99% of the time, it’s just not realistic for me to abandon my cart to take her/them out to the car until she settles down. With my two older I did that maybe twice, and once my cart had been unloaded and put back before I came back in, so I had to start all over again. With them, talking about expectations and giving them something to look forward to does help. Thankfully mall trips (which are typically weekly for our family) go much more smoothly for our family. And while I do feel bad for kids getting snapped at at the store, my heart goes out to the Mom too, because I know how hard it can be in the trenches of training up littles and I also know how bad she probably feels about losing it on them. Momming is hard sometimes, no matter how well prepared you are. I do appreciate your article(s), Kathie, and you had some great tips in here, I just agree with Anna that sometimes the reality doesn’t, and can’t, always go that way.

  2. Yes, since we are human and don’t always have it together — trips like that do happen from time to time. (Like when I just took my 3 year old granddaughter to the store the other day when she was tired & hungry — lapse of good judgment on my part!) Couple things I suggest — Stay calm and don’t over-react when they do throw a fit in the store. When you’re tired it’s easy to snap right back at them and that doesn’t help. The other thing I suggest, and this is never convenient but is important — immediately take them out of the store and deal with the behavior. If they are hungry/tired you can’t really blame them for being hangry — if it’s just bad behavior, discipline is needed.

  3. So this is all great advice and when everything can be done according to plan, the problems are minimized. However in real life, things don’t always go as planned and you end up having to take cranky child to the store when you yourself are worn out and in spite of all the planning you do to make the store a pleasant outing, he still blows up and has a full out tantrum next to the tomatoes and blocks the whole aisle. What then?

  4. These are great tips and will help any mom with little children. Teaching children to listen and behave at home goes a long ways in preparing them for a shopping trip. A shopping trip isn’t the best place to train, LOL. I wore one child in a front carrier, one in the cart-seat, two inside the cart, and another standing on the front of the cart (the side might tip the cart) and I pulled another cart with the food. My two oldest children walked with me.

    They liked stopping at the pet store too…or the Bible bookstore where friends owned it. We didn’t do McDonalds but they thought having a roll or a bagel was a special treat.

    On the days that were most stressful and I thought their behavior was not the best…I would always get a compliment on how ‘good’ their behavior was, LOL 🙂

    Thanks so much for linking up with me over at WholeHearted Home this week. Your posts are always top-notch and such a blessing to me!!

  5. These tips are great! I am sometimes surprised at how unprepared some moms are. I know how moms get busy, I’ve been there. But many times I have been asked to babysit someone’s child and mom brings him over and doesn’t bring any toys for him to play with. Just a few toys in a diaper bag or purse will help during that shopping time or babysitting time.

    You are right about the expectations too. If you ignore your child’s behavior and then suddenly blow up at him, he will probably be shocked, because you let him get away with it before! Kids need boundaries, and when the boundaries and expectations keep changing, it’s going to be confusing and a bit scary for them.

    Thanks so much for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday! I’d appreciate it if you could put a courtesy link back to my blog the next time you link up. That way your readers could join the party as well. Thanks!

  6. Great tips! These might need to be posted in grocery stores or shopping malls. When my children were small, I found many of these tips very helpful.

  7. HI Kathy, great advice. Thankfully my kids are older than this now but maybe one day I can practice the above on grandkids 🙂 Thanks for linking up
    God bless

  8. Oh thanks for these tips. I am now at this stage and with 2 littles going out can sometimes be stressful. But now that I have these tips maybe I won’t throw any tantrums when things don’t go as planned

  9. I love all these tips! After having 5 kids, yes, it’s really about how the parent handles the situation. I have certain kids I can bring with me and have a good shopping experience and others just aren’t able to shop with me.

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