Guest Post by Sarah Sperber
Oh, that’s just flippin’ great. You’ve really done it this time! You made the absolutely atrocious mistake of waiting until 5:30 pm to hit the grocery store for stuff to make dinner tonight, and you have a toddler tantrum on your hands. Your kid hasn’t had a nap and you ran her around at the park all day. She. Is. TIRED. And apparently starving (because the granola bar that you gave her ten minutes ago, the kind that she eats all the time, was suddenly, “scusting.”) This is the perfect storm if you have ever seen one before. Phew! There are you are! It is finally your turn to check out. The line was SO long because everyone and their brother just got off of work and decided to shop at the same exact time. You waited patiently, gracefully mitigating every, “Mommy, what is this?” and, “Mommy, look at that!” until…dun, dun, dunnnnnn… balloons and freaking candy. WHYYYY do they do that?! Why do they put the helium balloons and candy right at eye level for children at every bloody check-out lane on the planet? I will tell you why. They do it because it works. They do that because they know darn well that if you deny your tired, cranky, “starving” child a Snickers bar and a Poppy Troll balloon at 5:30 pm on Tuesday after no nap, you, dear mommy, will have H.E. double hockey sticks to pay.
“No, hunny. We aren’t going to get that. Put the balloon down. No candy.”
“But I NEED it! I am STARVING.”
“I said no, sweetie.”
“Please? Pleeeeease???” (Now making the cutest face ever – she has clearly learned manipulation antics from her father. Eye roll.) “Pleeeeeaaase?”
“Sweetheart, we are going home to make dinner now. No candy and no balloon.”
And then, after one beat where you think that maybe, jusssst maybe your toddler will back down, H.E. double hockey sticks turns into a store-wide audible inferno. She is SCAAA-REAMING. Bloody murder. People are staring. You can’t even blame them. Obviously and quite frankly, you would rather not be hearing a live Andrea Bocelli metal cover either. What can you do? You waited a freaking eternity for your place in the check-out line. There is no turning back now or else your family is getting pizza delivery for dinner tonight.
You have some options here. Firstly, raising your voice and/or threatening your child should never be one of them. This only teaches them that violence and anger are appropriate ways to deal with frustration. Children mimic what they see and hear. After all, it isn’t the child’s fault that you didn’t take her home for a nap. It isn’t her fault that she is hungry. Sorry to say, mommy, but this one is on you. I get it, life happens, and we have all been there, but how you react is going to be an example of how your child should learn to behave.
How to deal with Toddler Tantrums
So, if you’re wondering just how to handle toddler tantrums, especially in public places like the grocery store, we’ve got you covered. Here is a little roadmap of how to maneuver from here with your gremlin from the underworld:
1. Take a deep breath.
Everyone may be staring at you, and your cashier may have the I.Q. of a chicken nugget. (Seriously, whyyyy is she taking so long to scan and bag everything?! It’s not that hard!) But you, mommy, need to keep your cool. Your child is upset because some of her basic needs have not been met (i.e., sleep and food). She does not yet have the emotional maturity nor the vocabulary to properly express her emotions and frustrations. She is only doing what she is capable of doing right now.
Sadly, we have all seen this go down in the store before and seen the parent start yelling (or worse) at the child. That is really how you cause a scene. People will definitely be staring at you then. The thing is, people can be annoyed by the sound of the screaming child, but once you react like another child instead of like an adult, people will be judging you for that (and rightly so.)
2. Speak firmly, but with kindness.
Now is a time to demonstrate and hold your ground without getting angry. Don’t cave in and buy the candy bar. Don’t purchase a balloon she will be over and done with ten minutes from now. You do not need to reason with someone who is being unreasonable, no matter how old they are.
This is when you calmly, but definitively say, “I am sorry you feel so upset. We are not going to buy things that we don’t need and that are not healthy for us. I am going to make you a delicious dinner as soon as we get back home because I love to feed you things that are good for you.” From there, swiftly continue cashing out for your items and be on your way as fast as you can. I am willing to bet that by the time you leave the parking lot your toddler will have already forgotten why she was so upset or she will fall asleep within minutes.
3. Let this be a lesson moving forward.
When you are a parent of a young child, you should pretty much consider yourself to be somewhat of a nomad. You need to be prepared everywhere you go. The beginning involves toting around a diaper bag, bottles, wipes, and pacifiers. You may be so excited to be finished with the diaper phase that you ditch the bag entirely. That, mommy, can be a very grave mistake.
Maybe you don’t need a separate bag, but you should get in the habit of stashing some healthy snacks in your purse or car for emergencies. (Things that don’t expire, such as granola bars, single-serving goldfish packets, and juice boxes are good options.) If you plan to be outside playing all day, plan accordingly. Prepare a picnic lunch. Sometimes all it takes to avoid a trip to the underworld is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As kids transition from being babies to being toddlers and even into the age of five, they may not need daily naps, but they still might benefit from some downtime. For 45 minutes you can have them pick out a movie or read them a few books. Letting them relax for a bit in the middle of the day may help keep the gremlins away.
We hope this post helps you navigate your next toddler tantrum (because let’s face it, there are plenty on the horizon! What’s your favorite grocery store nightmare? Share in the comments below!