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4 Simple Steps to a Tantrum free Shopping Trip with your Unpredictable Toddler

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With the Christmas holidays around the corner, most of us will spend more time in the grocery store than anywhere else. And with toddlers, grocery store trips can some times be tricky.

Picture this:

You know it’s coming.

You’re at the grocery store and your child wants something.

You say “No.”

“But wwwhhhhyyyyy???”

“Because I said no.”

You push the grocery cart forward hoping, praying, he’ll follow you so you can finish your list and go home.

As you turn back, it’s already off the shelf and in his hands.

You speed walk towards him, grab it out of his hand, and put it back on the shelf.

But you know it’s coming.

“I want it, I want it, I want it!!!” He screams stomping his feet.


He belly flops onto the floor kicking and screaming while you look around helpless, embarrassed, and exhausted.

You think, it’s just a phase, it will pass. I just have to get through it. If I give him what he wants, he’ll stop. Or I can just pick him up and take him home.

But what if the solution is a lot simpler. What if you don’t have to go through that phase at all.

1. Ditch the Distractions.

Kids need to know what to expect, they need to feel in control. So, ditch the distractions. Make a quick grocery list. For pre-readers, draw pictures. No phones or screens on this shopping trip, leave them in the car.

2. Set Expectations.

Before you leave the house, tell them exactly what is going to happen. Full eye contact is a must!

“We’re taking a quick trip to the grocery store. It needs to be quick so we can come home and make dinner. I would like you to sit in the grocery cart and hold the grocery list. It’s very important and I need your help. You tell me what’s on the list and I’ll get it. And when we get to the checkout line, you pay for it. We’re going to make a great shopping team! Can we do this together?”

Make sure you get a verbal “yes.”

Drive. Park. Repeat.

Before you open the car seat, eye contact. Repeat exactly what you said at home. Make sure you get a verbal “yes.”

Once you’re in the store, do exactly what you said you were going to do. Don’t change a thing. You’re building trust and if you do exactly what you said, this process cements tantrum free success.

3. Be Prepared.

If your little one gets fidgety in the cart, pack a sharing snack. Small containers with dry snacks that can be easily shared. Make it fun; have them count as they eat, let them feed you, and make sure they don’t put down the grocery list.

4. Save the best for last.

When you’re ready to check out, pick the line with the cashier, no self check-out on this trip.

  • Tell the cashier how helpful your child was; positive praise reinforces positive behavior.

  • Let your child pay the cashier, make sure they make eye contact; teaching fiscal responsibility starts early.

  • End your trip the way you started; in the carseat, say “Thank you!” with a smile; model the behavior you want to see from your child.

Now, imagine your next trip to the grocery store.

You glide through the aisles as a triumphant parent working together with your tantrum free child to buy everything on your list. You smile at all the passers by who comment how helpful and well behaved he is. You love shopping.

All because you did the work and created a tantrum free shopping trip with your unpredictable toddler.

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