Shopping with a curious toddler or squirmy preschooler can actually be fun. But, as you well know, it can also become a nightmare. PREVENTION is the key, and we will talk about that later. But for now, let’s assume the meltdown is already in full swing, and you need tools NOW!
In the heat of a volcanic eruption, your goal is Damage Control. Once an outburst begins, it is usually too late to completely restore law and order, as your child has reached her breaking point and is communicating this quite clearly. My suggestion for surviving this traumatic moment is to: 1) STAY CALM, 2) SHOW EMPATHY, and 3) FINISH YOUR SHOPPING (though quicken your pace). First, if you do not lose your cool, drive-by shoppers will be less interested in watching you. Second, admit to your child that this is boring, and praise her for her patience so far. Try to soothe her in a productive way. Is there a healthy snack you can give her to curb her hungries? “I bet you are hungry. It’s past snack time. Would you like some Cheerios or some GoldFish crackers right now?” (CAUTION: Do NOT fall into the trap of offering a bribe. Promising to buy a candy bar or toy if your child quiets down will open Pandora’s Box of Manipulative Battles for shopping trips to come!!!) However, another safe response is to distract your little trooper by talking about the fun you will have together when you get home.
Lastly, if these tactics do not work and the howling continues, simply finish your shopping as quickly as possible and be prepared for a possibly loud ride home. Chances are, you overdid the morning and that ought to motivate ya to prepare differently next time. (See tips for Meltown Prevention). The good news is, thunderous meltdowns are often followed by a priceless, peaceful nap!