Leave it at the Store: Shopping without the Tantrums

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Is it possible for you to leave the store without bribing your children with a toy? Do you think buying one will prevent another tantrum long enough for you to pay for your items and go?

If you believe that caving in is the answer, it’s not; it can actually have the opposite effect you are looking for.

Kids are crafty little people who will work on your last nerve to get what they want. They know we don't want to be that parent pulling our child off the ground in the middle of the store, so they master the art of manipulation.

Once a parent falls for it, it will continue happening; and we’ve all fallen for it!

Here are some tricks that may help you and your child make it out of the store without any tears. These are the top five things that I have done to prevent a breakdown. My daughter is about to be nine and she has never had a meltdown in a store. This is my one parenting victory! (I deserve this one thing since my kid has yet to sleep through the night since she's been born!)

5. Test-Drive The Toys

Give them a toy! Yup I said it! This works better for children who will understand the concept. I've been doing this with my daughter since she was about one and I have never had an issue with her refusing to leave a store without a toy. Hear me out...

  1. Let them have it. Not to keep forever, just for the time in the store. Trust me on this one. This is good for longer trips, like food shopping. When you have to just run in and out of the store, see if one of the other tips work for your child.

  2. Let your child show the toy around the store. This works great with dolls and stuffed animals. My daughter would take it around the store introducing it to other toys. Let them have fun with it while you're shopping. It will keep them distracted so you can remember the items you came in for. Imagine that!

  3. When it's time to check out, remind them that the toy belongs at the store, that it has a home and a family. My daughter loved searching the store for the aisle it belonged in, finding the rest of them and placing the toy back. This avoided all potential tantrums from hearing the dreaded word "no" from me. It's about setting the expectations from the start.

4. Keep Them Fed!

Busy mouths can’t cry! Or at least they will have a harder time trying. I'm not talking give them everything in the store to eat, or load them with snacks (sugar turns children into monsters-lesson learned!). Have some of your kid's favorite snacks on hand and they may be more inclined to eat and stroll, instead of asking for everything on the shelf.

Above is my child playing with broccoli. No, I did not think she was going to eat it as we shopped, but she was strangely fascinated by it and it kept her occupied. Hey, find out what works for your kid! You never know!

3. Distract And Conquer

Sure, phones and video games can keep your kid entertained. But what if there's no Wi-Fi, a dying battery or you actually need to use your own phone? I know, how dare you! Make sure to have a backup plan or else those sneaky tantrums may just be waiting around the next aisle.

I liked to play the classic eye-spy game with my daughter. But here's the trick. You have to pretend you're really into it or they will catch on. Remember, I told you kids were smart! Make it interesting for your child and it might just keep them busy long enough for you to shop.

Here's some ideas:

You have to make the game manageable but not too easy or hard. Depending on the age, your child's ability, and the store you are in, you can tailor the list to your needs. This is just so you get the idea.

Grocery Store example:

  • 5 things you would never eat

  • 5 items with faces on them

  • 5 of your favorite foods

  • 5 items that come in triangle packaging

Get crafty and slip some educational lessons in with your trip to the store. Shapes, colors, sounds, etc. Parents can be clever too!

2. Kid On A Mission!

The tiny shopping carts are my all-time favorite things in stores. They crack me up. I mean look at the size of them! I know they are meant to "train" our kids to shop, and at first I protested, until I saw the benefits.

If your kid is like mine, she always wanted to help and push the big cart. Well, there's only so many times you can apologize for someone's ankles getting smashed before they start to get angry. So these small carts are the perfect solution. It allows her to be a part of the action, feel important and keep busy while I shop. Plus, they don't hurt as much on the ankles!

I would give her a short shopping list as well. When she was very young, I would draw pictures for her. As she got older she would draw them. And now, she writes out the list; even practicing her cursive writing. I love this tip because she has never dreaded going to stores with me, even if that meant she was not coming out with a toy.

1. Let Them Play! Reward the good!

If your child has been really good in the cart, or walking on their own, reward them with a bit of fun. Here's where they can spend a few minutes, (let them know it's not going to be all day) and check out the toys. I would suggest doing this after you got what you came in for, otherwise you'll both be distracted.

And it's okay if every now and then you buy your kid a treat. After all, that's the best part of being a kid. If you need some ideas for your child that don't involve stuff, check out these ideas: Go Play, Kids! Have Fun Without Clutter (wixsite.com).

The issue is when buying to placate becomes a habit. It is no longer a special treat if it's expected or happens often. Try to teach your child that you can go into a store without always having to walk out with something. Teach them about window shopping. Teach them about giving back. There's so much more to life than fighting battles in the supermarket. I know it's just one thing, but once you've mastered that, you can move on to the next battle. And there's always another one coming. Heck, I'm still trying to figure out how to get my child to sleep!

So, if you have managed to get out of the store without a tantrum and without buying a toy, congratulate yourself. If it didn't work this time, keep trying or switch to another tactic. I promise, your child will eventually learn that not every trip the store entails them coming home with more stuff. If you are interested in learning about curbing kid trends, read this: Kids and Trends: How to Curb Their Envy for New and More (wixsite.com). Shopping with a clear directive and your new skills will also save your house from looking like the store you just left!


Are there any other ideas you can share that have worked for you and your child? I'd love to hear them!

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