The Public Toddler Tantrum

Modern Parent
TantrumAnnie Spratt

I have five children: two adults, one teen, and two toddlers. One adult and the teen are still home and when they’re not at work and school, or the eldest is home, I prefer to do the shopping on my own.

I do my main shopping online now.

I remember when my Mum had two small children and I was a parent myself, I heard some advice that when a child has a tantrum during shopping, the parent should take the child back to the car, try to settle them down, if not, drive back later or continue the shopping when you can take the child to someone you know.

My Mum was a single mother who worked full-time, no vehicle as her money only covered the bare essentials and she had a 40-minute walk to the supermarket. Mum had one close friend who wasn’t always available and no family, other than I. When I was available I would drive Mum, but she often had to do this herself as our work hours clashed.

Reading real-life stories like the following about people with little time, money, or energy to spend diverting plans for an unsettled child reminds me of the sacrifices my mother made for us, unphased by the advice of people who couldn’t even see the things they’d taken for granted.

This happens a lot with parenting advice, there’s always an assumption there’s someone else, some guardian angel floating about, or time, money, vehicles, support, and other resources that many parents don’t have access to.

So, this is my word of advice for getting your shopping done with screaming toddlers.

1. Ignore your child.

Not completely, every 30 seconds or so (will feel like an hour), enough to check you’re still breathing. Speak quietly while looking away now and again, “We will be discussing this as soon as we’re done, sweetheart.” Clenched teeth are optional. If you can’t strap them in, carry them. God willing you’re others aren’t playing up too.

2. Ignore the looks.

I like to believe 90% of the people in the supermarket are parents and have been through it so they’re actually high-fiving you in their heads. Oh, yes they are!

3. Buy alcohol, chocolate, and a magazine.

I’m not a drinker, but I have my moments, and this would be one of them. I might instead reach for some nut milk, watery crap I’d not get again, or more chocolate.

4. Shop.

Do it fast, smiling. You’ll probably miss half the list, if you have one, learning to think straight mid-tantrum hasn’t happened yet for me so a list is a must-have.

5. Go home and put your child to bed.

Assuming it’s late afternoon to evening and you’re not fitting in some shopping before your next shift, which my mum often did, you can put that child to bed. Toast, bed. Tantrums are exhausting for me, I imagine it must be worse for the little people.

6. Go drink alcohol, eat chocolate, and read your magazine.

If you can, just do it.

There are no magic cures for a public tantrum, you can have all the snacks and toys at hand, they’ll only end up throwing them at an innocent shopper.

Before you know it, they’ll be taking their own toddlers to the supermarket, or more of your own if you’re extra lucky;-).

One plus about parenting today compared to 20+ years ago is the amount of parenting advice available, it can also be a minus. So I’ll leave it at that.

The image above does not relate to my advice, I can’t help that lady, she’s given up. We all know that feeling.

Good luck!

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