Children’s Tantrums

February 02, 2013

Does your little one seem to save his or her worst behaviour for when you are at the mall, needing to do your shopping? Do you end up shouting at or smacking your youngster at that time, because nothing else seems to make a difference? Maybe these few ideas will ease this situation for you!

Firstly, let us look at the world of a small child – sensory stimulation at the mall such as lights, colours, music, noise, desirable objects such as toys and sweets, unknown people, movement, all serve to stimulate a small child – sometimes to a point beyond their normal range of coping.

Also, if the child needs to rest, eat or drink something, or need to go to the loo, then his or her coping and ability to tolerate frustration will be compromised. Furthermore, the young child will not be able to see things from a parent’s point of view as well as older kids and adults are able to. So, their needs and wants take preference over yours, in their eyes! Especially so, if the personality of your youngster seems to sway towards the more irritable, less able to delay gratification , more inclined to want instant results.

Now we come to a few ideas – some you will already gather from what we said above!

Ensure that you attempt a shopping expedition at a time when your child is not overtired, hungry, thirsty or in need of the loo. If the child gets cranky at the shop, do ask, “Do you need the toilet, need to eat or drink something, have a rest?” Sometimes taking along a favourite pillow for them to lie on in a trolley or pushchair, buys you a few more minutes of peace at the shop.


Try to keep the outing fairly short, or take a break in between and offer attention to your child – for example, stop to discuss things you see or hear with your child, and gently engage with the child about what they like or not like, how they feel about things – sometimes a child will tell you, “I want to go home.” If so, say you will do so in just a few minutes, and offer the child rest in the trolley or pushchair.

What often helps with older children, is to contract with them beforehand – for example, “Mummy needs to shop for groceries, if you try to give Mommy a few minutes to do so, then we can get home sooner/go visit your friend/find you a favourite cool drink, or what might apply to your situation.” Now – this is not a bribe, this is a contract, which will come across to your child as a much more positive and elegant way of being with one another!


So, now you may ask, what if none of this works, and my child behaves badly at the shop? And of course, this has happened to all of us at some time or another! If you are dealing with a very young child and the meltdown is ever so bad, then the best might be to just go home, and attempt your shopping expedition again at another time. If the child is a bit older, you might want to say, “If you find it difficult to behave right now, we may need to go home.” Sometimes it helps to simply walk out with your child and take a break, for example look at cars or flowers outside and cool down a bit, then renegotiate with the child about attempting shopping again. Will it help to smack or shout at the child? Often not – as both you and the child might feel too upset afterward to continue anyway.

If things seem to get too much for you, consider discussing options with a supportive counsellor. Good luck and happy shopping!