10 Tips to Surviving Your Toddler's Public Meltdown

October 9, 2014

A few days ago Hudson had a major meltdown at the grocery store. I normally do my shopping alone for this very reason, but I only needed to pick up a few things for dinner that night and I thought he could handle it. WRONG. Have you ever tried to give a cat a bath? They scream at you, claw at you, and arch their back and shoot their arms and legs out and make it clear they aren't going in that water without a fight. That was Hudson at the grocery store. He. Would. Not. Go. In. The. Cart. No sir. Thankfully, I managed to keep my cool. But I learned a few things along the way that I thought I might share with you all...in case you ever find yourself in the same situation. And if you are a mom, it's basically guaranteed. 

1. Stay Calm. Keep your cool and don't let your toddler and their tantrum get to you. I know it's easier said than done, but you are the adult. It's your job to not break down and have a tantrum yourself. Save that for once you get home.

2. Hold Your Head Up High. It is not your fault your toddler is having a tantrum in a public place. That's what they do. It's like their job. Being shamed by your child's behavior can cause you to act in ways you wouldn't normally...so don't blame yourself. 

3. Keep Your Voice Low. There is nothing worse than a screaming child AND a screaming parent. Yelling will do you no good. Whisper in your child's ear using your "firm voice" but don't ever yell at them. This goes for at home too. Yelling accomplishes nothing. Unless they are going to light themselves on fire or something. If that's the case then go ahead and yell all you want. 

4. Bribe. Yep, I said it. Bribe your child. Cookies, fruit snacks, whatever they like. If it saves you the drama of a meltdown, do it. 

5. Avoid Temptations if Possible. This was my fatal mistake. Although most people would argue the grocery store is pretty boring, most toddlers will disagree. Hudson was happily sitting in the cart munching on some cookies (see above i.e. bribery) when he spotted the fish tanks. Our grocery store has a pet section and a gazillion colorful fish. Rookie mistake on my part. Had we been at Target, where I take Hudson frequently, I would have know better...but I never even paid attention to the fish tanks at the grocery store before. Now I know better. Avoid the toy aisle, candy aisle, holiday section, sports equipment, and pet section if possible. Dog toys look just like kid toys to a toddler, so stay clear. 

6. Don't Let Them Out of the Cart. Repeat after me. Don't let them out of the cart. No matter how much your child screams, don't let them out of the cart. Be sure to buckle them in tight. Because if you let them out of the cart, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to get them back in and their cries will be ten times worse when you try. Remember the cat in the bath? Don't let that be you. It's no fun, trust me. 

7. Distract, Distract, Distract. Mommy is my name, and distraction is my game. Oh, you want to play with the fish? Can you make a fish face with your mouth? Want some fish crackers? ANYTHING you can do to distract them, do it. 

8. Keep Your Trip Short. This is not the time to browse the sale section or ponder which type of yogurt has the most health benefits. When you have your toddler with you, you must be in full speed mode at all times. They can be happy as can be but when they are done, they are DONE. And this is totally unpredictable. Time is your enemy. Go as fast as possible. 

9. Layer It Up. I find that when I get nervous, I get hot. So when Hudson had his meltdown I started to sweat....luckily I had some layers on I was able to quickly strip off. It was quite the show, I'm sure. Anything you can do to stay comfortable will help you keep your cool.

10. Don't Judge. Most importantly, don't judge other moms. If you see someone with a toddler that is freaking out, don't judge that mom. We are all in this together. If you feel someone judging you while you are dealing with your toddler's meltdown, just ignore them. Who cares what they think? Chances are they don't have kids, because if they did, they would know better. You are a good mom.



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23 Comments »

23 Responses to “10 Tips to Surviving Your Toddler's Public Meltdown”

  1. Aww, even crying he's cute! Sorry you had a rough trip! I am saving these tips for when my Hallie is older!

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  2. Oh goodness! I forsee these type of trips in my future some day, I'm sure of it! Great tips though!! I would imagine it's hard to stay calm & not panic in the heat of the moment - that will proably be my struggle, not panicking.

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  3. Great post.....feeling very guilty now because I have taken Hudson to visit the fishies at the grocery store several times and let him out of the cart to run from tank to tank with glee!!
    I guess I never told you about that!

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  4. Oh my gosh, I cannot agree more with these - especially "do not let them out of the cart!" There's no turning back after that...you might as well leave the store!! haha! Our grocery store has free cookies for kids, so we always get that and it makes Cam happy for awhile. If he starts melting down, I do try to just pretend it's not happening because the last thing I want to do is get frustrated and show that to him AND everyone around me! Then go home and make a cocktail. :)

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  5. Ha, love this! I do all my grocery shopping with Liam since I have to. But I completely agree about not letting them onto the cart! That is a strict rule! I fact, I wore Liam in the store until he was almost 20 months...wish he would still let me do that!

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  6. I laugh at this (in complete companionship). My girl LOVES to ride in the car carts (which I always avoided like the plague). Now she willingly gets in and rides like a perfect angel through an entire grocery outing without fuss (only to be found when putting in her carseat munching on a stollen rollo! no wonder she's so good)

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  7. No judgement here, Mama! Caleb does the whole "scream and go limp" thing like a pro - so I am always left desperately clinging to him in any way possible so that he doesn't fall to the floor on his head, or something truly terrible. They're at tough ages right now, where they can't always use their words to tell us how they feel/what they want and they certainly won't sit and listen to logic. Your advice is sound!

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  8. If I see a tantrum in public I just want to give the mom and hug! Because you know it's way worse on the mom than anyone else!

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  9. Love this...so very applicable in my life right now! What is it with these 2 year olds and their fierce independence? I guess it has always been that way and always will so it is best to have some tricks up your sleeve! Good thing they are so cute!

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  10. Rae refuses a cart. REFUSES.

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  11. Ah such good tips! I hate when this happens to myself and other moms in public. It is not fun at all. I always just try to re direct and distract. Good thinking with the layers!!!

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  12. Ah such good tips! I hate when this happens to myself and other moms in public. It is not fun at all. I always just try to re direct and distract. Good thinking with the layers!!!

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  13. Oh man, I don't even have kids yet, but I already love this! I definitely think I'm the kind of person who will start sweating if my kid's throwing a tantrum in public, haha.

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  14. Oh, this is just too good, girlfriend! I am sharing this, and pinning it too. :) Such good advice for our little tantrum throwers!

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  15. Dang you nailed this list!! So so so true on so many levels. I agree with each and everyone! Except I fail at the don't take the kid out of the cart. Neither one of my kids want to ride- they want to push! I am in trouble there!!

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  16. I know these days are coming...thanks for the tips!

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  17. Hahaha BOY have I been there. I finally got brave enough to go out with BOTH girls by myself. Luckily the oldest one was awesome. I have learned the hard way to NEVER leave the house without an arsenal of snacks and a sippy cup (because it's also terrible when said child has eaten all of her snacks and screams for water).

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  18. Story of my life on the daily at the moment. I am guilty of doing #6 and I have to learn my lessons. It really IS 10xs worse. But I can rarely ever leave her at home since she's with me 24/7. I've been resorting to a lot of online shopping more and more frequently to avoid these meltdowns. I think another one, you obviously show, but didn't point out - is to try keep your humor.

    xx Viv at JoieDeViv

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  19. Bribery! I don't leave the house with out bribes bc with these toddlers you never know what they will decide to protest! So sorry you had such a rough shopping trip but you lived to tell the tale! I shop with Callie a lot and one of the things I've found that helps now that she's older is there's a smaller grocery store near us that has kid sized carts. So if I have a small order I will go there and yes let her out of the cart but to push the cart and help put stuff into the cart. You would think she was given the biggest disney princess ever with how proud she acts doing the "shopping"! An idea to try if you think Hudson would want to help :)

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  20. Fantastic advice!

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  21. Girl, I'm here to tell you it gets better!!! Tracen used to be banned from Meijer, any store for that matter! I banned him! I banned him because I cried while checking out one time because he was that kid standing on his seat SCREAMINGGGG at the top of his lungs. True story, they shut the line down after me so no one had to stand behind us. He is now almost 4 and THE best helper at Meijer that I almost prefer to take him over the baby and the boyfriend! Swear! He has his moments still but at least there's far less screaming, me frantically running down the isle chasing after him! The fish get seen on a regular and Sandy gets the shit ridden out of her (I think only us Michiganders will get that one!) Anywho, keep on keepin on and when all else fails, slurpee and gummy bears for the win!

    East Willow Grove

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  22. Thank you for this post... it's nice to know that I'm not alone :) We just survived an epic meltdown in Target yesterday (flailing, head throwing, screaming and throwing). It wasn't pretty. I was sweaty, kind of embarrassed and mostly calm. I saved this post so I could go back and reread it when I feel brave enough to take the toddler out again. Haha sometimes I joke that toddlers are from another planet.

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  23. Oh girl, I have been in your shoes. Sometimes I think it will be fun (ha! fun!) to take Mason to the store with me. I bring as many snacks as mu purse can hold and then start to freak out when he is almost done eating all of them. It's like the countdown is on and the buzzer will buzz soon and you have to get out as fast as possible!

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