How to Prevent a Meltdown at the Grocery Story – 7 Simple Steps

We’ve all been there – full grocery cart, shelling out goldfish crackers to our kid who is about to lose it, nearly knocking people over trying to get that one last item we forgot all the way in the back of the store before the meltdown begins…. then we proceed to get just two more things because we cannot live without them and finally end up at the front of the store ready to checkout…. only to find 2 lanes open and 9 people in front of us!  Sweat starts to form and we begin looking around to see if we know anyone in the lines near us.  We know we are in a spot of terror….. will we make it out of here without a total meltdown or will my kid be the one bawling and causing a scene because I refused M&M’s today?  

If you haven’t been there, kudos to you!  You must have done some good work beforehand and not pressed your luck with time.  If you have been there it’s ok…. many of us have been.  Below are some ideas that can help set you up for a successful shopping trip with your kids.  Meltdowns and nagging about toys or treats make for a really unpleasant trip to the store.  So I encourage you to give some of these a try and hopefully you can make shopping with your kids more enjoyable for all of you.  

This picture of Quinn was in Aldi’s – he walked around for 35 minutes with jammie shorts on his head because it was raining outside and he’d made himself a cool hat so he didn’t get wet.  I could have very easily fought that battle….. but he wore them into the store and thought he looked very cool.  Clever idea, and no meltdown:)  

How to Prevent a Meltdown at the Grocery Store – 7 Simple Steps 

  1.   Make sure your kids aren’t hungry.  – Kids get grouchy when they are hungry just like adults.  If you are in between meal times make sure you pack a healthy snack, not one loaded with sugar because that may cause them to become all wound up and then have a sugar crash – and neither of those are great for a shopping trip.  


  1.  Set Expectations BEFORE you leave the house.  – Inform kids if this is a day they are or are not permitted to get a toy or a treat in the checkout line.  If it is NOT, make sure they are well-aware that you will not be buying any toys or treats today.  Kids will need reminded of this in the parking lot, too.  Use phrases like “today is not a toy buying day”  or “we don’t need to buy any treats today since we already have _______ at home.”  


  1.  Give them a shopping list of their own.  – Kids love to feeling included and  love being the “helper” during the shopping trip.  Give them a list and a crayon/pencil and have them cross stuff off as you put it into the cart.  If they cannot read yet you can draw simple pics or print them out.  


  1.  Let them choose their clothes.  – Eliminate the power struggle before you leave the house.  Give them a choice between 2 approved outfits and allow them to feel in control of what they are wearing.  If you are a very laid back Mom… let them wear what they want.  If that means they are going to the grocery store in jammies or a Halloween costume, no worries!  There are times for matching clothes and there are times it just doesn’t matter.  You can decide:)  


  1.  Allow kids to put the items into the shopping cart by offering choices  that are acceptable no matter what they choose.  “Do you want to put carrots or cucumbers into the cart?”  Giving kids the ability to choose between two acceptable foods keeps them involved and prevents them from getting bored.  It also increases the likeliness that they will eat it because they are the ones who picked it.  


  1.  Don’t press your luck!  Grocery stores are not the place to test their limits and stretch them against the clock.  Get what you need and get out.  Make sure you aren’t running a bunch of other errands beforehand.  Consider the timeframe they can handle being in a store and keep your shopping trip set accordingly.  


  1.  Encourage them along the way. – Kids love verbal praise and encouragement.  If they are managing behaviors well let them know!  Use phrases like “you are being such a great helper!” and “you’ve picked some great foods for us to eat this week!”  A little verbal praise from parents goes a long way for kids.  Recognize their good behavior even in small ways.