You’ve tried everything to ward off the tantrum at the grocery store (see this post if you haven’t):

  • You connected through Special Time before you left the house,
  • You kept that yummy connection when you got to the store, and
  • You tried some playful moves when they were headed for upset city.

But they were hell bent on having that box of cookies, and when you said, no, a torrent of tears followed. So there you are:

  • Your little (or not so little) one is screaming for a box of chewy chocolate chip cookies and you feel like you’re in the middle of a fish bowl while angry onlookers shake their finger at you.
  • Your heart races, your blood boils, you feel like you’re about to lose it yourself.

What do you do when the sh*%t hits the fan?! Stop, Drop, and Listen:


Stop what you’re doing. Take a couple of deep breaths and try to remember in that moment that your child is good—not a monster who is trying to make you miserable in the middle of a crowded store. Then move your kid to a less crowded place if necessary.


They can’t have that box of chewy chocolate chip cookies, so get down on their level and let them know. “No honey, not today. We’re not buying cookies today.” Even though you may want to get out of there as fast as possible, hold the limit with absolute calmness and confidence. If they protest and wail about cookies, you get down on their level, repeat the limit and remind them, “Sorry, sweetie, not today.”


Listen to their upset. Don’t negotiate, don’t throw out a consequence, or demand they stop crying. Just listen. And when someone walks by and glares your way you can say:

  • “We seem to be having technical difficulties here”
  • “My daughter really knows how to wail”
  • “It’s that kind of a day”
  • “After she’s finished, it’s my turn”
  • “We’re OK. I don’t think this will last all day”

How long should you listen? It depends. If you were at home, I’d suggest you listen until the crying subsides and that big thundercloud has been lifted. But out in public it’s harder to stay with a screaming child, so maybe you move to another space nearby and listen until you can’t anymore. In some instances you may just have to abandon the cart and say, we’ll try this again tomorrow.

Dealing with big feelings in public is never easy. Most of us were raised with the notion that too much laughter, horseplay, exuberance, and certainly crying were, well…too much! The old adage: “children should be seen and not heard” haunts us as we struggle with a sobbing child in the grocery isle.

The next time your outing turns into a scream fest, try Stop Drop and Listen and know that a) you can always abandon your shopping cart if you’re about to scream yourself, and b) this too shall pass!