Warding Off A Temper Tantrum — Good Parenting


Dear Dr. Debbie,

My sweet two-year-old sometimes turns sour at the least convenient times. We’ll be out running errands, including something fun for her like the pet store, and she’ll have a melt down because I won’t let her take a dog toy off the shelf. Last time it happened I scooped her up and left without buying what we came for. Any quick tips?

On the Run


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Dear On the Run,

Errand running with a two-year-old can be risky. Timing is critical, as is keeping a double focus on her and your other mission.

The best time of day would be when she’s well-rested and not hungry. Hunger is easy to fix with car snacks or a quick pit stop at child-friendly eating establishment. Rest is a bit trickier, so gauge the amount of errand running against her typical napping schedule, and either use car time to lull her to sleep on the way home (perhaps with drive-through errands at the bank or pharmacy toward the end of your outing), or plan to make it back home in time to settle her down for her afternoon snooze.

Young children thrive on routines. So establish a regular route through your regular errand destinations, including parking. Use a standard ritual for exiting the car – either carrying her or placing her in the stroller, or holding her hand. Be firm about this ritual not only for safety’s sake but to help her know that you have set expectations for her, even while you are taking care of your errands. Good discipline requires consistent attention to her behavior. This can spare you a melt-down scene that erupts because you’ve stopped paying enough attention to her needs.

It’s good to have a highlight for your tot in mind at each stop. The pet store is easy if there are live animals for entertainment. Other stops may have friendly staff your daughter remembers from visit to visit. If you are including the grocery store, give her a mini-mission such as helping to choose some of the items that she will be eating later at home. Some stores offer a free piece of fruit for little shoppers; but if not, get a box of crackers or anything else that is munchable but has a barcode on the package that can still be scanned after you’ve opened it.

One way to keep a young child from touching things is to bring along a toy that she can hold. The caveat here, though, is that this will be one more thing you have to keep track of, so be sure to leave the more precious toys at home or in the car. Keep an eye out for things that ARE okay for her to touch: an animal being held by a staff person at the pet store, the pebbles on display at the garden shop, the carved letters on a sign. And keep talking about the things she enjoyed so she can store them away in her mind.

Conversation is a great way to stay connected with your little one during your errand-running, and can include the reason for each stop – in words that are meaningful to her – as well as the interesting sights, sounds, and smells she is experiencing. Just expect her interests to surprise you. She may be nonplussed about the new movie being promoted at the theater, but be totally engaged by the florist arranging a bouquet for a customer. Adjust your dashing around to her pace – go quickly through the “boring” parts and slow things down when she needs you to. If you are flexible with your timing, and don’t’ try to cram in one-errand-too many, your outing can be enjoyed by both of you. Talk about the colors she sees, count steps up and down, try to imitate the sounds of machines, and if she seems to want to, stop and smell the roses.

An outing, even including errands that may seem irrelevant to a toddler, is a great way to learn about the world.

Dr. Debbie

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