by Shannon Serpette for

You might be a beast in the gym, the top dog at work and ordinarily cool under pressure, but if the thought of going grocery shopping with your young child has you breaking out into a cold sweat, I get it.

Nothing can try your patience and your will to live quicker than having to do a major shopping expedition with your screaming toddler in tow. And if that toddler has reached the terrible twos stage, that shopping trip could turn into the ultimate battle of wills. Here is how you can come out with your dignity and temper intact.

Time Your Trip Carefully

Timing, as they say, is everything. The person who coined that phrase must have had a toddler.

If you take a tired toddler in the grocery store with you when you have a long list of items you have to get, it’s like you’re asking to lose. There is no way you’re going to come out of this one without a headache and some stink eye from fellow shoppers.

If your pantry is bare and you have some serious shopping to do, you should go right after your toddler wakes up in the morning or after his afternoon nap. That will give you your best chance for getting through the checkout line without any ear-splitting screaming or crying from a tantrum.

Don’t Go When You’re in a Hurry

If you think you can squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store before your next appointment, you, my friend, are a dreamer. There’s no such thing as a quick anything when you have a toddler with you.

For every minute you plan to spend in the grocery store getting things on your list, you should add a minute to your time budget for your toddler’s shenanigans and questions. You are now on toddler time.

If you think that shopping trip will only take 15 minutes, it’s best to pad that by another 15 minutes. Give yourself more time for the delays that will inevitably happen. That way, you won’t be stressed out, angry or anxious when you realize you’re running late and you still have 20 items you need to grab.

Write Down What You Need

Toddlers are champions when it comes to the art of distraction. They do it with crying fits, questions and sometimes with their undeniable adorableness. You’ll get sucked into their web of distraction one way or another and you’ll forget some of the items you went into the store to get.

What you need is a plan. You’ll never succeed without one. Carefully write out what you need before you get there. If you’re familiar with the grocery store, try grouping your items by the aisle they are in on your list. That will stop you from having to backtrack through the store to find the items you overlooked while you were trying to entertain your child.

Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists

Nothing can make your toddler lose his mind more than being hungry. Seeing all the junk food in the grocery store is just going to make that hunger a million times worse. They’ll want 10 of everything and they’ll want it instantly.

To combat this, make sure you feed your child before you go to the store. That way, when you tell him you aren’t buying a lifetime supply of Goldfish crackers, he may accept it with some understanding and dignity. Just kidding, he’ll still throw a fit.

But when he does, whatever you do, don’t give in. Show him your list and tell him you’re only there to buy those things and not anything extra. You have to be consistent and firm when you tell him no and stick to your guns. If you don’t, your toddler learns that pouting and screaming can get them what they want and you’ll have this issue every time you go back to the store.

Use Distraction

Point out interesting things to your child as you roam through the store. Talk to him about the different colors of the food you’re picking out. Tell him the name of everything you’re putting in your cart.

Keep him engaged with what is going on around him. If he’s involved in what he’s seeing, he’s less likely to realize how bored he is and how long he’s been sitting in that cart seat.

You’ll be amazed at how creative and entertaining you can be when you’re fighting to get your way through the grocery store without your child having a scandalous meltdown.


Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at

Posted by Fathers Incorporated

Fathers Incorporated (FI) is a national, non-profit organization working to build stronger families and communities through the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood. Established in 2004, FI has a unique seat at the national table, working with leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Family Law, and the Responsible Fatherhood Movement. FI works collaboratively with organizations around the country to identify and advocate for social and legislative changes that lead to healthy father involvement with children, regardless of the father’s marital or economic status, or geographic location. From employment and incarceration issues, to child support and domestic violence, FI addresses long-standing problems to achieve long-term results for children, their families, the communities, and nation in which they live.

Leave a Reply