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Ask Amy: Mom wrestles with kid in the grocery aisle

Dear Amy: I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. My son (age 3) really acts out when I take him shopping. I find it very stressful and hard to control him. He screams, kicks and bites me when I try to keep him in the cart. If I let him down, he runs and hides from me.

Do you recommend any tactics on how to handle this? My husband works a lot, so I don’t have much choice but to bring my kids along.

— Frazzled Shopper

Dear Frazzled: I shared your question with Claire Zulkey journalist, author of a parenting newsletter ( and, like you, mother of two young children. She responds: “Second-born 3-year-old boys are the number one cause of gray hair, at least in my home.

“The ideal solution is to get out of shopping with the kids, or at least the youngest. If you can, throw a bit of money at the problem — ordering groceries online, or hiring a baby sitter for an hour so you can shop solo. Unless cash flow is very tight, don’t talk yourself out of this like it’s a luxury. Your sanity is a worthy investment, and your child won’t be like this forever.

“Also, talk to your husband. Can he do the shopping on the way home from work, or stay home with the kids while you shop? Or do you have a friend with kids your age who will trade sits with you?

“If those options are untenable, my recommendation is to try to go to the store as early as humanly possible when the kids haven’t started to melt down yet and, more importantly, the store has fewer people in it to heighten the stress.

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“Bring bribes/snacks/distractions that you only pull out once you’re at the store, including a device if you have to. Mete the treats out over the visit if you can — one or two fruit snacks per aisle. Or if you’re really hard up, go straight to the snack aisle. (Whatever you do, stay away from tiny child-sized shopping carts, because those just annoy everyone.) Hang in there, mom. You’re not alone.”

I’d also recommend some old-fashioned emotional manipulation. You should play hard to get, by “refusing” to take your youngest shopping. You get a sitter or a friend to watch him. Tell him, “Well, I’d like to bring you with us, but I guess you’re not quite old enough. You don’t know how to behave in the store.”

You take the older child with you. You and the older sibling return, having had a couple of adventures (you discover artichokes, for instance).

Younger child will beg to go with you. He will promise to be good. And you’ll respond, “Well, I don’t know if you’re ready. I’ll think about it.”


(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)

Copyright 2019 by Amy Dickinson

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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