How to teach a toddler store manners
I have a friend whose toddler hasn't necessarily outgrown his stroller, but he doesn't like being in it for too many hours either. He is at his happiest when he can walk around, which is fine, except when she's trying to get some shopping done. She can't exactly do that while chasing a giggling 15-month-old around the store. She's seriously considering getting one of those harness/backpacks (like the one that was hilariously displayed on a recent Modern Family episode, left) but she just knows she'll be getting those judgey looks that make you feel like you were treating your child like a puppy.
One thing I did when mine was this age was schedule a couple of "training runs" where I didn't really need anything. We were just there to learn store manners and could go home if things got out of hand.
Before going in we talk about the rules in short sentences (Hold my hand or keep a hand on the cart, use inside voices, etc.) If he acted up, I scooped him up and we went outside to talk about the rules again and said, "Do you think we can go back inside and behave or do we have to go home?" It makes it seem like a privilege. Usually this going outside, change of scenery, was all it took to get his attention. But if it happened again, I'd scoop him up again and repeat but tell him if it happens again, we were going home.
On Strike 3, he's out. No more talking, I just say, "I see you have chosen to go home. We'll try again tomorrow." He cried the whole way home and never did that again.
By the way, this Three Strikes method and a training run also works if you have a kid who tends to run off on you. Take them to a playground or a quiet park and work on the rules of staying with you and not running off.
So what's your advice, readers. How did you teach and enforce behavior in a store with a toddler who's just learning?
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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