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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Teach a toddler store manners -- or get a leash?



A desperate mother asks: Should I think about getting a leash? My daughter is 13.5 months, loves to walk on her own. She refuses to hold my mom_kidleash.jpghand. Today after she unbuckled herself and tried to climb out of the cart in the grocery store, I let her walk. She promptly tried to run under someone else's cart. I picked her up and let her tantrum in my arms for about 3 minutes and said that if she was down she had to hold my hand. I set her down (holding her hand). She flopped down on the floor and started to tantrum again. Picked her up (the tantrum lasted about 1.5 minutes) and I put her back in the cart and got the heck out of there.

With that kind of child, what would you do?  Try to keep her contained ( if so how?) Try to teach her to stay close and hold hands (again, how?) Or should I  put her on a leash until she's old enough to be able to listen?

Ah, the toddler years. It's like working in counter-terrorism. Except sometimes you can negotiate with terrorists. What do you say readers?

I vote for taking some time out to teach, and here's how.

For the next few days make a trip to a store in which you are not in a hurry and not in need of anything important. This is purely for instructional purposes.

Before you go in, talk about what the store rules are. Inside voices, stay in the cart or hold hands, whatever it is you prefer, but walking by herself is not an option at this young of an age because of impulse control issues. She has to earn that privilege (in about a year or two) by showing she can follow the rules and do it quietly.

Enter the store and the second she gives you a hard time, scoop her up and take her outside. This change of scenery is a great attention getter. Say "We can't go in there if you do that. You have to have an inside voice and stay in the cart (or hold hands)" And stay there, holding her until she calms down. Focus on what she can do, not what she can't.

When she's calm say, "Do you think we can go back in the store and behave or do we have to go home?" This makes it seem like a privilege and they always choose store in my experience. Go back in with the warning about what to do and that you'll have to leave if she acts up. Repeat the above steps on Strike 2 if she acts up again, whisking her outside.

Return again with the warning that if she acts up again you are going home, no more talking. On Strike 3 you say, "I see you have chosen to go home. We'll try again tomorrow." Even if she's preverbal, she will get the message that she can't stay some place if she acts like that.

I also think you should never let a kid under 3 walk without being in a cart, stroller or holding hands because they are too impulsive. Never ever give in "just this once" or you will be back to square one. It might take a week or so but if you are consistent this will work.

~ Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Sunday, September 12, 2010 9:32pm]


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