I think kids are capable of remembering a lot more than we give them credit for. My daughter remembers details from hikes we took last September and we havent taken her for a hike in the woods since then. There are old log benches, and old bridges that cross country skiers use, and she would remember around the spots, and ask about them.
So I do think she can remember the time we went home because she wasnt listening.
I think I just have to remember to not take it personally, provide boundaries, and lots of praise when she is doing well. The praise starts to go out the window when I take it personally.
Of course she can remember the event, but is it enough to create a new habit? I believe children often misbehave because they have developed a bad habit. Sometimes the habit can be nothing more than the fact that since they were infants, anytime they screamed they got whatever they wanted. What a shock it must be the first time that doesn't work! And, it's no wonder they keep trying it! So, they need help to create a new habit, and new default behavior, and I think that random outings/punishments aren't enough. Which is why I do it again over and over on the same day...I think the whole "we'll go home" routine is just that: a routine. It doesn't say *this* is what we do, loud and clear. It says that what we do when you act like that is go home. It doesn't help them learn to act a new way...it tells them they have to conjure up a new way next time on their own. They may or may not be capable of that. I would rather help them through a "baby steps" program to create a new habit instead.
what i am saying is that at 18 months old, they are easy to scoop up and take out of the store. At three years old, i would have to literally drag her out if she decided to throw her self on the floor. i don't think any age is too young to learn by your method, but the tactic you mentioned (make them hold your hand) would not work well with my particular 3 yr. old. Trying to make her hold my hand would result in a huge physical battle. It's much easier for me to say, You know what? Mama has to get this food shopping done and later you will want to want ________dvd. If you do not cooperate now with mama, you will lose your dvd privilege. That usually works.
I'm a pretty firm parent, and I expect a lot out of my kids, but I just can't get in to the tit for tat of punishments. If my kids (as I already mentioned) can't behave appropriately in a scenerio, it shows me that we need to practice that scenerio until they can, not throw out random threats and punishments designed to force them to come up with enough internal strength to do it on their own.