Toddler screaming in a store - what do you do? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 60 Old 04-16-2013, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
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I have seen this happening so many times and I'm at a loss on how to handle it anymore. A mom walking through a store, pushing a toddler in the cart who is screaming nonstop. The mom just pushes through her shopping trip, ignoring the screaming and continuing with her shopping. I've tried just about everything - offered to help, suggested she carry the child, advised her to let him or her walk instead of sitting trapped in the cart. Mom either ignores me or gives me a look and walks off or tells me it's not my damend business or she insults her child in some way for the behavior. 

 

I can't help but feel for the child and the mom but the attitude and response is always the same. Is it not my business? Or am I not offering the right help or words? What do you do when you see such a situation? greensad.gif


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#2 of 60 Old 04-16-2013, 06:59 AM
 
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It sure is hard to be around an obviously upset child and not be in a position to do anything about it. 

 

My kids have both been through stages where they would occasionally get into a state where there was simply no good way to deal with the screaming, there were just different degrees of ineffectual.  Unless somebody could distract the kid with a funny face or something (and that rarely worked), the only reactions that were helpful were leaving us alone to get on with things, or a sympathetic look or comment.
 

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#3 of 60 Old 04-16-2013, 07:26 AM
 
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I think those times mom's stress is already probably through the roof - screaming in her ear is aggravating, she may be embarrassed, feels judged etc. I know you're trying to be helpful but a lot of the time well meaning unsolicited advice can come across as a statement on her parenting. I know what I'd do in her shoes but she isn't me. I'd let DD out of the cart, offer water or a snack, pick her up to soothe her, before she weaned I'd nurse her or simply leave. BUT I'm a SAHM of one and have a flexible schedule. Maybe she just picked up her toddler from daycare and needs to get home to make supper or doesn't have the time to stop because her older kid(s) are leaving school soon or is a single mom in a stressful situation and simply can't abort the groceries. My point is that we don't know what her situation is like and she's probably just in survival mode. All this applies if she's getting groceries. If she's dragging her screaming child around wal mart while clothes shopping or something then I simply feel bad for the child. If she's shopping at her leisure while her child is screaming, offering any pointers will just result in being attacked.
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#4 of 60 Old 04-16-2013, 07:53 AM
 
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I'll try to make a funny face or distract the child occasionally if I think it might work, otherwise I just give the parent a sympathetic smile. I think offering advice (unless you can see the child being pinched by the cart or something obviously causing distress) is typically going to be met with hostility or exasperation. I know I don't want advice when my child starts screaming in a store from a stranger, I know what will or won't work with my own child and have already tried it probably where they didn't see, but I do appreciate it when people try to distract her a bit as that often works.

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#5 of 60 Old 04-16-2013, 09:25 AM
 
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When my son went through this phase....before we entered the store, I would have a talk with him about how we should behave in stores.....then if he started acting up...I would leave everything in the cart, pick him up and walk out and go home...He would take a short relax moment to think about what he did and we would talk about why he felt he needed to do this...I would comfort him and reaffirm that if he acted this way we would have to  leave the place we were at and come home to talk about it, or he would have to stay home with his father and could not go out with me....after several times (very frutrating for me by the way to have wasted the time shopping, but a small price to pay to teach my child) he stopped acting that way when we went out.

 

Hope this helps.

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#6 of 60 Old 04-17-2013, 09:12 PM
 
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Wow so none of your business. If I had to deal with a child acting out in public I would handle it and make them stop or leave the store & come back later. However as we all know some times nothing you say or do could calm them down and sometimes you don't have time to come back to the store.

If I was already in a postion of being unable to tame a child's tantrum and needed to get something done I would be beyond mad at a stranger trying to tell me how to parent. If you see someone with an upset child and try to intervene do not kid yourself into thinking you could possibly "help" them. The reality is you are just publically judging them. You are, knowingly or not, telling them "you cannot handle this so I am going to step in." It is just plan rude.

If you have really done this in the past I am surprised you have not been told off more. I would have made a huge scene if it where me.
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#7 of 60 Old 04-17-2013, 11:22 PM
 
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I give them a commiserating smile and say, "We've all been there.  I'm sorry."


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#8 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 12:58 AM
 
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Yeah not your business.
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#9 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 05:09 AM
 
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Very often, the parent has tried all of those things, and what it comes down to? Kiddo just doesn't want to be shopping. So the parent pushes through to show the kid that carrying on is not the way to get out of something s/he doesn't want to do. I see this a lot at work. I'll try to distract the kiddo, but it doesn't always work. Otherwise, in this kind of situation, I do sympathize. And often, letting the child out? Leads to a child running rampant - in a situation where they can hurt themselves or someone else. Now THEN? I will step in. 

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#10 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 06:07 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Lazurii View Post

I give them a commiserating smile and say, "We've all been there.  I'm sorry."

 

Yep.  Because sometimes you just have to get stuff done, no matter how crazy your child is acting at the time.  

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#11 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 06:16 AM
 
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I'm remembering times when I went shopping with a crying baby who wouldn't be comforted despite trying everything - feeding, burping, changing diapers, swaddling, undressing, swinging, rocking, being carried for hours in my arms until my arms were dead weights and my back ached. 

 

I figured that if I could tolerate it for days at home on my own, then people at the shopping mall could tolerate it for an hour or so while I got a change of scenery. And yeah, I got plenty of looks and comments that I could have done without. 

 

That was with a baby, not a toddler, but the experience made me a little more understanding when I see other parents going through something similar. 

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#12 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 02:24 PM
 
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As one of those moms who has walked around with a screaming child, I will say that I have NEVER felt anything but anger at the advice and comments I've gotten.  Honestly, you have no idea what is going on there and unless you see some reason that the child is being mistreated, it is none of your business!

 

Our DS had TERRIBLE reflex and often cried terribly, on and on.  I spent a goodly amount of my time, I mean 26 hours a day, carrying, comforting, and trying to calm him.  However, sometimes I HAD to go to the store or mall or wherever and I got endless dirty looks, comments offering "help" that were clearly judgements about my "bad" parenting, and general bad vibes from many around me.  It still pisses me off because I was seriously trying and I had to restrain myself from punching the friendly old lady who came and said "honey, you child is hungry" as if she had any idea why my DS was crying. 

 

Even if there is nothing specifically "wrong" with a child, if they are in a stage where they scream often and there is no way to comfort them, sometimes the only thing a parent can do is carry on.

 

If you feel compelled to do something I would look the mother in the eyes and give her a big smile and say "we've all been there, it gets better."   

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#13 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 03:12 PM
 
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Our DS had TERRIBLE reflex and often cried terribly, on and on.  I spent a goodly amount of my time, I mean 26 hours a day, carrying, comforting, and trying to calm him.  However, sometimes I HAD to go to the store or mall or wherever and I got endless dirty looks, comments offering "help" that were clearly judgements about my "bad" parenting, and general bad vibes from many around me.  It still pisses me off because I was seriously trying and I had to restrain myself from punching the friendly old lady who came and said "honey, you child is hungry" as if she had any idea why my DS was crying.

hug.gif That sounds like it was really, really hard.
Having to go out in public and deal with all the judgement must have made it 100 times worse! I would have cried if that happened to me.

OP, why do you feel compelled to help? Is it because you cant stand hearing small children cry? Do you think they're crying because their mothers are being mean or neglectful? I used to think that way before i became a mother--i'd see kids screaming in stores and i'd think their mothers must be cruel letting them cry like that. There's also the judgment that they are "bad" mothers who are raising bratty, disrespectful children. Now i know better and i'm ashamed to have believed that in the past but i didnt know. A lot of toddlers act out in stores, they want something and their mothers wont give it to them (for good reason) so they throw a tantrum and sometimes that tantrum can go on for a long time. Have you ever tried consoling a child who is having a tantrum? Its usually really difficult. My daughter doesnt want me to touch her, she cant hear anything i say because she's screaming so loud and the more i try to help calm her down, the more she screams her little head off. Its best just to let the tantrum run its course which means ignoring her and going about my business. I'm sure a lot of mothers experience this, which means they're not doing anything wrong. They also might be acting out from tiredness. Offering suggestions is ignoring the fact that you have no clue whats going on and its very probable that what they're doing is the best thing given the circumstances. I dont blame them for not reacting favorably. How would you feel if you were in their shoes? Also, the suggestion to let them out of the cart is laughable because most kids who are upset will either lie on the floor kicking and screaming or run around like crazy. The best thing you can do is ignore whats going on or give the mother a sympathetic smile.
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#14 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 07:09 PM
 
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The question was not about OPs own child...or asking for tips on how to handle a child.

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#15 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 07:11 PM
 
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When my son went through this phase....before we entered the store, I would have a talk with him about how we should behave in stores.....then if he started acting up...I would leave everything in the cart, pick him up and walk out and go home...He would take a short relax moment to think about what he did and we would talk about why he felt he needed to do this...I would comfort him and reaffirm that if he acted this way we would have to  leave the place we were at and come home to talk about it, or he would have to stay home with his father and could not go out with me....after several times (very frutrating for me by the way to have wasted the time shopping, but a small price to pay to teach my child) he stopped acting that way when we went out.

 

Hope this helps.

This was not a question on how to handle the situation with a child.

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#16 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 07:18 PM
 
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I give them a commiserating smile and say, "We've all been there.  I'm sorry.

 

Originally Posted by mamalisa View Post

 

Yep.  Because sometimes you just have to get stuff done, no matter how crazy your child is acting at the time.  

 

This.  We are entering the terrible 2's early.  DD is 17mos, and while incredibly verbal for her age, she still cannot express or explain feelings and will ocassionally have a meltdown over the simplest things - like running out of beans or peas mid grocery shopping.  I only have so much time to get my shopping done and DH works odd hours and 24hr shifts at the firehouse so I'm quite often on my own.  I learned the hard way that she, much to my dismay, is a biter when upset.  So picking her up if she's on the ground or removing her from the cart - not an option unless I want to lose skin.  If she's on the ground playing the limp doll routine, I just have to wait her out, let her get some of it out of her system, then if she's calm enough I may be able to sit with her and come to an agreement that she's tired and upset and that we will be leaving.  I can't get her out of it when she's "in the moment".  Perhaps someone else might catch her eye but, unless the response was like what Lazurii is saying, I'd probably take it as an insult. 

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#17 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 07:31 PM
 
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My hypnobirth instructor told me she always goes up with her heart full of compassion for the mother, and says, "Some days are really hard, aren't they?" She tries to do it in a way that's genuinely wanting to offer non-judgemental support--with the understanding that we really don't know someone else's story. I mean, we don't know that our fix would work, and we also don't know what else she has on her plate that make the upset toddler not first in that moment.

 

I've only done it a few times, but each time the response has been positive, at least in that the child calmed down a little and the mom paused and felt heard and had a little more stamina for the day.

 

And, I've also been that mom. There are times that I need something from somewhere, and it really is better for us to spend fifteen minutes gritting our way through the store instead of taking two good hours another time to come back. Support is lovely; advice, from a stranger, isn't. I'd rather spend what patience I have left on my children than on explaining or not explaining to a passer-by.

 

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#18 of 60 Old 04-18-2013, 09:56 PM
 
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The other day I was in the store and ready to check out and ds just decided to have a meltdown. Well, we had to buy our groceries right? but I felt sooooooo stressed and felt like everyone was looking at me, I just wanted to cry. Instead of someone telling me to hush my baby....I would prefer someone to say"yep,been there".

Yesterday at the doctors's(mind you they had us waiting for an hour!) ds had had it so while I was getting an ultrasound(yes,the vaginal kind) he was just done with it all. So, I was holding him while getting an ultrasound and my blanket came off...there went the modesty. Anyway, when all was done my doctor said"just go and don't worry about cleaning the toys we can do all this just go take care of your son" It made me feel good to not be judged.

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#19 of 60 Old 04-19-2013, 06:12 AM
 
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PLEASE don't give me tips on how to make my daughter not tantrum in the store. Most moms aren't that stupid. I rarely go shopping as it is bc if she's not running around, she's screaming instead, but my family has to eat and sometimes I just have to deal with it. I already know it sucks, no one else wants to hear it. I sure don't want to hear it myself. I can't let her walk, she'll run and then I can't shop. Snacks don't always work(they sure don't with my youngest! they did with my first two) If anything, make silly faces or talk to the child. But don't overdo it bc some kids will just scream more if someone talks to them. The biggest help has been some old people talking to my daughter while in line at the register. I have stood in line with my toddler screaming, with tears running down my face. It's humiliating to be in that position, everyone staring at you while your baby is screaming bloody murder, and you're just standing there barely able to hold her and crying yourself. It was weeks before I took her to a store again. This is baby number four...


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#20 of 60 Old 04-19-2013, 08:00 AM
 
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Oh my goodness, why would someone want to bug a poor woman trying to get her shopping done while her child is screaming? She's probably not having an easy hour. That's pretty rude.

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#21 of 60 Old 04-19-2013, 09:49 AM
 
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I would just go on about my own business and let the mother get on about hers. Seriously, I am only pregnant with my first, but I would NOT want someone getting in my face with their advice when I'm dealing with a difficult child and this stranger doesn't know me, my child, or any of the surrounding circumstances. Rude!


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#22 of 60 Old 04-20-2013, 02:10 PM
 
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When my DS sees the chocolate eggs, he will be screaming for the rest of the shopping trip unless he gets one.

Of course, the people who put the chocolate display, right where the kids can see and reach it--knows very well that parents will give in and buy it just to shut their children up.  They also put a toy display by the meat fridge... gum and candy by the check out.. how can anyone go shopping with a toddler without the toddler screaming?

So I say no to the chocolate, because I don't think he should have chocolate on every shopping trip, then he turns around and tries to grab the groceries that I am putting into the cart and open the boxes...  and tries to grab things off the shelves as we walk by... and when I take something away from him he is screaming again. 

Oh and in the process, he drops the toy or snack I have given him to hold while we shop and is screaming about that.

All this considering I shop at a very small store and a shopping trip takes 5-10 minutes.  Geez I can't imagine going through Wal-Mart with a toddler.

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#23 of 60 Old 04-20-2013, 05:32 PM
 
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I have never intervened in this situation, except maybe to give the mom a knowing smile. If it's one mom to one child, I figure she doesn't need my interference.

 

However, I have to say now as a mother of two, if the little one is screaming or wiggling or trying to run away from me, I absolutely love it when someone is willing to help. Otherwise there are times I feel like sitting on the floor in the middle of the store and sobbing. Or, better yet, when they're both acting nuts and I need to buy something quickly and move out. I find it very helpful when someone distracts them so I can get "the job" done.

 

Once again, one-on-one leave me be, one-on-two(plus) PLEASE help me! smile.gif

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#24 of 60 Old 04-20-2013, 06:20 PM
 
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I also would appreciate people letting me ahead in line when this happens. I was one at the post office in a situation like this with a baby and almost cried that no one thought to just let me pay and leave.

It takes me two hours in the car round trip so coming another time is not an option.
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#25 of 60 Old 04-20-2013, 06:57 PM
 
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Some children have mental issues and sometime the advice from the therapist is to just continue to go with the activity as much as possible  until the child understand that his tantrum have no effect.

 

So, if someone is not interested in your advice, I would leave them alone.

 

I  was that mother in the store many times. Why did not I leave? Because I would never be able to do any shopping since opposite defiant behaviors was  part of my son.  After a few weeks he learned that dysfunctional behavior get him nothing.

 

So, unless you walked in my shoes, do not tell ,me how to raise my child.   A child screaming in the store is not abuse or neglects.

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#26 of 60 Old 04-20-2013, 07:02 PM
 
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Oh my goodness, why would someone want to bug a poor woman trying to get her shopping done while her child is screaming?

I love that! I mean really as if it's not stressful enough?
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#27 of 60 Old 04-21-2013, 04:49 AM
 
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HappyMonkey- I agree with letting the sreaming baby ahead of you! I have stood there with just a couple of things and a screaming baby, and no one would let me pass. Guess the screaming didn't bother them. It sure bothered me...I turn red, and sweaty, and stay on the verge of tears LOL

 

It is so rare that I come across a tantruming toddler, I can't even remember a specific time. It's always mine nowadays :oP I assume most parents just try not to bring theirs out during this phase. On another parenting board I'm on unrelated to MDC, the toddler board is full of parents asking why their toddler is so unhappy sitting peacefully shopping or eating out! They see other toddlers "behaving" and wonder what's wrong with theirs...I feel like all-capping the answer...BECAUSE WE DON'T TAKE OURS OUT DURING THIS PHASE! There's nothing wrong with them, we just really try to live peacefully and that requires no eating out and juggling the shopping for awhile. It won't last forever...then I can go on my huge bimonthly grocery shopping trips again, sigh. My older two kids were usually very peaceful in public, I could just bring a snack and pop them a bite every few minutes. Boy did they trick me, I thought that was the norm lol Then I had two more...

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#28 of 60 Old 04-21-2013, 06:30 AM
 
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I was *just* at a children's poetry recitation yesterday, and right at the end, the very last kid up (after 38 other kids), a toddler in the front row HAD ENOUGH.  It started with a whine, and within 15 seconds as the mom tried to gently shush the kiddo it was to a full on rager - a screaming rager as she carried the kiddo out the emergency exit as quickly as quickly as she could (maybe another 15 seconds that probably felt like an eternity to her) and we heard them outside as she carried the kiddo all the way around the back part of the auditorium, just raging.  To his credit, the reciter did an excellent job of both doing his poem and keeping our attention!

 

 

10 years ago, before I had kids, I would have said, "GOD!  WHY CAN'T THAT WOMAN CONTROL HER CHILD??"

7 years ago, after I had my easygoing son but before I had my daughter, I would have said, "How sad, that that mom isn't connected enough with her child to calm them down.  I wish I could tell her about AP."

 

 

Yesterday...I wished I could go hug that woman.  

 

 

Some kids are just INTENSE - and no matter what you try, and you try everything, sometimes the only way over it is through.  Leaving is sometimes an option, but not always.  

 

My daughter?  Would have gotten 10 times WORSE if someone tried to interact with her or make funny faces.  She hated being approached by people in public at that age (now I have to peel her away from conversations with people - lol).  Putting her down to walk would have led to me needing to abandon the cart to chase her around the store, trying to keep her from being hit by a cart or knocking stuff over.  I already ALWAYS had snacks, so clearly that wasn't going to do it when we got to that point, either.  Offering advice on what might calm her down would make me want to either cry, or kick you in the kneecap.  About the only positive thing I could think of would be an "Been there."  or "It's so hard sometimes." For my daughter, ofering me help wouldn't even help, because trying to address her in the moment when she was in full on lemtdown just amplified it.  Once I sympathized/empathized with her about whatever it was (yet maintained the gentle but firm limit of whatever the situation was), my only option was to either leave wherever we were, or just plow through becasue the more I tried to talk to her when she was like that, the worse it got.  So no, I would *not* be trying to actively comfort my tantruming toddler in the store....if I'm still shopping it means we NEED that stuff, otherwise we would have left. 

 

Sure, there are some people who are jerks to their kids and ignore them.  But you can never possibly know someone's situation, so offering a supportive "I'm sorry." or "There but for the grace of God" or even 'Is there anything I can do to help?"  Is about ALL you should do.  On the off chance it's a kid that CAN be distracted or otherwise helped by a stranger, I'm sure the mom will take you up on the offer...if not, whatever you're doing or saying is only going to make things worse and sympathy will be the only thing that will fill her heart instead of wrecking it more. 

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Heather, WAHM to DS (01/04)DD (06/06). Wed to DH(09/97)
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#29 of 60 Old 04-21-2013, 09:06 AM
 
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I think TheOfUs has it right on, until you've been there, it is easy to believe that there is some simple advice that will help a parent calm their screaming child. 

 

Before I had DS, I often thought "that mom just needs to XX, YY, or ZZ and their child wouldn't be freaking out."  Now I know that there is NO advice someone could give me that would make things better, because I have literally tried it all.  I also think people with relatively easy going kids can convince themselves that it was their parenting that created their quiet, easy to console child.  But I know enough people who had an easy going first child and were rather smug about their parenting, then they had a second or third.....and they learned that a big part of their first child's behavior was just that child's nature.

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#30 of 60 Old 04-21-2013, 10:34 AM
 
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 Is it not my business? Or am I not offering the right help or words? What do you do when you see such a situation? 

 

Yes it is not your business, do not offer any words or help. When I see such a situation I am thankful that I am shopping without my 3 year old or that he is behaving while I am shopping that day. 

 

When my first child was a toddler and would throw a tantrum at the grocery store I would leave, even if my cart was full. Partly I left because that is the prevailing wisdom, your child is screaming, leave the situation, but also I am sure it was partly out of embarrassment. Would wants to walking around the store with a screaming child and have everyone staring at them. Now, with my 3rd, I do not have time to return and re-shop later. I walk around the store with a screaming child and I don't care who looks at me. The reason my child would be screaming is because either he had the little child cart and was running with it or purposely running into people or objects, or he is running away from me and refuses to walk nicly beside me. Any of this means you don't get to walk, you ride in the cart and this means I walk around with a screaming child in the cart as I finish. I would be extremely displeased for you to come to me and offer any advice or words. 

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