Surviving a toddler's public tantrum. Did my toddler realize I wanted to shop at Target and get some much needed retail therapy in? Of course. My toddler lost it in the cart throwing the biggest tantrum I have seen so far. Being a mom is hard enough.

Surviving A Public Tantrum: My Trip To Target

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It was the Target trip from hell as I tried surviving a public tantrum.

Hell is a toddler tantrum in a public place. Or at least it was on Saturday.

I had been looking forward to my Saturday Target trip because it had been awhile since I’ve been to the bulls-eye and purchased a bunch of items that I didn’t need.

Rion is notoriously good in stores. Up until this point, we had very few toddler tantrums in a public place. We had this experience at a water park earlier this year.  We left not long after his tantrum because he couldn’t get out of his funk.

If I wasn’t surviving a public tantrum then, I surely wasn’t any better at Target.

We always go after a nap or at the very least when he’s not due for sleep. He loves the lights and he loves the people. He loves all the different things to look at. At the supermarket, he loves the free bananas for kids when we first get there. We give him an ad, and he loves to “read” it. We usually can get through a shopping trip with little to no outbreaks.

Except the one time I just wanted to go to Target for absolutely no reason other than I hadn’t been in awhile.

If it were any other day, I would have left the store. I didn’t need anything. John had the car and was unavailable for an hour. We were forty minutes from home. We were completely trapped. I immediately felt as though I had to get him to calm down some how.

How Did It All Go Wrong?

The trip did start off perfectly fine. He was smiling at another baby, looking at the lights, and chatting away. I went through the Dollar Spot and picked out a few things I definitely didn’t need for fall decorating, but at $3 a piece who could blame me for grabbing them.

I started pushing the cart away from the Dollar Spot and Rion started wiggling in the cart enough to turn around on his knees and stare the other way. Do I just hold him in place? I tried to get his attention to turn around and stay that way but it just wasn’t working.

Eventually, I gave up and just held onto his waist as other customers smiled at him.

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I wanted to check out shoes for Rion as his shoes are starting to feel snug. This was the beginning of the end. I took him out of the cart and he took off. I ran after him and caught him before he got clobbered by a Texter.

Side note: stop texting and walking. Not just in Target, but in the streets. I see too many people not paying attention to the world around them especially when crossing a street. Put the phone down or if you need to respond move to the side and stop walking.

I tried getting him back in the cart to try on the toddler shoes, but it was over. He knows he can be on the floor running around. I didn’t find a shoe I liked for him at Target, so I pulled out the Kindle Fire for Kids and just hoped that would keep him quiet for the rest of the time. Yes, I gave my kid technology to keep him still. No shame.

It didn’t keep him quiet though. It definitely did not keep him still. He kicked and yelled. The tears started.

I lost that I would be surviving a public tantrum this time.

So now I’m the mom with the squirmy screaming toddler who has his own tablet.

You just feel eyes on you when your child is loud. Are there eyes? Maybe. I tried to ignore everything around me and focus on what was making my boy so upset in one of his favorite places.

I tried Cheerios. I tried the PB&J sandwich I made. I tried his water in this straw cup. He turned his tiny little nose away.

I let him out of the cart thinking maybe he needed to burn off some steam. He likes to push things so pushing the cart seemed like a great idea.

It was for about three minutes. Then it was play with all the items on the lower shelves. Of course, I let him. I just let him explore the lava lamps. Why are people still buying lava lamps?

He pulled the lid off of one, and took off. Okay.

I ran, grabbed him, and tried to see if he would push the cart again. Not a chance.

I was seriously in too deep. I had made every wrong choice up until this point. I wasn’t going to start making good choices now.

So, I held him. I sang to him and I held him as we walked Target in my never ending hour of hell. He scratched me, he pinched me, he screamed and he yelled.

I stupidly said “I don’t need the carrier, we’ll be fine,” as we exited the car. Famous last words.

I needed the carrier. I desperately needed to keep him close to keep my sanity. We use our Ergo carrier, and he really enjoys being in it. He would happily look around the store and I’d be able to get my steps in and do my browsing.

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Holding him didn’t work. He squirmed, yelled, and was pushing to get out of my arms. I have a scratch to prove how crappy of an idea attempting to hold him was.

I once again tried food. It worked. He sat in the cart, strapped in, as I held Cheerios.

I saw the light and the light was he was finally hungry enough to sit still and eat. I checked the time and checked out. I can do food. We can sit in the food area and wait for John to come get us. We sat in the food area and I purchased him bread sticks. He ate the bread sticks as if he had been hungry this whole time. It wasn’t like I hadn’t offered him food before or anything. The food area only had chocolate milk, so I rewarded my son’s behavior with chocolate milk.

John came not long after and I hurried away from Target vowing I’d only return if I was by myself the next time.

The Aftermath

I got home and decided to look up how else I could have handled his tantrums.  Shocking there wasn’t one article that said “Go back in time and don’t do anything you just did.”  Mostly, just let him have his tantrum, tell him it’s unacceptable behavior, or leave the store.

I probably could have done a million things different.

I shouldn’t have let him out of the cart even to try on shoes. I shouldn’t have broken out the Kindle Fire and hope it’d help diffuse the situation. I gave into everything.  I probably should have just taken him to the food area immediately.  If we were closer to home, we would have left the store.

He was just being a toddler!

I think I did “all the wrong things” because I wasn’t used to this type of behavior in a store. He has always been really good in stores. So much so that we take him on a rainy day to get outside and change up his routine.

I came prepared with snacks, a sandwich, and water.  I didn’t have milk, but I was at a store that sells milk.  None of it worked until the right time.  We didn’t go at nap time, either.

I know I need to be consistent, and I definitely lacked consistency with his tantrums in a public place.  Will it work? Who knows.  Do I need to work on it? Yes.

We weren’t on our home turf and had no escape plan. I forget that for the foreseeable future I need an escape plan.  I need to be able to get us out of any situation when my toddler starts toddlering.

Tips For Surviving A Public Tantrum

  1. Breathe. You’re doing a great job and your kid is just a toddler.
  2. If you can, leave. No sense in staying and feeling like all eyes on you when you can turn the car around and try again later.
  3. This too shall pass.

Literally that’s all for the tips. We’re doing the best we can and sometimes it’s just our turn to deal with surviving a public tantrum.

How do you deal with your kid’s public tantrums?


21 thoughts on “Surviving A Public Tantrum: My Trip To Target”

  1. As a mother of a toddler that’s been independent and fighting to do what he wants since before he could crawl, I have to say you didn’t do anything wrong. When some little ones are tired or hungry they just melt down. You just do the best you can with what you have in those moments. My little guy is so calm and loving and sweet. But if he’s just a little tired or hungry, forget it. I don’t think it’s rewarding him to give him the breasticks and chocolate milk; it’s what he needed, and you have it to him. Tantrums can be bad behavior. But when they’re this young, more often than not it’s just communication. Letting us know they need something. And it can take us time to figure out what that something is if they don’t talk well yet.
    Keep giving your little one love, Mama.

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      I really appreciate your comment. I think so often I think about all the things I could have done differently, but we’d probably still end up eating breadsticks and chocolate milk no matter what.


  2. I think there is something about Target that makes toddlers want to throw a fit! They know we enjoy the store too much! LOL It can definitely be a challenge for me too but I really just try to ignore others and discipline the same way I would normally and not give into him even if that means I just have to cut my shopping trip a little short because, he won’t stop crying! Lord, help us in these years! LOL

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      Yes! I feel like on most other occasions I’d just make the shopping trip short and get out of there before the tantrum got worse.


  3. My mom used to take us out and we take our kids out. I’ve seen parents who let the kids scream the whole time and I think the manager should have them taken out. It’s fine if they are fussy for awhile but I’ve seen some doozies.

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      Thank you for your comment! I used to side eye a screaming kid, but now I totally understand. The parents may just NEED to get their shopping done.


  4. Kids throwing tantrums is so hard on the parent who is with them at the time. The kids even forget they wanted something a few mins later but the after glow of their mood remains with us. 🙂

    Yes, consistency is key. My kids often throw tantrums. (5 year old still does) and different things work at different times. But you know what? There is only so much you can do. Sometimes you have to do your thing and let it go. Coz often times you get one tantrum in control and they find something else to get upset on. 🙂 It’s a journey, tough but manageable .Enjoy mommyhood!

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      Thank you for your comment!

      I think parenthood is just a never ending battle in something. 🙂


  5. My son was always well behaved where ever we went. My daughter though, we can’t take anywhere!!! We plan going out to dinner or shopping or anywhere… Really… Around her nap, best time of day for mood and come prepared with her favorite stuffed animal, bottle, snacks because she has tantrums. Sometimes, we have drop everything and leave. Get our dinner to go or go to the register with groceries half completed.

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      There’s so much planning that goes into getting out of the house! I hope you’re able to get some kid-free shopping trips in!


  6. The worst tantrums always come at the least expected times… but when they come… they’re AWFUL! You didn’t do anything wrong! And someday you may be able to laugh about the experience with your child when they’re older 🙂

    1. Ashley @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

      He LOVES going to the store so it was out of left field! You’re right though – I’ll be able to laugh this off soon enough.


  7. Oh I hate it when I think I don’t need my carrier and then turns out it would have been a life saver. My carrier helps to calm Ava down when she has her tantrums in public.

  8. I struggle with this – doing all the wrong things. I give in, I’m not firm enough, consistent enough, etc etc. it takes a lot of work to parent and it is hard to toddler. we’ll get through it somehow.

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